Without Stephen Curry, Davidson isn’t in the Atlantic 10. Without Stephen Curry and the Atlantic 10, Kellan Grady isn’t at Davidson.
And without Grady, Davidson almost certainly isn’t in Boise, playing Kentucky in the NCAA tournament Thursday.
It’s been 10 years since Curry was the driving force in Davidson advancing to within a victory of the Final Four. Curry went on to the Golden State Warriors, where he has won multiple championships and NBA Most Valuable Player awards.
But he never stopped being of and about Davidson. Coach Bob McKillop believed that a scrawny kid from Charlotte Christian, who was by and large overlooked by the ACC programs surrounding him, could impact the Wildcats program.
The most recent evidence of how Curry transformed this program: successfully recruiting Grady, who grew up in Boston and had interest from 30 Division I programs.
“It’s a special kinship,” McKillop said Monday, the day after Davidson beat Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 tournament championship game, to earn the automatic berth in the NCAAs. “Stephen is in living color every night on TV, and he has never forgotten his roots.”
Curry was doing rehab on an ankle sprain Sunday afternoon when he got a call from Lauren Biggers, formerly Davidson’s sports information director. Biggers had traveled down from New York to Washington for the championship game, and wanted Curry to share in the celebration.
“I wanted him to see the confetti,” Biggers said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
So Biggers connected Curry to the team via her cellphone. She talked her way through courtside security to Davidson’s bench. Curry interacted with this team as if it was his own.
“The game ends, and he’s FaceTiming on the bench, as they’re setting up the awards ceremony,” McKillop recalled. “That’s how his fingerprints are on this program.”
Curry made a major financial contribution to Davidson’s basketball training facility a couple of years ago, and made time to attend a home game in December when the Warriors were in Charlotte to play the Hornets.
But his greatest lasting value to McKillop’s program is credibility. Grady, the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year, has averaged 18 points this season, shooting 51 percent from the field. He was recruited by Villanova and Butler, and North Carolina expressed interest late in the process.
Grady says Curry’s legacy wasn’t the reason he chose Davidson, but it’s easy to surmise he’d be somewhere else had Curry’s play not grabbed his attention as a preteen.
“I’m not at Davidson because of Steph Curry. I’m at Davidson because it was the best fit for me,” Grady said Wednesday. “With that said, my interest was because of Steph. I just found out, the day they started recruiting me, from one of my AAU coaches, they got into the Atlantic 10.
“My favorite player – my role model – had such success under this great coach, and now they’re playing in this very reputable league. So I had to consider this.”
A chance meeting in 2011, when the NBA was on lockout, sure helped. Curry was in Durham to see Davidson play against Duke, and Curry’s younger brother Seth. Grady’s dad had a friend with Duke season tickets, so they flew down for the game.
“I did not know he was going to be there, but we all kind of assumed,” Grady said of hoping to meet his idol.
“The game ended – Duke won – and my father and me were just kind of roaming around. We saw Steph about 50 feet away. I told my dad I wanted a picture with Steph. My dad flagged him down, and one of my dad’s friends was shouting, ‘That’s Little Steph!’”
Grady is no longer “Little Steph.” A 6-foot-5 guard, he has potential to end up in the NBA. And he certainly believes he and his teammates belong in a win-or-go-home game Thursday night (7:10, CBS) against a program as storied as Kentucky’s.
“I certainly think we can give their coach some nerves,” Grady said of Kentucky’s John Calipari. “One could assume when an A-10 team gets in on an automatic bid and sees Kentucky as their opponent (it would) ... be fearful.
“We’re excited. We really feel comfortable about this matchup. Three days to prepare for us? We think that works in our favor.”
Sounds familiar. Like something Curry might have said. Way back in 2008.
NCAA tournament on TV
Game times and television information for Thursday’s games involving men’s basketball teams from the Carolinas:
1:20 p.m.: Gonzaga vs. UNC Greensboro, TNT
2:30 p.m.: Duke vs. Iona, CBS
4:20 p.m.: Seton Hall vs. N.C. State, TBS
7 p.m.: Kentucky vs. Davidson, CBS
*More TV information for Thursday’s games on 2B