Cat Barber grabbed a to-go box of chicken wings, fruit and macaroni and cheese and walked through the back hallway of the Tucker Civic Center.
The N.C. State point guard had just played 40 minutes in the most physical game of the season on Monday night at Florida State, but you never would have known by looking at him.
“For real, I’m just used to it,” Barber said.
As N.C. State (12-11, 2-8 ACC) seeks its first win at Duke since 1995 on Saturday (2 p.m., ESPN), there’s a good chance Barber won’t leave the floor.
While he leads the ACC in scoring (23.4 points per game), he also leads the conference in average minutes played (38.7) this season. Barber’s “complete” game, playing all 40 minutes (or 45 in a loss at Virginia Tech), against the Seminoles was his third straight and 10th of the season (no one else in the ACC has played more than four).
The 6-2, 190-pound junior is on pace to play a higher percentage of his team’s minutes than anyone in the ACC since the start of the 2003-04 season. Barber has played 889 of N.C. State’s 930 minutes this season or 95.6 percent.
Ken Pomeroy has tracked percentage of minutes played since the start of the ’03-’04 season and Barber is the only ACC player above 95 percent. Virginia Tech guard Malcolm Delaney holds the highest ACC mark in the time frame with 94.5 percent in 2010-11.
I honestly don’t think I get tired. I’ve been playing ball my whole life. It’s not something new for me.
NC State guard Cat Barber
Minutes played has only been kept as an official stat since the 1981-82 season. Point guard Chris Corchiani played 94.3 percent of his team’s minutes during the 1990-91 season, which is believed to be the highest percentage by an N.C. State player.
But it’s not just that Barber is playing a ton of minutes, and carrying N.C. State’s offense in the process, it’s the way he has held up despite the work load.
Most players get tired and wear down and their shooting percentages fall off as their legs give out. Barber might hit a wall in March, but his shooting has improved as the season has gone along.
Barber made 42.5 percent of his field goals outside the ACC in the first 13 games of the season. He has made 45.1 percent of his field goals in ACC play (10 games).
It’s almost like the more he plays, the less tired and better he gets. In the past five games – when Barber has sat out a combined total of three minutes – he has made 52.1 percent of his field goals, 61.1 percent of his 3-pointers, 95.2 percent of his free throws and averaged 29.4 points.
“I honestly don’t think I get tired,” Barber said. “I’ve been playing ball my whole life. It’s not something new for me.”
N.C. State doesn’t have a traditional backup point guard, and coach Mark Gottfried has mostly used a seven-man rotation this season. The best time for Barber to get some rest is on practice days, Gottfried said.
“We’re still going pretty hard in practice, but we’re not going as long,” Gottfried said.
Barber is from Newport News, Va., and grew up near the same housing projects as NBA legend Allen Iverson. Unlike Iverson, who with the Philadelphia 76ers in 2002 famously opined about the value of practice, Barber enjoys practice.
“Cat only has one speed,” N.C. State athletic trainer Ryan Holleman said. “He’s full-go all the time.”
There’s not a lot of maintenance to keeping Barber fresh for either practice or game day, Holleman said.
“He’s just a gifted natural athlete,” Holleman said.
Barber does use the NormaTec leg recovery system, which helps reduce soreness and improved circulation. Barber said he feels the minutes the most in his hamstrings and quadriceps. He calls the compression unit, which kind of looks like oversized ski pants, “fat legs.”
“Fat legs” equal fresh legs for Barber. At 21, he takes a couple of ibuprofen after games but skips the Icy Hot, Ben Gay or ice tubs.
“I don’t need none of that stuff,” Barber said. “Maybe when I get to 40, I’ll need it.”
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio
Have a seat
N.C. State junior Cat Barber doesn’t get much rest, nor does he seem to need it. How Barber’s ACC-leading minutes compare to other great ACC guards:
Cat Barber, N.C. State
Mugsy Bogues, Wake Forest
Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech
Johnny Dawkins, Duke
Chris Corchiani, N.C. State
J.J. Redick, Duke