Curry gives Duke added spice
DURHAM, N.C. – He took part in every conditioning drill, pushed his teammates at practice and sat beside them on the bench during games.
But for Seth Curry, there was no jewelry.
While the rest of the Duke Blue Devils were awarded watches and rings commemorating their 2010 NCAA tournament title, the only thing Curry received during a ceremony at Cameron Indoor Stadium last fall was a few pats on the back and a sympathetic handshake from coach Mike Krzyzewski.
An NCAA bylaw prohibited Curry, a former Liberty guard, from collecting any championship hardware because he sat out last season under transfer rules.
“Tragic,” Krzyzewski said at the time. “Totally, totally wrong.”
Four months after the October ceremony, Curry hardly seems bothered.
“Honestly, it wasn’t that tough on me,” Curry said last week. “Yes, I was a part of the team. Yes, I helped them prepare for each game and tried to get them ready in practice. I was there for the whole journey.
“But not getting a ring? It really didn’t hurt that bad.”
Perhaps that’s because Curry – the brother of Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry – knows the Blue Devils have a chance to win another one. Maybe as early as this season.
If that happens, Curry will have no doubt played a major role. All-American candidates Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler are good enough to keep Duke in the championship conversation on their own. But when Curry is on top of his game, the Blue Devils seem almost impossible to beat.
North Carolina found that out the hard way last week.
In what was easily the top performance of his Duke career to date, Curry scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half to help to spark the Blue Devils to a 79-73 victory over their in-state rival in Durham. During one second-half stretch, Curry scored 13 points in a 15-5 run as Duke turned a 49-40 deficit into a 55-54 lead.
The Blue Devils never trailed again.
Shortly after the game, on the other side of the country, Stephen Curry returned to the locker room after Golden State’s win over Denver and heard the news about his brother’s breakout performance.
Stephen had set his DVR to record the game but had already called Seth by the time he made it home.
“I was proud of him,” Stephen Curry said during a phone interview. “That was the biggest stage he’s played on thus far and he ended up having his coming out party.”
It couldn’t have happened at a better time for Duke. Ever since freshman point guard Kyrie Irving went out with a toe injury on Dec. 4, Krzyzewski has been looking for a consistent third scorer to complement Smith and Singler.
Now the Blue Devils have found one in Curry, who has the ability to turn a good Duke team into a great one.
“He’s pretty damn good,” Krzyzewski said after the game. “The thing he’s learned to do is get his shot off quicker. He was really coming off screens well and, when he did, he went right into his shot.”
Curry’s scoring prowess continued four days later when he erupted for 16 points and five steals in a victory at Miami. Curry played 39 minutes against the Hurricanes, a clear sign that Krzyzewski has full confidence in the 6-foot-2, 180-pound sophomore, who is also giving the Blue Devils a boost with his floor game.
“Coach has said all year that we need a third scoring punch,” Curry said. “He keeps getting on me to be more aggressive. A lot of times I’ll catch myself standing there and watching Nolan and Kyle. They can do so much.
“Coach doesn’t like that. I’m still not proven at this level, so he tells me to go out there and play like I have a chip on m shoulder, like I’ve got something to prove.”
Curry is averaging 9.1 points on the season and 14.5 over his last three games. Even though it’s happening a bit later than he initially hoped, this is the kind of production Curry knew he could give the Blue Devils all along.
Curry, after all, learned from his brother that hard work, preparation and confidence are the best forms of kryptonite for adversity. Seth Curry watched with his parents from the stands as Stephen became the darling of the NCAA tournament in 2008, when he led Davidson to the Elite Eight.
“He had his way with the best players in the country,” said Seth, whose father, Dell, played in the NBA. “It did a lot for my confidence, just seeing that hard work pays off no matter how big you are or what type of level you’re playing at.
“As long as you put in the work and have the confidence, you’ll have an opportunity.”
Much like his brother, Seth was overlooked by the Division I powers during the recruiting process. Most people thought he was too skinny and short to play shooting guard or not a good enough ballhandler to man the point. So Curry wound up at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., which was just a short drive from his family’s home in Charlotte.
“He’s just like me,” Stephen Curry said. “No one gave him a chance.”
Curry led all college freshmen with a 20.2-point scoring average in 2008-09. But when he left the gym each night after a practice or a game, something didn’t feel right.
“At Liberty, I wasn’t getting any better,” Curry said. “I wasn’t really playing against top people and I was getting double and triple-teamed. It was rare to get an open look.
“We were losing and I was trying to do all I could. But again, I wasn’t getting better. I wasn’t having fun.”
Curry and his father talked after the season and decided it was in his best interest to transfer. When word began to spread that Stephen Curry’s little brother was looking for a new school, the phone calls came quickly. Coaches who had overlooked Seth when he was in high school weren’t going to make the same mistake again.
Krzyzewski was one of the first to make contact.
“When he calls,” Seth said, “you’ve gotta listen. He definitely got my attention. With Coach K, it’s hard to say no.”
Curry enrolled at Duke in the summer of 2009 determined not to let the next season go to waste. Even though NCAA transfer rules kept him from playing in games, Curry did his best to push guards such as Smith and Jon Scheyer in practice. He spent a large portion of his free time in the weight room attempting to add strength and bulk. Off the court he developed a bond with his teammates that continues to strengthen each day.
He may not have received a title ring, but there are plenty of snapshots of Curry clutching pieces of the net from Duke’s NCAA championship win over Butler last spring. Curry vowed then that he would do everything he could to help the Blue Devils return to that stage and experience those emotions again.
Stephen Curry said he could tell during the offseason that Seth would have a major impact on Duke’s program as a sophomore. Two summers ago he said he played four games of one-on-one with Seth and beat him easily each time.
“Last summer, though, he made it more competitive,” Stephen said. “I was getting nervous that I wasn’t going to win. I still beat him. But it was a little harder this time.”
Stephen chuckled when asked if he ever offered Seth advice.
“Not really,” he said. “I don’t want to be a brother-coach. I want him to enjoy the experience for himself. I think he has things under control.”
Not that everything has been easy for Curry at Duke.
As nice as it is to share the court with pair of potential All-Americans, Curry certainly doesn’t want to step on Singler and Smith’s toes and inadvertently steal any of their spotlight or glory. Because of that, Curry labeled the opening half of his inaugural playing season at Duke as “up and down.”
He said he struggled to get into a rhythm.
“It’s been tough at times,” Curry said, “because I don’t really know how many touches I’m going to get from game to game or how many minutes I’m going to get. I’ve just got to stay ready. Luckily, we’re winning and I’m contributing pretty well now. I’ve just got to continue to get better.
“I’ve got to be more consistent.”
Curry is hoping his performances in last week’s victories over North Carolina and Miami will do as much for his confidence as his scoring average. Curry has done more than simply prove he can play at this level. He’s proven that he can excel.
“Every year I’ve seen him play, he’s gotten better,” said Stephen Curry, who asked Seth to be his best man in his wedding this summer. “He’s got a quiet cockiness about him. He knows he can play at that level. To see how far he’s come in two-and-a-half years has been remarkable. He’s only 20-years-old. He’s still got a lot of room to grow.”
Through it all, Curry is trying to do his best to enjoy the ride.
At one point during the North Carolina game, Curry walked toward the free-throw line and gazed into the stands. Staring back at him were all sorts of Duke fans with wigs and face paint and Blue Devils T-shirts and jerseys – some of which bore his No. 30.
“Man,” he recalled thinking, “this is what I’ve dreamed about my whole life.”