DG MARTIN COLUMN: Stephen Curry is no longer underrated

Published 9:20 am Monday, August 7, 2023

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In my hometown of Davidson, almost everyone worships the same god.

A basketball playing-god named Stephen Curry.

When Curry first came to town in 2006, he worked many miracles and gained many followers as he led the Davidson College Wildcats basketball team.

He was recruited by basketball coach Bob McKillop, and some people in Davidson will tell you that they knew from the time Curry entered the college that he was something special.

Others, like me, were skeptical. When I saw Davidson play Duke during that first year, I saw him fumble the ball and shoot wildly several times. I did not see his great potential. But I was very, very wrong. By the end of his freshman season, he proved his great value, even to me.

Curry was named Southern Conference freshman of the year and the conference’s and the tournament’s most valuable player. Davidson won the conference championship and played in the NCAA tournament, losing to Maryland in the first round, but with Curry scoring 30 points. By then, I surely knew Curry was something very special.

The following year Curry averaged 25.5 points per game and led Davidson to a 26–6 record and wins in the NCAA tournament over Gonzaga, Georgetown and Wisconsin, before losing a heart breaker, 59-57, to eventual champion Kansas.

In his third and last year at Davidson, Curry was the NCAA scoring leader and was named a consensus first team All-American, averaging 28.6 points per game.

Davidson wanted him to stay for his senior year, but Curry opted to declare for the NBA draft and eventual stardom with the Golden State Warriors. Thus, he ended his three-year stay, promising only that he would return after taking care of important business.

When he left Davidson, he said he still planned to earn his degree. Davidson does not retire a jersey unless the player has graduated. Last year Curry finally completed his degree work. In a ceremony last Aug. 31, Davidson awarded his degree and retired his jersey.

Davidson is an important but small part of Curry’s life and career. A new film, “Stephen Curry: Underrated” from Apple TV+ and A24, tells more of the story. It shows Curry as a tiny pre-teen sitting on the end of his basketball team’s bench hoping just to play for a minute or two.

And in recent times it shows him lifting weights and practicing his 30-foot shot, over and over again.

It explains why Curry was so often underrated and the hard work and commitment it took to overcome the skeptics.
It shows how important is the support and mentoring given by now retired Davidson coach Bob McKillop.

If the three-year time of Curry’s miracles at Davidson was something like the New Testament story of travail and triumph, Davidson people will remind you that there is an important Old Testament part of the story of Davidson’s basketball tradition. They will tell you about the first game at Davidson under former high school Coach Lefty Driesell, a win over number one ranked Wake Forest. Driesell recruited players such as Fred Hetzel, Dick Snyder, Barry Teague and Mike Malloy, who helped keep Davidson nationally ranked throughout the 1960s. One of Driesell’s players, Terry Holland, coached at Davidson and Virginia and served as athletic director for both schools.

There is much more, and those of us who were a small part of the Old Testament basketball times are also proud.

For instance, I have been heard to say, “I played on the same team as Stephen Curry.”

Then I admit, “Even though I was on that team almost 50 years before him.”

D.G. Martin, a retired lawyer, served as UNC-System’s vice president for public affairs and hosted PBS-NC’s “North Carolina Bookwatch.” He was captain of the Davidson basketball team during the 1961-62 season.