April 23, 2009

DAVIDSON, N.C. (AP) - Davidson guard Stephen Curry will skip his senior season and take his sweet shooting stroke to the NBA.

After weeks struggling to decide, the nation's leading scorer announced Thursday that he'll enter the NBA draft, where he could be a lottery pick.

With his father, former NBA sharpshooter Dell Curry, and Davidson coach Bob McKillop nearby, the nation's leading scorer said at an on-campus news conference that his goal has always been to play in the NBA.

The lightly recruited Curry burst onto the national scene a year ago in helping tiny Davidson get within a missed a 3-pointer of the Final Four.

The 6-foot-3 Curry moved to point guard this season and averaged 28.6 points. He had 15 games of 30 or more points and three of 40 or more.

Curry, who said he'll hire an agent, took longer with his decision than expected. Two days after scoring 26 points in Davidson's loss to Saint Mary's in the NIT, Curry said he'd quickly make up his mind after speaking with his parents.

But Curry wavered because of his desire to get his college degree. Davidson does not have a summer school program, which will make it difficult for Curry to finish his required courses outside the NBA season.

Curry told school officials Wednesday afternoon he would announce his decision on Thursday, but didn't tell McKillop or his father what he'd do. About 30 minutes before the news conference, sports information director Marc Gignac acknowledged he didn't know the decision and had been unable to write a news release.

The decision captivated the region, with four Charlotte-area television stations broadcasting the decision live. Curry said he finally made up his mind 90 minutes earlier while eating breakfast.

Despite a weaker supporting cast than a season ago, Curry shot 45 percent from the field in 2008-09, including 39 percent from 3-point range. He was voted a first-team Associated Press All-American.

He finished his college career with a school record 2,635 points, the most in school history. If Curry had returned for his senior season, he would have had an outside shot at breaking Pete Maravich's NCAA Division I record of 3,667 points.

While Curry is perhaps the best shooter in college basketball, there are questions about how successful he'll be in the NBA. Curry will have to beef up his slight frame to withstand the rigors of an 82-game schedule. He's also still adjusting to the move to point guard, a position he'll likely have to play be a starter in the NBA.

Curry struggled at times when facing taller defenders with long arms, a likely nightly occurrence at the next level. But his lightning-quick release, surprising quickness, high basketball IQ and late growth spurt will make lottery teams take notice.

Curry has plenty of high-profile fans, too. Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James attended a Davidson NCAA tournament game last year and sat courtside in December when Curry scored 44 points in a win over North Carolina State.

"He's like a (Richard) Hamilton in our league. He never stops moving," James said after that game. "He's the type of player that's hard to guard no matter how big you are. Guys in the NBA don't want to continue to chase guys like that."

The major schools ignored Curry in high school because he was just 5-foot-9 in his junior year. He reached 6-feet as a freshman at Davidson and grew three more inches. After getting an MRI on an injured ankle in February, Curry said a doctor told him his growth plates showed he could sprout another two inches.

His father had a similar late growth spurt at Virginia Tech. Dell Curry then spent 16 years in the NBA, mostly with the Charlotte Hornets. He works in the Charlotte Bobcats' front office.

Stephen Curry's younger brother, Seth, led the nation's freshmen in scoring at 20.2 points a game for Liberty this season. He announced last month that he was transferring to Duke.

Despite his high draft stock, Stephen Curry struggled with the decision shortly after Davidson's season ended. Curry clearly enjoyed school and the small, liberal arts school 20 miles north of Charlotte, N.C.

He has said that he wanted to graduate, and a rule requiring Davidson players to have a degree before their number is retired could delay No. 30 being raised to the Belk Arena rafters.

Curry, fighting back tears, said he still planned to one day get his degree.