Sunday, March 23, 2008

From Richmond Times Dispatch

In one stellar game, son was just like dad

RALEIGH, N.C. There were any number of wow moments during Stephen Curry Day at the NCAA playoffs on a Freaky Friday with oodles of magic and interplanetary range electrifying the building, but the best moments were all about father-and-son.

There was, for instance, the one near the end of the first half when Curry the younger trapped himself between impulses and hiccupped a turnover. Whereupon his father (who was no slouch from distant Zip Codes, if you recall) sprang from his second-row seat and shouted to William Tell masquerading as a Davidson sophomore, "Shoot the ball, man!"

About 20 minutes of game clock and numerous Curry connections later -- score tied, a second-round berth up for grabs -- Wildcats forward Andrew Lovedale dug for a loose ball under the basket, snatched it, pivoted and whipped a pass to Curry.

Who was stationed beyond the 3-point arc.

Wide open.

And locked in.

The shot soared toward the rim, all eyes following its flight. And as it settled into the net for 77-74 en route to 82-76 over Gonzaga and euphoria, Curry the son turned to Curry the father and pointed to him with his right index finger -- much as Dell Curry had done during his heyday when his own parents were in the stands.

"He's been there my whole life," Stephen (it's pronounced STEFF-in] would say later. "The things I do on the court kind of come from him. He's in my head during the game, and I like to keep him involved."

Tres cool, no? Buzzer sounds, Stephen Curry flings the ball toward the rafters and bounds off the floor with waves toward his loved ones in Section 102. And a horde of reporters engulfs his joyful father -- much as Zags defenders had tried to gang-tackle this slender 6-3 guard without a ripple of success.

"I tell you, I hit some big shots in my career, but I don't think I ever hit any that big," Dell said. "I know what my parents felt like now, except I never won an NCAA game."

Davidson hadn't either since 1969, when Lefty Driesell was the coach. Yesterday's breakthrough owed most everything to Curry, who erupted for 40 points, was an 8-for-10 deadeye from 3-point range, came up with five steals and distorted Gonzaga's defense on every possession to provide his teammates with numerous openings.

"Obviously, he's a tremendous shooter," Zags guard David Pendergraft said. "One of the things I was amazed with is his shot is so soft. He shoots it from 23 feet and you'd think he was shooting from 5 feet, it's so soft when it gets there. It's good coaching. He's well-trained."

The kid had a good teacher. Dell Curry, in short, is the best player in Virginia Tech history and as sweet a shooter as anyone who's inhabited an NBA arena -- something he did for 16 seasons. He nurtured Stephen's game ("I always saw his shot in high school, but he's a better player than I was") and sent him to a small Christian academy in Charlotte, where Dell now works in community relations for the NBA Hornets. Stephen flourished there.

And nobody wanted him -- nobody major, anyhow. Davidson, Winthrop and VCU offered a scholarship. Tech, where he'd dreamed of going, had no grants available so didn't. If you want to bottom-line it, the Hokies make these NCAAs and then some with Stephen Curry in the lineup. Fact is, any roster would be all the glossier with him on it.

"I believe most of the big-timers felt Steph was too slight, too young, not strong enough," said Davidson coach Bob McKillop. "They felt he needed to go to prep school, that he needed to get stronger, needed to eat an elephant."

At 180 pounds, the young man is still more willowy than brawny -- but obviously able to shoulder a load. He scored 30 points in a first-round loss to Maryland last year. He's rung up 1,573 -- and counting -- during these two seasons. And yesterday, he rang sirens for little Davidson with 40 big ones and swish after swish.

"I had a lot of confidence to shoot it," he said.

Like father, like . . .

Well, you know how that goes.

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