Tuesday, March 13, 2007

From The Washington Post

Freshman Shooting Sensation At Davidson Is a Son of a Gun
By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Stephen Curry was well positioned to succeed in basketball. He competed in high school in Charlotte amid the statewide shadows of a college basketball Mecca. His dad, Dell, was one of the best shooters in NBA history.

But a slender build allowed Curry to slip, almost literally, through the cracks of the recruiting world to become the prospect the ACC forgot. After receiving no scholarship offers from ACC schools, Curry enrolled at a less heralded Southern Conference school, Davidson, and became an emerging freshman that no one in basketball circles can ignore.

In a fitting turn of events, Curry will make his NCAA tournament debut Thursday against favored Maryland, a team from a conference few said he was capable of competing in just a few years ago.

"It's going to be nice to get on the court with them," Curry said, "and show them that I actually can play with them."

Curry has wowed coaches and fans by leading Davidson to a school-record 29 victories and averaging 21.2 points per game, which ranks 10th nationally and second among freshmen.

While he may never become the player his father was, some believe he has already displayed a more versatile offensive repertoire than the elder Curry, who enjoyed a 16-year NBA career. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound guard also has exhibited an on-court competitiveness that belies his boyish facial features.

Said Wofford Coach Mike Young: "He looks like he is 13. He scores like he is 28."

Young, who watched tape of at least 13 of Davidson's games this season in preparation for two contests against the Wildcats, said, "You're scratching your head thinking, 'What the hell is this kid doing playing like that?' He could play anywhere in America, and I mean anywhere in America. I believe that as strongly as I believe anything. He would make Maryland better right now."

Curry has established himself as one of the nation's best freshmen guards in a class loaded with them. His play also has raised questions why a talented player with a strong pedigree could be overlooked in the recruiting process.

"Who the hell knows?" College of Charleston Coach Bobby Cremins said. "Maybe people thought he was going to Virginia Tech. When I see Seth Greenberg, I've got to ask why he didn't take him."

Curry had grown up dreaming of going to Virginia Tech because he had watched so much tape of his father playing for the Hokies. Curry said Tech wanted him to walk on and redshirt his first season, with the possibility that he would receive a scholarship his second season. Curry considered the scenario too big a risk.

Some college coaches and recruiting analysts understood Tech's decision because Curry was a work in progress. To understand Curry's evolution, consider the perspective of national recruiting analyst Dave Telep, who saw Curry as a freshman in high school. Telep's first thought: "Boy, that's not his dad."

Curry stood 5 feet 4, weighed 120 pounds, released his jump shot from his waist and didn't "resemble a Division I player any more than you or I did," Telep said. "If you didn't know him as a freshman, you wouldn't have been able to appreciate where he came from. He needed more time to cook. When you're a top ACC coach getting $1.5 million, it's easier to take a known commodity rather than take someone you have to wait on. We live in an instant gratification world."

Young watched at least a dozen of Curry's summer league games later in his high school career, thinking that he would be a terrific player in the Southern Conference or Patriot League but would be "overwhelmed" initially in the ACC.

"The ACC did the right thing at the time," he said.

Matt Matheny, a Davidson assistant coach, began watching Curry as a high school junior. Each time he saw him, Curry gradually got stronger, gradually became more confident. Curry, meantime, felt comfortable with Davidson in part because the school was only a half-hour drive from his home.

That set the stage for a Friday meeting in the fall of 2005 in Curry's living room, where Matheny and Coach Bob McKillop planned to give the Davidson "spiel." Curry, though, decided to surprise everyone, including his parents, by committing to the school.

"Coach just stared at me for a couple seconds then got up and gave me a big hug," Curry recalled. "Coach Matheny was clapping and really happy."

McKillop, now in his 18th season, recalled the moment with glee yesterday, saying, "I think I danced all the way home."

McKillop knew as early as this fall what he had on campus because he told everyone around that Curry was destined to be a "special" player. But he acknowledged that he did not anticipate this level of success from a freshman who continues to improve.

"When I see his shot, I see Dell," McKillop said.

Dell is 14th in NBA history in three-point shots. The younger Curry set an NCAA freshman record this season for most three-pointers in a season.

Using that outside shot, Curry accomplished something last week that he will long remember. He beat his father in a game of H-O-R-S-E for the first time, unleashing 35-foot shots that his father failed to match.

"He has beaten me plenty of times before," Curry said. "To get my first win, it was pretty good."

No comments: