By MIKE CRANSTON AP Sports Writer
DAVIDSON, N.C.(AP)—As Stephen Curry fought back tears in announcing he was skipping his senior season at Davidson, he was convinced he’d be selected in the top 20 of the NBA draft.
At his first pre-draft workout with Charlotte a month later, Curry thought he’d crack the top 14, while openly lobbying to be taken by New York eighth overall.
Fast forward to the week of the draft and a confident Curry sat in a conference room steps away from the Davidson court where he became the nation’s leading scorer and indicated he’s hearing he could go as high as No. 2 overall.
The skinny, sweet-shooting guard who captivated the nation by nearly leading unheralded Davidson to the 2008 Final Four has won over the NBA, too.
“It’s kind of surreal, actually, to think how much I’ve benefited from those workouts,” Curry said. “Just getting out and playing against the best in the draft and doing well and competing hard, really I guess impressed a lot of people.”
Curry has shot to the top of draft boards partly due to squashing erroneous scouting reports, a savvy pre-draft plan with the help of his ex-NBA player dad, a hot-shooting month, and a personality and knowledge of the game that wins over a room.
His father, Dell, who spent 16 seasons in the NBA as a 3-point specialist, believes his son’s quick ascension started when he was measured at the NBA combine in Chicago.
Now an executive with the Bobcats, Dell Curry chuckles at how teams weren’t convinced that Curry had indeed grown to 6-foot-3 after a late growth spurt in college.
“I’ve done some scouting here with the Bobcats and I always found a way where I could get to stand pretty close to a player, that’s a good way for me to tell his exact height,” he said. “A lot of scouts must have not done that because they still had Steph listed as 6-1.
“Definitely his size and his strength catapulted him up the draft. Then you sit down and talk to him and find out what kind of kid he is and how much he loves playing the game.”
Bobcats coach Larry Brown marveled at his basketball IQ, but perhaps a more telling sign was a day after his workout for Charlotte. As Brown and Curry’s father watched another set of draft prospects, Curry sat in the first row of the stands – with a laptop – working on a paper for a summer class he’s taking at Davidson.
“It appears to me that the NBA recognizes the full package,” Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. “They’re not just drafting a talent, an athlete, a shooter, they’re drafting someone who can really put his imprint upon a franchise.”
Curry has also benefited from his father’s NBA experience. He signed with Octagon, the same player agency Dell had. They sent him to Washington to get fit under trainer Idan Ravin. They also decided it would be best for Curry to limit his workouts before a draft that lacks star power.
Curry immediately identified the Knicks as a place he could thrive in coach Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo style. He decided to work out for New York and Washington, a team in need of a point guard. He then scheduled a workout with Sacramento Sunday.
Only Curry performed so well in showing off his lightning-quick release while silencing some concerns about his defense and athleticism that he may not get his wish. The Knicks may have to trade up to take him at No. 8.
“He played so well he’s actually moved himself ahead of where he’d like to be,” Dell Curry said. “It’s a good problem to have.”
There are still questions about Curry, who averaged 28.6 points last season and finished with 414 career 3-pointers, fourth in NCAA Division I history.
While Curry made a successful transition to point guard as a junior, there are concerns if he’s athletic enough to keep speedy playmakers in front of him on defense. While he’s gained seven pounds since the end of the college season, he weighs only 185, and will have to bulk up to withstand the rigors of an 82-game NBA season.
“He’s definitely going to have to get stronger, but he’ll be fine. I think he’s going to be a really good NBA player,” said Jay Bilas, a college basketball analyst and part of ESPN’s draft coverage. “He’s not going to win any races end to end and he’s not going to win the dunk contest. But so what? They’re not drafting him for that. They’re drafting him because he knows how to play.”
Curry has invited his parents, sister, girlfriend and McKillop to be in the green room with him on draft night. Before that he’s scheduled time to be with his father, who turns 45 on Thursday.
And after two months of seeing his draft stock soar, Curry knows he’s almost certain to be selected higher than his dad, who went 15th overall to Utah in 1986.
“I’ve always had that confidence,” Curry said. “But when things start happening and you’re on the court and you’re competing hard playing against the best and doing well and standing out, it just reassures you that you’re meant to be here.”