Understanding how other athletes approached recruiting can be an effective way to learn how to handle your own journey. Stephen Curry's path was not that of a blue chip recruit, but he still found his way onto the college courts and eventually the NBA hardwood.
Like many high school athletes, he tried to narrow his college choice down to one. He wanted to follow in his father's footsteps to Blacksburg, Va., also to play ball for Virginia Tech.
Too bad, though; the Hokies didn't want Stephen. They were all set with their incoming recruiting class, which included two players ranked in rivals.com's Top 150. Plus, according to various scouting services, Curry lacked the strength to play at the next level, the skills needed to run the point and strong decision-making ability. Tech's only offer to the three-star recruit was to try as a walk-on.
Davidson College's head basketball coach Bob McKillop acknowledged the deficits that made other coaches go cold on Curry. "Diminutive and thin" was his description after seeing Curry play as a high school junior. "But, he was clearly skilled and knew how to play the game at that age," McKillop says.
What really impressed McKillop was that the 16-year-old guard "could make a mistake or a great play, but he didn't let that carry over to the next possession. He had a remarkable capacity to live and play within the present, which is such an elusive quality for players today, especially for a guy that young."
Curry committed to Davidson in September of his senior year [later than most top recruits], but he arrived sooner than all but one blue-chip athlete ranked ahead of him. In his first year as a Wildcat, Stephen was second in scoring among all freshmen nationwide—beating everyone except future lottery pick Kevin Durant.
A year later, Curry led Davidson to an improbable Elite Eight run, which included his game-winning shot to beat Gonzaga, a comeback win against Georgetown and a Sweet 16 blowout of Wisconsin. And there he was this past June, the kid who majored in hard work and accountability, going to the Golden State Warriors with the seventh pick of the NBA Draft.
Davidson wasn't simply Curry's last resort after all else failed. "Stephen came into a system that fit his talents and gave him a leading role," McKillop says.
So what does McKillop look for when he hits the recruiting trail to find the next Stephen Curry? "Teamwork, toughness and work ethic," he says. "How much does he want it? How bad does he want it? How much is he willing to work?"
And his advice to kids with narrow-minded hoop dreams? "Choosing a school should not be based on the size of the arena, the conference affiliation or the number of national television appearances," McKillop says. "It should be a combination of the teammates you'll have, the way you'll be taught, and the opportunity the system and style of play will present to you—the role it will give to you."
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