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Curry a true student-athlete

Hopewell star with 4.6 grade-point average is going to Harvard.

By Langston Wertz Jr.
lwertz@charlotteobserver.com

HUNTERSVILLE Hopewell High's basketball coach Eric Davis said he hasn't worked with too many players like Brandyn Curry, a left-handed 6-foot-1 senior guard who teaches Sunday School, participates in fundraising walk-a-thons and everybody calls “Cheesecake.”

Davis, whose team opens the season next week, said not many coaches anywhere have had an opportunity to work with a kid like this.

“Brandyn just has a gift of being the total package,” Davis said. “He's such a great kid. I've never seen anyone that doesn't like him. He's exactly what I want my son to be when he grows up.”

Curry is 17. Last season, he developed such a love for a particular kind of cheesecake served up at Hopewell's cafeteria that the workers began to leave him a slice whenever they'd make it. Hopewell students gave him a nickname because of it and hung handwritten signs at the gym with “Cheesecake” on them. And whenever Curry would score or make a good play, everyone would yell “CHEEEEESSE-CAKE!”

They found themselves saying it a lot.

Curry had a magical junior season. He led Hopewell to its first conference title (the Titans shared it with rival North Mecklenburg). Curry was a unanimous pick as player of the year in the ME-CA 6 4A, a conference that has sent teams to four of the past six N.C. 4A championship games. He led the league in scoring (17.5 points per game), assists (6), steals (4.5) and was third in rebounding (5.5). He was All-Charlotte Observer and all-state.

National recruiting analyst Dave Telep of scout.com ranks Curry as the second-best point guard in the state, behind Raleigh Word of God star John Wall.

“Someday,” Telep said, “you're looking at a guy who'll be (an all-conference college player). He has poise, leadership and the ability to make plays for others. He's just as solid as they come.”

And as tough.

“He's a very competitive kid,” Vance High coach Will Robinson said. “He has an incredible will to win. He plays from his heart, with a tremendous desire to be successful. To me, it's that toughness that makes him special.”

Curry is just as special in the classroom.

He's made two Bs since the fifth grade (and got punished twice for it). He has a 4.6 grade-point average, placing him 13 {+t}{+h} in a senior class of nearly 500. He's accepted a scholarship to Harvard, where coach Tommy Amaker – the former Duke star – is promising him immediate playing time for the Crimson, which was 8-22 last season and hasn't had a winning season since 2001-02.

Curry chose Harvard over Pennsylvania, Stanford, William & Mary and Wright State. He could've played at a basketball powerhouse, but four of his finalists were major academic schools for a reason.

“I talked to my parents this summer and I had a reality check,” Curry said. “Basketball is going to end for me sometime, somewhere, and I want to be in the best situation I can be in when that happens. So the best situation, for me, is to go to a school like Harvard and get my degree, so I can be hopefully comfortable and not have to worry.”

Curry plans to major in business economics in college. He seems to have mastered nearly everything in high school. His mother, Selina, says her son doesn't have to study much to do exceptionally well academically, that he's been blessed with a quick mind.

Hopewell Principal Louise Jones says she can't think of a student who could represent the school any better – or is any more popular.

“We have 2,700 kids and it's pretty hard to stand out here,” Jones said, “but he does. He's just exceptional. I couldn't think of anyone better to represent the school in any capacity.”

This year, Davis picked Curry and senior teammate Alex Godette to write the basketball's team “constitution.” The players sat in the locker room for two days after school. They came up with detailed segments on “how to win a championship,” “seniors' roles,” “captains' roles,” even “expectations of the head coach.”

“Five universities read it and took a copy back to school with them,” Davis said. “It was the most impressive thing I've seen, for two 17-year olds to come up with something like that.”

But Davis said not much Curry does surprises him anymore.

When he heard Curry had been teaching Sunday School for two years, he wasn't surprised. When he heard Curry was participating in fund-raising walks to raise money to fight diabetes (his grandmother had the disease) and muscular dystrophy (a schoolmate suffers from it), Davis wasn't surprised, either.

What did surprise him, though, was when he and his wife drove Curry to William & Mary for a visit last year.

“We played Central Cabarrus and he came and stayed at my house after the game,” Davis said. “My wife, my son and I drove 51/2 hours to take him to William & Mary, and he's sitting in the back seat with my son like he's part of the family. They're back there playing games and talking. A lot of teenagers in that situation, you just never know how a kid will act for that long in the car. But I think I learned something I already knew that day:

“Brandyn Curry's a great kid, an unbelievable kid.”

The kind of kid very few coaches ever get to work with.

Langston Wertz Jr.: 704-358-5133

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