NBA draft: Davidson’s Curry says he’s ready for next level
By Mike Cranston
DAVIDSON ó The big schools didn’t want Stephen Curry, then were helpless in stopping his sweet-shooting stroke as he put tiny Davidson into the national spotlight.
Now, after three seasons and plenty of records, Curry is taking his game to the NBA, presenting more intrigue in how the skinny, baby-faced guard with the great genes will fare at the next level.
The nation’s leading scorer announced at on-campus news conference Thursday that he’s skipping his senior season to enter the NBA draft. His father, former NBA sharpshooter Dell Curry, attended the announcement, along with his mother, Sonya, and Davidson coach Bob McKillop.
Curry said he will hire an agent, ending any chance that he’ll return to campus and perhaps break Pete Maravich’s NCAA Division I career scoring record.
“I think I’m mentally and physically ready to make that jump,” said Curry, who believes he’ll be selected somewhere between seventh and 20th overall. “This is a dream of mine since I was a little kid.”
The lightly recruited Curry burst onto the national scene a year ago in helping Davidson of the unheralded Southern Conference get within a missed a 3-pointer of the Final Four.
The 6-foot-3 Curry moved to point guard this season and averaged 28.6 points. He had 15 games of 30 or more points and three of 40 or more as teams couldn’t find a way to stop him.
Still, the decision tore at Curry’s stomach much more than he expected. Two days after scoring 26 points in Davidson’s loss to Saint Mary’s in the NIT, Curry said he’d quickly make up his mind after speaking with his parents.
Dell Curry told his son he’d likely be a lottery pick and probably wouldn’t improve his draft status by waiting a year.
But the younger Curry wavered because of his desire to get his college degree. Davidson does not have a summer school program, and he unsuccessfully tried to get school officials to bend with a policy that requires seniors to take the majority of their classes on campus.
“During the whole process, some days I would say, ‘I think I’m going to stay,’ ” Curry said. “Then some doubts would come in and I’d say, ‘I’m going to leave.’ Then more doubts would come in and I would keep going back and forth.”
Curry told school officials Wednesday afternoon he would announce his decision on Thursday, but he didn’t tell McKillop or his father what he’d do.
The uncertainty captivated the region, with four Charlotte-area television stations broadcasting the news conference live. Curry said he finally made up his mind 90 minutes earlier while “eating an omelet” in the school cafeteria.
“It took me that long to figure it out,” Curry said. “I decided to sleep on it last night. I was at peace this morning, and that’s what I was looking for.”
Despite a weaker supporting cast than a season ago, Curry shot 45 percent from the field in 2008-09, including 39 percent from 3-point range. He was voted a first-team Associated Press All-American.
He finished his college career with a school-record 2,635 points, which ranks 25th in NCAA Division I history, and 414 3-pointers, fourth on the all-time list.
If Curry had returned for his senior season, he would have had an outside shot at breaking Maravich’s four decade-old record of 3,667 points.
“He’s become the face of college basketball. He’s become the face of Davidson basketball,” McKillop said, tears in his eyes. “As special as he has been to us, he will be equally special in the NBA. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to coach him these three years.”
While Curry was perhaps the best shooter in college basketball, there are questions about how successful he’ll be in the NBA. Curry will have to beef up his slight frame to withstand the rigors of an 82-game schedule. He’s also still adjusting to the move to point guard, a position he’ll likely have to play to be a starter in the NBA.
Curry struggled at times when facing taller defenders with long arms, a likely nightly occurrence at the next level. But his lightning-quick release, surprising quickness, high basketball IQ and late growth spurt will make lottery teams take notice.
“He’s shown that he can play and he’s ready,” Dell Curry said.
Curry has plenty of high-profile fans, too. Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James attended an NCAA tournament game of Davidson’s last year and sat courtside in December when Curry scored 44 points in a win over N.C. State.
“He’s like a (Richard) Hamilton in our league. He never stops moving,” James said after that game. “He’s the type of player that’s hard to guard no matter how big you are. Guys in the NBA don’t want to continue to chase guys like that.”
The major schools ignored Curry in high school because he was just 5-foot-9 in his junior year. He reached 6 feet as a freshman at Davidson and grew three more inches. After getting an MRI on an injured ankle in February, Curry said a doctor told him his growth plates showed he could sprout another two inches.
His father had a similar late growth spurt at Virginia Tech. Dell Curry then spent 16 years in the NBA, mostly with the Charlotte Hornets. He works in the Charlotte Bobcats’ front office.
Stephen Curry said he’ll finish classes this semester, then begin a rigorous workout program. He’ll attend the NBA pre-draft event in Chicago next month, then work out for a handful of teams based on the results of the draft lottery.
“If you look at my body compared to some point guards and (shooting) guards, I have a lot of work to do,” Curry said. “But if you saw me my freshman year, people were saying, ‘Who’s this kid in sixth grade walking around in college?’ “