Heading into this season many weren’t expecting that by the end of January that Duke would be the No. 1 team in the country after they had to traverse what looked like a gauntlet of a schedule in November.
Yet here we are at the end of December and the Blue Devils are No. 1 and one of the biggest reasons for that is one of the smallest guys on the court: Seth Curry. Curry, a senior guard struggled last season like perhaps no time since he started playing basketball. This year, however, he is making it look easy when really his progression has been anything but.
After spending a year at Liberty University and becoming one of the most prolific scorers among freshmen in the nation, Curry, who was given very little attention by the bigger schools out of high school opted to transfer. Duke expressed interest as well as Virginia Tech and some others for his services.
Duke won out and Blue Devil fans rejoiced because it looked like the second coming of older brother Steph, who was a phenominal player and scorer at Davidson. Fans dreamt of 30-plus point games but they had to wait. Curry sat out the 2009-2010 season and watched his teammates win a national title.
And even though Curry played a role, because of NCAA transfer rules, he did not receive a ring from that championship. His first year playing at Duke, Curry was expected to be a key player on a team that featured solid guards in Kyrie Irving and Nolan Smith. He took a secondary role for the most part even in Irving’s absence due to injury but showed the kind of electric player he could be.
Duke’s season in 2010-2011 ended rather abruptly as Arizona beat Duke badly in the Sweet 16 and Curry who was injuried in the game had to watch from the bench. Last season, Curry’s junior year, he was expected to team up with freshman senation Austin Rivers and help be the backbone of Duke’s team, but it never materialized.
Curry struggled most of the year and despite averaging 13 points per game, he was playing far from the level many were expecting him to. Part of it was due to the offense’s focus on getting Rivers the ball. Curry is a quite player and that lack of aggressiveness at times showed as he would often cede control of the team to the freshman.
A great example was in the first game against North Carolina. With Duke trailing by two points and with the ball last and a chance to tie or win the game, the ball never left Rivers’ hands during the final possession except when he took the final shot. At one point Rivers waived off Curry who was calling for the ball in the corner.
The shot was good but that play told you everything you needed to know about Curry’s season and the role he played. He was for the most part overshadowed by Rivers.
This year Curry was hit with a big blow when he suffered a lower leg injury that has been classified as everything from a stress reaction to shin splints. Regardless of the official diagnosis, coach Mike Krzyzewski has said it is an injury that will likely nag him all season long. Upon hearing that news many began to seriously question how good this Duke team could be and the ceiling seemed particularly low if one of its top players was unable to play at full speed.
Now 12 games into the season, with his team undefeated and with him averaging 17 points per game it is hard not see the ceiling for this Duke team rising.
Curry has been much more aggressive even with the injury that has limited him in practice. He is shooting 8 percentage points better from the field, and nearly 4 percentage points from behind the three point line. Despite the leg injury he is still averaging 30 minutes a game though he did sit out a game earlier this year to rest. Still what Duke has seen out of Curry this year is turning into the version of the player they were hoping they’d see back in 2010-2011.
He is still a quite leader, but become more vocal. Curry who was passive with the ball last year isn’t afraid to be aggressive and get into the lane with the big boys. He has become very adept at hitting floaters in the lane or hitting high bank lay-ins when he drives. And he still has the ability to knock down jump shots with deadly accuracy.
In short he is finally meeting the lofty expectation that everyone else had thrown on him. He still isn’t the biggest, quickest, or strongest guy on the court for Duke but in many ways he may be the most important player for them at a time when many may have written him off a bit.
Duke may not win a championship in what is Curry’s final year but they are certainly more capable when he is on the court and what a way to come full circle in your career. And while everybody on this team wants one, there is probably no one who wants a championship ring of his own more than Curry.