By now the story of Steph Curry has been well documented and even mythified. Whether the 6-0, 160 lb., 3 Star recruit had one, three or 7 offers out of HS is no longer relevant. His father Dell’s alma mater, Virginia Tech, reportedly only offered him a walk-on spot and I can guarantee they would loved to have had Steph Curry in college.
I had the good fortune to be assigned to scout Steph Curry in college for his three games at Davidson in a round-robin format in the John Thompson Classic at Michigan in the Fall of 2006. My two peripheral Curry touches prior to the games were a working knowledge of Dell’s NBA career and a casual relationship with Davidson coach, Bob McKillop. (We had been on Howard Garfinkel’s 5-Star staff together as HS coaches.)
Steph Curry in College
After Curry won the NBA MVP award this season, there was a barrage of Tweets calling attention to the fact that Curry had 13 turnovers in that very first game against Eastern Michigan- a close win. He also scored 15 points in that game and I might add that Curry CONFIDENTALLY had 13 TO’s and maybe even more importantly, McKillop played him 35 minutes and let him play through it. The next night Curry scored 32 points on the road against a good Michigan team adding 9 rebounds and only 3 TO’s in a competitive loss. The third night, he scored 16 points in a rout over Central Connecticut St.
While I certainly didn’t discover Curry, I had to write 3 game reports and I was very high on him as an NBA prospect-even after the first night’s TO’s. The only qualifiers then were his fragile appearance and would he be able to guard folks at the other end. One didn’t need to be a scout to see how special he was with his ball handling, passing, range and quick release.
With hindsight now, the correct capsule line for Curry should have been, “2 Star Body; 3Star Recruit; 5 Star Player.” Certainly, Curry’s rise from 2006 to 2015 MVP is an exceptional story but after 3 years at Davidson, averaging 21.5, 25.9 and 29.6 and leading the Southern Conference Wildcats to an NCAA Elite 8, he quickly proved he wasn’t the 3 Star player at all. Before he even played a game, McKillop was quoted widely, “Wait until you see Steph Curry. He’s something special.”
So, if there are lessons to be learned in this saga, what are they?
1. Most High School rankings are formulated by one evaluator and that individual wouldn’t have seen all the players in person.
2. Size and athletic looks go a long way- often too far.
3. A ranking is only a “snapshot in time”.
4. The early recruiting process tends to overlook a lot of players-especially late bloomers, undersized players and ‘tweeners”.
5. Never underestimate the son of a “player”. (One example is John Beilein’s success with under recruited, Tim Hardaway Jr., Glenn Robinson III and Jon Horford.) The pedigree means added value.
6. Recruiting by the rankings doesn’t always account for the intangibles, individual upside and team chemistry. (Bo Ryan’s recruiting style comes to mind here.)