Basketball fans today know Steph Curry as a three-time NBA champion and two-time NBA MVP but his rise to becoming one of the most famous basketball players of our generation and one of the best shooters ever started at Davidson, where he was a baby-faced guard known as Stephen Curry.
Here's everything you need to know about Curry's college career.
Steph Curry's college basketball stats, vitals
Position: Shooting guard/point guard
Weight: 185 pounds
Years active: 2006-09
NCAA tournament record: 3-2
Career averages: 25.3 points per game, 4.5 rebounds per game, 3.7 assists per game, 2.1 steals per game, 46.7% shooting, 41.2% 3-point shooting
What was Steph Curry's record in college?
In three seasons with Steph Curry, Davidson posted an 85-20 record, good for an .809 winning percentage. The Wildcats won 29 games during Curry's freshman and sophomore seasons, and they never lost more than eight games in a season with him on campus.
What kind of prospect was Steph Curry in high school?
When Curry was a senior at Charlotte Christian School, he was still "Dell Curry's son." In fact, many viewed him through the lens of his father when he was in college, too. Dell Curry was an NBA veteran and a 3-point marksman who played for five different teams — most notably the Charlotte Hornets — during a 16-year professional career that came to an end in 2002.
In December 2005, The Charlotte Observer wrote about Curry in a story headlined "Stephen Curry a chip off the old shot," a play on words in reference to his NBA father, with the subheadline: ""Ex-Hornets star's son now a complete player." In between his junior and senior years of high school, the younger Curry had traveled the country with his travel team (that was coached by his father), playing against top competition in Las Vegas and he also attended summer camps for top high schoolers.
"And when he did, Curry had an epiphany," wrote The Charlotte Observer's Langston Wertz Jr. "He discovered his game was just as good as everyone else." To hear it from Curry himself: "I knew I could play with them before but after I went to these camps with the best players and did well, it gave me more confidence."
Curry was averaging 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists per game at the time the story was published and Wertz, the reporter, noted that Curry's handles were better and he was stronger against contact on drives to the hoop.
Curry was in more control. More developed. He had come a long way from the high school sophomore who said he didn't yet know his place on his team and wasn't totally comfortable playing heavy minutes.
Part of his growth was in the intangibles — things on the sideline and in between the ears. "He's more mature and he's blossoming and flourishing as a player," his high school coach, Shonn Brown, told The Charlotte Observer. "He's worked very hard in the summer and we're constantly on him to lead this team because he's got the ability and talent to do that and he's taken the bull by the horn."
It was also after his sophomore year when Curry worked on his form and the release point of his shot to make it more over his head like his father's. But as Curry developed, one part of his game was constant: his lethal shooting.
"The jump shot that reminds you of his sweet-shooting father — one of the best pure shooters in NBA history — well, that's always been there," Wertz wrote.
Recruiting analyst Dave Telep noted Curry might be the best incoming freshman in the Southern Conference for the 2006-07 season. "I really believe if you look at his career in four years, you'll be able to say he would've been able to play at a higher collegiate level," Telep said. "His basketball IQ is terrifically high for a senior in high school. He's talented. He shoots the lights out of it. There's a lot of things to like."
The son of a great NBA 3-point shooter chose Davidson over other Southern Conference and Big South schools.
Curry's explosive and clutch shooting performances were present in high school, too. In a 73-70 win in which Charlotte Christian clinched a share of its conference title in 2005, Curry had a 15-point quarter, then he made two free throws to triple his team's lead from one point to three in the final seconds.
Curry grew about four inches and 30 pounds from the start of his junior year of high school to his freshman year of college, when he was 6-1, 180 pounds, but with a game that was even bigger than his frame.
What was Steph Curry's game like?
What has made Curry so successful in the NBA and makes him one of the best shooters in NBA history is what made him an immediate-impact player as a freshman at Davidson: his shooting and ability to be a team's primary option on offense.
"Nine games into his college career, Stephen Curry has made an impact," wrote The Charlotte Observer's Ron Green Jr. "On a young team that has re-energized Bob McKillop, Curry has emerged not only as the team's primary scoring threat, but as an effective — and potentially outstanding — defender." McKillop agreed with that assessment, noting, "Eventually he'll become one of the great defenders we've had here because he has a great basketball IQ."
In many ways, McKillop's offensive philosophy and scheme were a perfect fit for Curry. That's not to say Curry couldn't potentially have become who he is today without Davidson, but McKillop and the Wildcats maximized his potential. "As good as Curry is, Davidson coach Bob McKillop makes him better," wrote The Charlotte Observer's Tom Sorensen after Davidson's close loss to Maryland in the 2007 NCAA Tournament. "The multiple picks through which a defender must run to stay with him don't just occur. The sweet passes from point guard Jason Richards don't just happen."
Even back in college, he had a lightening-quick release, as he'd run off a screen — maybe even two or three — receive a pass and immediately pull up for a shot, even if his defender had managed to keep pace with him. So much of his game, and Davidson's offensive scheme in general, was about the setup. The change of pace and change of direction to get a top-10 scorer in the country the ball with just enough breathing room that he could get a shot off.
As a junior in college, Curry switched from shooting guard to point guard, something The Charlotte Observer called "in what appears to be a seamless transition." Curry's assists almost doubled from 2008 to 2009 from 2.9 assists per game to 5.6.
When did Stephen Curry become known as Steph Curry to the public?
Did you know that Steph Curry is actually the second of his name? He's officially Wardell Stephen Curry II, named after his father, Dell.
A story published in The Charlotte Observer from December 2006, Curry's freshman season at Davidson, quoted Dell Curry calling his son Steph, except the paper spelled it "Stef." Even if those in his family and close to him knew him as "Steph," the public still largely referred to him as Stephen, so much so that not everyone knew how to spell it.
Prior to the 2007 NCAA Tournament, The Baltimore Sun's sports page gave "Stephen Curry" the nod in its "Best player you've never heard of" section of its NCAA tournament preview. The paper noted that Curry "badly wanted to follow in his father's footsteps in Blacksburg, Va.," where Dell Curry played for Virginia Tech.
Davidson's 2008 NCAA Tournament run is really when he burst onto the national scene for casual basketball fans. His Wildcats had lost a competitive game to Maryland in the NCAA tournament the year before, then returned all 11 scholarship players, according to The Charlotte Observer. As a No. 10 seed in 2008, Davidson lost to top-seeded Kansas by two points, coming painfully close to a Final Four berth.
It was Davidson's 2008 NCAA Tournament and following junior season when he began to widely be known as "Steph."
In November 2008, The Charlotte Observer noted this about Curry, "whose first name is pronounced STEFF-en but who is called 'Steph' by most everyone." In 2008, any mention of "Steph Curry" in a newspaper was almost assuredly a direct quote from a teammate or coach. By 2009, newspaper writers and editors began dropping the -en from Stephen.
What were some of Steph Curry's best games?
Trying to pick out just a few of Steph Curry's best college performances is like being a sugar-deprived kid shopping in a candy store — it's way too hard to pick just two or three. After a challenging college debut in which he had 13 turnovers against Eastern Michigan, Curry bounced back with 32 points, nine rebounds and four assists against Michigan and stat-sheet-stuffing performances like that quickly became the norm.
He had 20 games with 20 points or more as a freshman, including four with at least 30 points, and consistently making three, four, five 3-pointers per game. He even had nine threes in just his sixth college game against a non-DI opponent.
From basically mid-January of his freshman season until he left Davidson after his junior year, Curry scoring 25 points wasn't a remarkable feat — it was simply the norm. He averaged 21.5 points per game as a freshman, then 25.9 as a sophomore and 28.6 as a junior.
So games that stand out as extra special for the hot-shooting guard include every game from Davidson's Elite Eight run in 2008, when he dropped 40 points on Gonzaga in the first round, 30 on Georgetown, 33 against Wisconsin, then 25 in a narrow loss to Kansas; a 29-point, 10-assist, nine-steal game in Davidson's season opener the following season; 44 points with six 3-pointers and 14-of-14 free-throw shooting at Oklahoma; 44 points in a neutral-court win over in-state competition N.C. State (The Charlotte Observer noted LeBron James sat courtside for the game, there to see Curry); and 43 points in just 27 minutes on 18 shots against Appalachian State in the Southern Conference tournament in 2008.
Shuffle the box scores from Curry's games in college, pick one out randomly, watch the replay and you'll likely be impressed. You can watch highlights from Curry during Davidson's 2008 NCAA Tournament run below:
What awards did Steph Curry win in college?
Here are some of the awards Curry won in college:
- 2008 Southern Conference Player of the Year
- 2008 Midwest Regional Team
- 2008 consensus Second Team All-American
- 2009 Southern Conference Player of the Year
- 2009 consensus First Team All-American
What records did Steph Curry set in college and where does he rank among historical greats?
Here are records that Curry set in college and where he ranks on all-time statistical lists:
- Highest scoring average in the 2008 NCAA Tournament: 32.0 points per game
- Most 3-point field goals in the 2008 NCAA Tournament: 23 3-pointers
- Most 3-point field goals made per game in the 2008 NCAA Tournament: 5.75 threes per game
- Highest steals average in the 2008 NCAA Tournament: 3.25 steals per game
- First nationally in scoring in 2009: 28.6 points per game
- First all-time in 3-point field goals made in a season: 162 3-pointers
- First all-time in 3-point field goals made per game as a sophomore: 4.50 threes per game
- Second all-time in 3-point field goals made as a freshman: 122 3-pointers
- Tied for the second-highest 3-pointers made average in a single tournament: 5.75 threes per game
- Third all-time in career 3-point field goal average: 3.98 threes per game
- Fourth nationally in scoring in 2008: 25.9 points per game
- Tied for fifth in NCAA tournament history in most 3-pointers in a single tournament: 23 3-pointers
- Ninth nationally in scoring in 2007: 21.5 points per game
- 12th all-time in career 3-point field goals made: 414 3-pointers
- 14th all-time in most 3-point field goals made per game in a season: 4.50 threes per game
- 23rd all-time in most points scored in a season: 974 points
- 30th all-time on the NCAA DI men's basketball scoring list: 2,635 points
What did people say about Steph Curry?
Former Davidson coach Bob McKillop on Curry as a freshman: "Most people don't see the game this early."
McKillop on Curry as a junior: "Can you find someone who can be your orchestra leader and also your lead vocalist? He's done both."
McKillop: "Anything that leaves Steph Curry's hands has a chance to go in."
Dell Curry, his father: "I don't know if I'm the best player in the house anymore, but I'm still the best shooter."
Dell Curry: "He was around me all the time, at practices and games. Being around the best players in the world, that is a tremendous advantage for a young player learning the game."
The Charlotte Observer's Ron Green Jr.: "That's right, Dell Curry's son can be a shut-down defender, words likely never uttered about his father." (Dell Curry: "He got that from his mother.")
The Charlotte Observer's Tom Sorenson after watching Curry in the 2007 NCAA Tournament: "We saw Stephen Curry beat up on UNC Greensboro, Chattanooga, and Furman. The country's second-leading freshman scorer proved he could handle the Southern Conference. Curry was a mid-major star. Let's reassess, because there is nothing mid-major about Curry's game. Davidson introduced him to Maryland on Thursday, and CBS introduced him to the world..."
"Of course Curry can shoot; he's Dell Curry's kid. But Dell had, like, seven assists in his career (high school, college and the NBA combined). Stephen, meanwhile, threw a full-speed fast-break bounce pass to Max Paulhus Gosselin, who hit the reverse layup, to give the Wildcats a 52-44 lead."
Former Maryland coach Gary Williams after playing Davidson in the 2007 NCAA Tournament: "I told him he could play anywhere."
Maryland's D.J. Strawberry, who guarded Curry in the 2007 NCAA Tournament: "They were going to continue to go to him, so either I had to step up, or he was going to beat us by himself. I just tried to use my height, my speed and my aggressiveness. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. He's a great player. He was tiring me out just as much as I was tiring him out. It was a good battle out there. We happened to win."
Maryland's Mike Jones: "Wow. I knew they were young, but they could play in (the ACC). Next year, they'll probably win their league and beat somebody here."
Davidson teammate Thomas Sander after Davidson's NCAA tournament loss to Maryland: "You saw Steph today. He was the best player on that court by far. If he didn't prove he's one of the best players in the country, then I don't know what else to say."
The Charlotte Observer: "It was Curry — a 20-year-old junior with the sweetest jump shot in college basketball — who became a celebrity following the NCAA tournament last season. He appeared on Conan O'Brien's talk show and at the ESPYs. In April, more than 10,000 people asked him electronically to 'friend' them on Facebook."
Davidson teammate Bryant Barr on a time when he a Curry stopped at a restaurant: "At least 10 people came up to the table for his autograph. I was just sitting there laughing. All these people had no idea I'm even on the team, but I felt for Steph. He was just trying to eat a cheeseburger."
Barr: "The juniors and seniors are used to Steph and treat him like a normal kid. The freshmen? They treat him like he's Michael Jordan."
Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer: "Davidson guard Stephen Curry belonged to the Carolinas until the NCAA tournament, when he went national with a series of amazing performances."
Fowler of The Charlotte Observer: "If Curry stays for four seasons at Davidson, he has a shot to be the second-leading scorer in NCAA history, trailing only Pete Maravich."
Steph Curry quotes
Curry on playing his father, Dell, in H-O-R-S-E in the summer of 2006, having never beaten him: "He went behind the car, about 30 feet away and it was nothing but net. I had to top that, but I couldn't."
Curry after Davidson lost to No. 4 seed Maryland in the first round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament: "We showed that we can play on this level and we have great talent on this team."
Curry on his approach: "I approach every game the same way. I've been fortunate enough to be on a great team that gets me open, and I can use my shooting ability to put points up. It's a real blessing to be in this position with this team and a great coach, and things are working out."