Stephen Curry’s graduation from Davidson has been a long wait

Davidson, North Carolina — On the first day of the Fall 2007 term, Stephen Curry sat in his chair. Classes on gender and society at Davidson College, a small liberal arts school 20 miles north of Charlotte, North Carolina

Professor Gail Kaufman, who was teaching the class, started the roll call in alphabetical order.

At the end of Cs she yelled “Stephen Curry?”

The students burst into laughter. Curry smiled. “Stephen,” he said politely.

Kaufman had taken a sabbatical the year before, so perhaps she seemed one of the few people in Davidson — both the university and the town of 10,000 — who didn’t know how to pronounce his name. .

Five months ago, Curry led Davidson to the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament his freshman season, earning him status as a local celebrity, but ultimately losing ground to Golden State as a four-time NBA champion. It would surpass his superstar status. But to his fellow students, Curry was just one of them. “He was always the breakfast guy,” Curry said.

“Everyone is a true Davidson student,” said Jason Richards, Curry’s friend and college teammate. No one is walking on the narrow path. I knew who to hand it to on my way to class and knew everyone in my class by first name. That’s what makes Davidson so special, and what makes it so special for Stephen. Nothing is bigger than the university itself. ”

But as the last few days have shown, Curry is getting closer.

Marshall Elsen walked into Stephen Curry’s freshman dorm room early in the fall 2006 semester and saw a pair of oversized Charlotte Hornets basketball shorts on the floor. I asked Curry said it belonged to his father, Dell Curry, who spent 10 seasons with the Hornets.

“For the first few months he was known as Del Curry’s child,” said Ersen, who lived down the hall.

But one afternoon in October, Stephen Curry’s roommate and teammate Bryant Burr told some friends: he’s going to be huge ”

Chris Clooney, the school’s athletic director, said he had played on the boys’ basketball team for four seasons before Curry’s arrival. and after Steph,” said Cluny.

Clooney’s team was successful, earning the 15th seed in the NCAA Tournament the year before Curry came. But what if Callie arrives? “It was the starting point,” Clooney said.

Curry became Davidson’s career leader in points and 3-pointers. The Wildcats entered the tournament in their freshman and his sophomore seasons and had a magical run to Round 8 in 2008.

After his junior year, Curry moved to the NBA, where Golden State drafted him seventh overall.

Chris Gruber, dean of admissions and financial aid at Davidson College, said there was a spike in applications after the 2008 tournament held. he said. “It put us on the map. ‘Where can it be?'”

Gruber said the school is still “riding that wave.”

Davidson’s men’s basketball relies heavily on acquiring international players. Coach Matt McKillop, whose father Bob was Curry’s coach, says the first conversation often starts with a recruit saying, “I know Davidson – that’s where Steph Curry went.” said.

Jane Avinger and her husband, Bob Avinger, started getting into the game in 1967 when they moved to Davidson. When the Wildcats made it to the Round of 16 in Detroit in his 2008, they bought plane tickets and went there to cheer on the team. “We had never done anything like that,” she said.

Curry signs are everywhere in town. Ben & Jerry’s Her Ice Cream Shop on Main Street has a dipped rainbow sprinkle Her Waffle Her cone called #30 after Curry’s jersey number. The Sabor Latin Street Grill on Jetton Street has a large mural of curries on the walls. At Main Street Books, Curry’s basketball-themed children’s book, I Have a Superpower, is displayed by the cash register.

On Thursday, Curry announced that the basketball court at Davidson’s nonprofit, the Ada Jenkins Center, will be renovated by his Curry brand and Under Armor. Eat. Learn. Play. A foundation he started with his wife Ayesha Curry. and Summit Foundation.

Hundreds of townspeople hung sheets from their porches with words of support while Davidson hosted the 2008 tournament. Last week, townsfolk were encouraged to hang up their sheets again as Curry was back in town for a special celebration: “Proud of #30,” she read one. “Congratulations, Steph” was written on a separate sheet of paper in black and red ink, the colors of Davidson’s school.

Ada Fitzgerald, owner of Main Street Books, said: “It’s pretty wild that he ended up going to college and playing for this team. Because he’s the best player,” he said. “What? He doesn’t need to come back often, or even give us much attention as a town – and we’re diehard fans forever.

Some of the nearly 5,000 people who thronged the Berg Arena on Davidson’s campus on Wednesday were driving all the way from Florida. Davidson’s Mayor Rusty Knox was there. Sai Thumara and Jack Brown, Davidson’s male soccer players who said they were drawn to the school because of Curry, were in the floor seats with other students. So did Callie’s wife and her three children in the couple. 10 year old Riley. Ryan, 7 years old. and Canon, 4.

Finally, Stephen Curry was there too.

Dressed in a cap and gown, he shook hands and offered a hug as the crowd cheered. Thirteen years after he left Davidson, he had a BA in Sociology. He missed the school graduation ceremony in May. a bit Busy trying to win his fourth NBA championship. But now Davidson was performing the ceremony just for him.

“I joked the other day, if the president were in town, would you host an event like this?” said Joey Beeler, Davidson’s Director of Athletic Communications.

Afterwards, Curry said he was “almost overwhelmed.”

The ceremony also marked Curry’s induction into the school’s Track and Field Hall of Fame and the retirement of his number 30 jersey. Davidson has long wanted Hall of Famers to be the first to graduate, but in 2019 some of the rules changed for Curry. Still, he refused the honor, wanting to wait until he graduated.

He took classes during the NBA shutdown in 2011 and called Clunie, director of athletics, in December 2019 to make plans to complete the last few classes for his degree. I was. Then the coronavirus pandemic put his plans to a standstill. But last winter, Curry called Clooney again.

Clunie scheduled calls and video conferences with professors before practices, after shootarounds, and even after games. Curry said he completed most of his work in March and April when he missed 12 games with his foot injury.

“Some professors had to tell him to slow down,” Clooney said.

A professor of gender and society, Kaufman was advisor to a dissertation on promoting gender equality in sport. Curry wasn’t done yet when the NBA playoffs unfolded. Around midnight Wednesday, Kaufman received an email from Curry. K, I want to assure you that I will finish everything by Friday night,” he wrote.

“At that moment, I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is amazing,'” Kaufman said. she added.

With the degree, Curry gave college coach Bob McKillop a 100 percent player graduation rate during his 33-year tenure. McKillop, who Curry was close to, retired in June, the day after Curry was named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player.

“He has given this community, this university, this athletic department an unparalleled gift, and that gift, in my judgment, is his time and his love,” McKillop said. “These are the two most precious gifts I believe we have as human beings.”

At graduation on Wednesday, Curry grinned and held up his diploma. He twirled his tassels and threw his hat high into the air on stage as the cellphone-toting crowd cheered.

“Steven, there are few alumni as famous as you,” Davidson president Doug Hicks said at the ceremony. “OK, actually, none.”

Chants of “MVP!” rang out as Curry took the podium as the final speaker of the afternoon. rang.

“The best decision I ever made was coming to Davidson College,” he said, adding that he cried when he decided to leave early for the NBA.

“Every time I step on the court and try to make an impact in my life, what Davidson stands for lives with me,” he said. It’s all about how you present Davidson in every room.”

In a subsequent interview, he said Golden State teammate Draymond Green texted him after the ceremony.

“He said, ‘I’ve never seen you laugh like that when you were on that stage,'” Curry said. “I didn’t think people could read through it.”

Curry said Davidson “was like the beginning of a big evolution in my life. I have so many memories of the whole experience, everyone I met, and the support of the community. , tells why I want to come back and why yesterday was so special. That’s a big part of my origin story.”

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