Hot Curry

by March 21, 2008

by Russ Bengtson

For those of you who don’t religiously follow college basketball, it’s possible that you’d never heard of Stephen (pronounced like Steffen) Curry before today. The son of former NBA sharpshooter Dell Curry, Stephen averaged 25.1 ppg as a sophomore this year, leading tiny Davidson (NC) College to a 26-6 record (three of those losses came at the hands of North Carolina, Duke and UCLA) and 22 straight wins leading right up to the NCAA tournament.

You’ve probably heard of him now.

A skinny, babyfaced kid wearing his dad’s old No. 30, Curry connected on eight of 10 from deep today en route to a 40-point game (30 in the second half) as Davidson upset former upsetter extraordinaire Gonzaga. After his last triple hit nothing but bottoms, Curry turned and pointed to his folks in the stands—dad proud, mom in tears. Three of four free throws down the stretch iced it for the Wildcats. Make it 23 straight wins and counting. How did UNC miss this guy?

Lefty Driesell loves the kid, that’s for sure. The 76-year-old coach best known for coaching Maryland in the Len Bias era was the head man at Davidson 40 years ago, and he made his feelings clear to The Sporting News even before today’s game: “I told people the other day that I’ve seen a lot of guards play this year, and if I’m starting a team, I’d start Stephen Curry over all of them.”

Here’s the thing: I knew about Stephen a long time ago, I just didn’t know it. Allow me to explain. In 1996, SLAM sent me to Charlotte to cover the second annual Hoop Summit—USA high school players versus the world. I saw a lot of the future that weekend: There was a skinny center from South Carolina named Jermaine O’Neal who blocked shots with flair—and the top US players (Kobe Bryant and Tim Thomas) stayed home, so the US lost. But the best show came at halftime. It was something I always remembered. And, as Stephen was lighting up the Zags, I had to look for my notes. This is what I found:

Dell Curry’s kid is going off. Way off. Killer crossover, behind-the-back-passes, he even sticks a pull-up three. Then he cuts in for the steal and buries a short jumper—and runs back downcourt with his wrist cocked, arm still up. He’s like a little Reggie Miller, whose jersey he’s wearing. He’s in control like Janet. And, uh, he’s seven years old. He was the halftime show (and he finished third in the MVP voting).

To be honest, I’m not sure whether that paragraph made it into the magazine. If it did, I hope it at least got edited first—even 12 years later that Reggie Miller sentence makes me cringe—but if you’re wondering when we first wrote about Stephen, just know that we were ahead of the curve.

Way ahead.