Kellan Grady, Davidson’s freshman guard, first became aware of the Wildcats’ basketball program the way many of his generation did.
When he was 10, Grady’s father Rob had Kellan read a magazine article about a promising Wildcats freshman guard named Stephen Curry.
In 2008, when he was 11, Grady was entranced as he followed the Wildcats and Curry making their way to the NCAA’s Elite Eight.
Grady then got a special television package that allowed him to watch every Golden State Warriors game during Curry’s rookie NBA season, although he had to watch recordings of them because they started at 10:30 p.m. (EDT).
“Ever since, he’s been a role model for me,” Grady said of Curry.
Now, Grady is playing at the same school and for the same coach that helped boost Curry to the NBA, where he has become one of the league’s top stars and a two-time MVP.
And though Grady’s debut with the Wildcats has been sparkled with some Curry-like moments – he made seven 3-pointers in his first game - there’s plenty that he still needs to work on as the Wildcats (3-2) head into a game Friday against 13th-ranked North Carolina (6-1) at Spectrum Center in uptown Charlotte.
He admits that. Coach Bob McKillop, who coaxed so much from Curry in his three seasons, certainly knows it, too.
After Grady threw down a powerful dunk during a fast break in the Wildcats’ 85-70 victory Tuesday against the Charlotte 49ers, he turned upcourt and dutifully pointed a finger of gratitude toward teammate Jon Axel Gudmundsson, who had assisted on the play.
But as the 6-foot-5 Grady jogged back, the 49ers beat him down the court and were already into their offense. And though Charlotte didn’t score on that possession, somebody had taken notice of Grady’s transgression.
“You can’t do that,” McKillop said after the game. “He’s thanking Jon Axel, but meanwhile his man is driving the ball up the court. You don’t huddle like you do in football; this is college basketball and it’s on to the next play.”
Those are the kinds of lessons a freshman must learn, even those as highly regarded coming into college as Grady was. But Grady, who started the season on a tear (averaging 22.5 points in the first two games of his career), continues to sort through those ups and downs. He’s averaging 15.8 points and makes 38.7 percent of his 3-pointers.
Grady has shown glimpses of his upside and they’ve been spectacular.
In his first college game, Grady scored 23 points in a 110-62 victory against Charleston Southern, making 7-of-10 3-pointers (the Wildcats hit a school- and Atlantic 10-record 26 3-pointers in that game). Grady followed that up with a 24-point performance against UNC Wilmington.
Then some reality hit Grady. He scored 10 points in a loss against Nevada before being held scoreless on zero-for-7 shooting in a 78-62 loss at Appalachian State last Saturday.
Grady regained his shooting stroke against Charlotte, scoring 22 (9-of-16 from the floor, 2-of-7 from 3-point range), to go with five rebounds and two assists.
“I’ve been going through some growing pains,” Grady said. “But my teammates have been really encouraging and they’re holding me accountable.”
McKillop says the main lesson for Grady now is for him to realize there’s more to his game than his jump shot.
“Early on, he was making a lot of 3s, and unfortunately that became a diet for him,” McKillop said. “He started eating a lot of 3s. But he’s starting to understand that he’s a really good cutter and driver and he showed that (against Charlotte).
And as for that defensive lapse against the 49ers?
“He’s picking up his defense,” McKillop conceded. “Any kid coming to college will find that the defensive transition is very difficult. He’s starting to understand there’s no place to take a play off.”
Grady was an all-state player at Northfield (Mass.) Mount Hermon School. He picked Davidson after receiving offers from other Atlantic 10 schools and a few Ivy League colleges. Curry received little, if any, interest from power conference schools, either.
Grady said he briefly met Curry in 2011, when Curry attended a Duke game to watch his brother Seth play. Grady said he managed to get a photo taken with Steph Curry.
“I bet he doesn’t remember,” Grady said with a smile.
Grady will likely get a chance to meet Curry next week, when the Warriors are in town to play the Charlotte Hornets. Davidson has a home game against Virginia Military on Tuesday, and Curry could attend.
Grady smiled more broadly.
“I’d look forward to that,” he said.
David Scott: @davidscott14