College Basketball Recruiting: What Stephen Curry Can Teach Division I Coaches

William MichaelContributor IMarch 6, 2012

Think Davidson College would trade their 2008 team for the 2012 McDonald's All-American team?
Think Davidson College would trade their 2008 team for the 2012 McDonald's All-American team?Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

As a teacher at Stephen Curry's high school, I enjoyed the opportunity to watch a spectacular player on a spectacular team—a team that included five future D-I players.  While I thought the freshman Damier Pitts (Marshall) might be better in the long run, Stephen Curry was a superstar.  

When the big games arrived and the crowds gathered, it was the Stephen Curry show.  I could watch the kid play forever.  He was that kind of entertaining player that only comes along once every decade. 

However, he was recruited by no one.  Regardless of his stats, he was a skinny kid who looked like he was 13 years old.  College coaches didn't think that his game would transfer onto the bigger, faster, stronger college court.  Dazzling high school plays, always-on outside shooting, superstar personality, that's all cute for the high school kids.  However, in Division I basketball, it's a different world.

They were, of course, very wrong.

By the end of his freshman season, everyone knew who Stephen Curry was.  They got a glimpse of him in the first round of the NCAA tournament where he lit up the Maryland Terrapins for 30 on opening day of the tourney.  

When his sophomore season arrived, everyone was watching for him and—as he did in high school—he stole the show.  I don't believe anyone will ever steal the stage the way Stephen did in 2008, and in every game it was the same nonsense.  

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Round 1:  Davidson hasn't faced a team as well coached as Gonzaga.  Curry scored 30 points in the second half and led Davidson to an exciting win.  

Round 2:  Curry hasn't faced competition like eighth ranked Georgetown has faced—and handled—in the Big East.  Curry scored 25 points in the second half and led Davidson back from a 17-point deficit to knock off the Hoyas.

Round 3:  Curry has never faced a defender like Wisconsin's Michael Flowers or a defense like Bo Ryan's Badgers can play.  Wrong again.  Curry scored 33 points and lit up Detroit.  Jim Nantz let everyone know, "Folks, we've got a star!"  

Round 4:  With the experts finally learning their lesson, Curry went for 25 against the Kansas Jayhawks and lost by two to a Kansas team that then beat No. 1 UNC by 18 and Derrick Rose's Memphis Tigers in the championship game.  Yeah, Davidson by two.

After that season, everyone loved Stephen Curry.  He was on Letterman, Leno, Larry King and more. How could anyone have missed this kid coming out of high school? He's only a sophomore! 

Well, the coaches weren't entirely wrong.  They doubted his ability to hold up against the physical beating that comes with D-I basketball.  In fact, they ended up being right about Stephen Curry and their assessment was on the money.  He was a sensational player, a great young man, but he was a physical risk because of his thin frame.

In February of 2009, Stephen rolled his ankle against Furman University that cost him a game late in the season.  Davidson didn't make the NCAA tournament.  Stephen's college career ended with a nagging ankle injury.

In 2009, Stephen was selected with the seventh pick in the NBA draft by the Golden State Warriors. Three years later and you'll see Stephen Curry isn't playing very often.  Why?  Bad ankle.  


College recruiters are wise to balance talent and character with durability.  However, the longest college career possible is four years and, therefore, there seems to be more wisdom in taking the risk on players that might not last 20 years in the NBA, but can surely make fireworks at the college level. 

The best of these risky stars will be eager to fly to the NBA as soon as any injuries appear anyway, so that scholarship slot will be opened up as soon as any troubles arise—maybe even sooner.   The next Stephen Curry that comes along may not have a long NBA career ahead of him, but he might have that one NCAA tournament in him that no one will ever forget.  

Don't overestimate the college game. Your coaching career will be much brighter if you build a team like the 2007-08 Davidson team than if you try to play NBA ball against the one-and-done superpowers.

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