Curry comes up big for Davidson

Once `scrawny' guard leads Wildcats' league in scoring as freshman

Ncaa Tournament

March 14, 2007|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,Sun reporter

Stephen Curry grew up playing basketball in North Carolina, the heart of the Atlantic Coast Conference, where he was raised by NBA sharpshooter Dell Curry and trained with a longtime NBA strength and conditioning coach. He learned the game from his father, a first-round draft pick, and played pickup games with stars like Muggsy Bogues.

None of it mattered.

Because at 5 feet 9, 140 pounds in high school, the baby-faced Curry was a self-described "scrawny little short kid" - a lanky point guard who couldn't get the attention of major colleges, no matter who his father was. Virginia Tech - where his father was an All-American and his mother, Sonya, played volleyball - was the only major-conference school that showed interest, but the best Hokies coach Seth Greenberg could offer was a spot as a walk-on.

"Everything happens for a reason," Curry said.

He chose Davidson, a liberal arts college with about 1,700 students, located roughly 30 minutes away from his parents' home in Charlotte, N.C. It was at this small school that big things finally started to happen.

Curry broke five school records, set the NCAA freshman record for three-pointers in a season and led the small Southern Conference school to a record 29 wins and the NCAA tournament. Now Curry has the attention of at least one more ACC school - Maryland. The Terps will face Davidson at 12:20 p.m. tomorrow in the first round of the Midwest Regional in Buffalo, N.Y.

"I knew he was a good player, and I knew he'd have big games, but I didn't think he'd be this consistent," said Dell Curry, who is now director of player development for the Charlotte Bobcats. "Throughout the course of the season I was waiting for him to hit that freshman wall. He exceeded not only the Davidson coaches' expectations, but myself and probably him, too.

"But it's a blessing in that he is at Davidson," Curry said. "It gave him all the opportunity to prove people wrong, that they missed this one, and gave him the opportunity to break those records and play a significant role on the team so they won the conference tournament and got to the NCAA tournament. With everything that's happened, he's definitely at the right place."

Curry, now listed at 6-1 and 180 pounds, leads the Southern Conference with 21.2 points per game. The only other first-year player in the NCAA to average more points this year is Kevin Durant of Texas. Curry's 117 three-pointers are the most by a Division I freshman and have been integral to a team that graduated seven seniors.

"He can shoot the three, but he can also get to the rim," Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. "He's got an in-between game, but he doesn't sacrifice defensive rebounds or team play to pad his offensive numbers. He's got very good feet defensively, and he's got terrific basketball IQ."

Curry scored more than 1,440 points in high school, the most ever at Charlotte Christian School - a feat he accomplished in three seasons because he played on the junior varsity as a freshman.

"Even in 10th grade he looked like he was 12 years old," Charlotte Christian coach Shonn Brown said. "I think some people [recruiters] thought maybe he looked a little small. He may not be the strongest kid, but as his coach, I would tell a lot of the schools, `If you look at his basketball IQ and you look at his skill level, he has a lot of intangibles.'

"Right now I think he's at a very good place," Brown said. "He's at a place where he has a license to take charge on the floor within the context of whatever Coach McKillop needs him to do."

Opponents have tried everything to stop Curry - using a double team, putting a taller defender on him, shadowing him - but he has scored in double figures in 32 of the Wildcats' 33 games. He was held to five points in a 75-47 loss to Duke in late November.

"I knew I was capable of playing on any level," Curry said. "Coach just gave me the opportunity and he trusted me to go out there and do whatever he needed.

"I knew I could do it," he said. "We have a great team surrounding me, that could help me to do it. I'm very happy with the situation I'm in right now at Davidson."

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

TV games

Channel 13 will telecast the following games tomorrow:

12:20 p.m. -- Maryland vs. Davidson (constant)

2:45 p.m.* -- Georgetown vs. Belmont (constant)

7:10 p.m. -- Duke vs. Virginia Commonwealth (flex)

9:40 p.m.* -- North Carolina vs. Eastern Kentucky (flex)

* approximate time

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