Curley gives BC an inside chance

March 24, 1994|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Writer

In the aftermath of their 75-72 upset of defending champion and top-ranked North Carolina in the NCAA East Regionals on Sunday, the Boston College players said their giant-killing strategy was quite simple.

Said senior guard Gerrod Abram, who made six of 11 three-point attempts: "We'd pass the ball inside to [center] Billy Curley. He'd draw double coverage and kick it back out to the open man.

"We did our job, hitting the threes in the first half, and that opened things up for Billy, who did the job in the second half [scoring 14 of his 18 points]. But Billy's carried us on his back all year."

Make that four years. Curley has been the foundation for the Eagles since he made the short trip from his hometown of Duxbury, Mass., to the Chestnut Hill campus in fall 1990.

He has led the team in scoring and rebounding four straight years, capping his college career by averaging 20.2 points and 8.9 rebounds.

There is little flash in Curley's fundamentally sound post play. His game is hard work and perseverance, with determination etched on his unsmiling face and jutting jaw.

His approach to the game was evidenced Sunday when the 6-foot-9, 220-pound captain took on North Carolina's revolving giants -- the two senior 7-footers, Eric Montross and Kevin Salvadori, and 6-10 freshman star Rasheed Wallace.

Montross, perhaps seeking revenge for teammate Derrick Phelps, who wasknocked to the floor on a drive and out of the game by Eagles forward Danya Abrams with close to 16 minutes remaining, decked Curley with a well-placed elbow.

Curley rose slowly, but remained composed. He gained revenge by scoring 10 of the Eagles' last 11 points, including the game-winning free throws with 38 seconds left.

"I didn't want to finish my college career feeling incomplete," said Curley, who will lead the Eagles against Indiana in Miami tomorrow night. "We didn't accomplish much my first three years. We never won a Big East title or got invited to the NCAA tourney. Now, we've got a chance to erase all that frustration."

Boston College coach Jim O'Brien gets almost teary-eyed discussing Curley's leadership.

"At the risk of sounding melodramatic, Billy is every coach's dream," O'Brien said. "What makes him stand out is his interest in team, not self. If you asked him to spend a whole game setting nothing but picks and screens, he'll ask you what's the best angle to block his man."

An unusually strong bond exists between Curley and his coach.

O'Brien had been hired by Bill Flynn, who was the athletic director at BC when O'Brien was a standout guard for the Eagles in the early 1970s.

But in 1990, Flynn was replaced by Chet Gladchuk, who had no Boston College ties, and O'Brien's job became tenuous. Curley, however, remained loyal to his coach. He made it known that he would transfer if O'Brien were dismissed.

"This kid is really special," O'Brien said. "When Billy came out of high school [he was a McDonald's All-American], he could have gone anywhere in America, but he came here."

Curley averaged 30 points and 15 rebounds for Duxbury before he suffered astress fracture of his right foot in February as a senior.

That season-ending injury did not dissuade recruiters from Notre Dame, Michigan, Villanova and Connecticut from pursuing him. But Curley, his family roots firmly planted in Boston, already had committed to the Eagles in early November.

Even now, looking back on the hardships of his freshman season, when the Eagles finished 1-15 in the Big East, Curley says, "I'd do it all over again."

Loyalty became a two-way street. Town neighbors and Duxbury alumni have followed his college career closely, even risking icy roads for the 45-minute drive to attend Curley's final home game against St. John's at Conte Forum on March 1.

Although Curley has totaled 2,064 points, O'Brien only talks of his center's selfless team play.

"Sometimes, we almost have to beg Bill to shoot," the coach said. "His game is not about statistics. It's just about winning."

Said assistant athletic director Randy Shrout: "Billy has never backed down from any of the Big East bruisers, including [Georgetown's] Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning. He's had physical problems, but I can't recall him even missing a practice in four years."

With few talented big men in the senior class this season, Curley is projected as a 10th to 16th choice in the first round of the 1994 NBA draft in June.

"Billy will be a solid pro," said O'Brien. "His natural position is power forward, and he's got the touch to shoot and score on the perimeter. But we needed him more in the post, with his back to the basket, where he always draws a crowd. Put him on an NBA team with four other good players, and he'll be that much more effective."

But that's all down for the road. For Billy Curley, it's time to pick up his lunch pail again and get back to work.

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