One on one with Seth Curry

Since leaving Duke, Seth Curry has played for several teams including a mid-season, 10-day contract for the Phoenix Suns. During the end of the regular season, we had a chance to sit down with the former Blue Devil to discuss his pro career, his time at Duke, and everything in between.

For fans who aren’t familiar—what’s the actual process entail when you are playing in the NBDL and you are called up to an NBA team—how do the logistics of that unfold?

Seth Curry: It depends on what kind of deal you sign on the call up. I was on a 10-day contract, so you can get up to two 10-day contracts and then you have to be called up for the rest of the season, or, they cannot re-sign you after the first 10-day and then choose to either let you go or just re-sign you for the rest of the season right then. If that happens, you just get the call while you are with your D-League team and I flew out the very next day, I flew out around 3 hours after I got the call up and I suited up the next day to play.

Were you anticipating that a call up was going to be coming soon based on your play in the NBDL?

I pretty much expected it all year. I’ve had GM’s and coaches telling my agent that I was pretty much right on the edge all year of being called up. Especially the way I started off the season playing pretty well and then I kept that going, it took a little bit longer to get called up than maybe people were expecting, but you never know what teams need or are expecting with injuries and whatnot. You just stay ready and just continue to play well, that’s all you can pretty much do at the D-League level, just play well and be ready for your next opportunity in the NBA.

What was it like working with the Suns coaches and training staff on this call up?

It was great. Like I said, I played with the Suns Summer League team in Las Vegas, so I was familiar with the coaches and a few of the players. I knew the front office from the summer as well, so they were still running the same system now that they ran in the summer, so it was easy to fit in and grasp the plays.

What was it like for you having the sustained success in the D-League that you were having this year?

I mean it’s great, that’s the goal is to go into the D-League and just try to dominate. You feel like that’s the only thing you can really do is just try to play well and dominate when you are down there and try to separate yourself from other players in the League. Last year I played well and this year I came back even better and put up better numbers and added some things to my game that I didn’t show before. I felt like I was consistent in the way I played all year.

Nolan Smith mentioned how much he learned about himself as a person in player with his overseas and D-League experiences in this alumni series. For you, what have you learned about yourself through your professional experiences so far?

I think the biggest thing is the love I have for the game. Obviously when you play in the D-League there’s some struggles that go with it with the way you travel, the amount of games and other stuff but every time you go into the gym, I always find it to be fun. Some guys who are in the professional ranks, that’s what they do, but I feel like the love I have for the game is what keeps me going. Especially when I was in the D-League, that love for the game is what led me to keep working hard and keep getting better and not thinking it was a drag to be in this process.

I’m sure you probably had overseas options to decide on versus deciding to stay in the D-League—what was that decision making process like for you in choosing to stay and compete in the D-League?

Yeah I had some good offers overseas obviously but certainly this year I had a deal with the Orlando Magic to play on their D-League team and earn a good amount of guaranteed money with them to play during the preseason and on their D-League team. It was just a balance that me and my family and to figure out whether to go on a D-League team or go overseas with one of the deals that was on the table.

With you and Steph both being professional athletes now—what’s his counsel been to you as your pro career has started out?

He’s pretty much been a fan in my corner, giving me good motivation and encouragement. I go to him when I need advice on the life of a pro athlete and we talk about different basketball things, mainly off the court stuff, how to keep working hard and he’s in my corner all the way, giving me a lot of confidence. And his encouragement has been more than just basketball stuff too, just giving me motivational tips on a lot of stuff.

What’s it been like for you seeing him have the success he’s had, especially this year?

It’s been great, he’s been getting better every year and obviously this year has been great with him being in the MVP race and having a real chance at that. He’s been leading that team to the best record in the League and it’s great to see him play and get better every year. It’s just amazing to watch the level at which he’s playing every night. 

It’s been cool seeing all the endorsement opportunities he’s earned as well, especially during the summer with all the responsibilities he has to take care. With all his marketing stuff he’s one of the most popular players in the NBA but Steph is still just Steph and he’s still the same person. 

One thing you hear a lot is about the relationship between former Duke players in the professional ranks—what’s that experience been like for you now that you are a professional player and a graduate of Duke?

It’s great because every time you either go to a game or play in a game in the D-League or in the NBA, you oftentimes come across guys who played at Duke which is great because you can talk to them. Coach K also does a great job at reaching out to his old players, every once and awhile we talk and you can pick his brain and talk about whatever, which is great. When you go to Duke, it’s about more than just basketball, and Coach K is always in your corner.

Speaking of those relationships-who did you really grow close with while you were at Duke and then after graduating from there?

Andre Dawkins, Ryan Kelly, guys like that. We were there around the same time with guys like Mason and Ryan, we were all seniors together and we were captains on that team, so there’s a bond there that will last forever. Andre and seeing Nolan this year in the D-League is great as well.

What do you think led to those close relationships with those guys?

I think playing at Duke around the same time and it’s amazing being the captain on a team, being the senior, veteran leaders on that team with all the things we went through the season before and then coming back and having a great year, that’s a bond that’s tough to break and it will continue to grow. That’s a great friendship to have.

Going back a little further, I wanted to ask what you remember about your process in deciding to transfer to Duke?

It was kinda hectic at the time when I decided to transfer from Liberty. I had a lot of options of where I could go, all the schools on the East Coast were showing interest in me. I thought about taking a visit to Wake Forest and Clemson but my first visit was to Duke and it was just a great visit. Coach K showed me the vision they had for me and I got to see some of the guys I would be playing with and when I saw the system, I thought it’d be great for me to play in with being a shooter, I could help spread the floor. It was a pretty easy decision being close to home and with it being Duke and to be able to play at that level of school, I couldn’t turn it down at the time.

What for you led you to want to visit Duke first since so as you said, there were a lot of options to choose from?

Honestly I think it was a short drive, it couldn’t have been more than a two or three hour drive. Me and family took the time on a Sunday to drive down there and it didn’t take too long to get there. So we made the trip and made it official.

You had as good a freshman year as anybody had—what for you were the motivating factors in thinking about transferring after that?

There were some things going on at Liberty that me and family felt like it wasn’t going to be the best fit for me going forward. But, more than anything I just wanted to get better and to play against the best players night in and night out. I think throughout the entire transfer process knowing I’d have the opportunity to play in the ACC, it was something I wanted and I wanted that challenge. I knew if I didn’t transfer I wouldn’t have that opportunity. 

What were the main reasons for you that ultimately led to you deciding to choose Duke?

First of all it was the atmosphere. You could see how much the guys loved playing for the coaches and being around the team and around Duke, they just made me feel like I was a part of it. Meeting guys like Nolan, Jon, knowing I’d be playing with those guys in practice through my redshirt year. Then sitting down with Coach K and hearing him talk about how he saw me as a player and how he saw me being able to fit into that team and help them win. Growing up watching Tobacco Road games, it’s something you always dreamed about, especially being in Charlotte. To have that opportunity, it was something I loved and wanted to be a part of.

Was Duke a program you liked growing up, or did your interest start in them during the transfer process?

I was kinda neutral to be honest, growing up I was a Virginia Tech fan because of my parents. I watched Duke, North Carolina, NC State growing up, it was just to be a part of and watched. I wouldn’t say I liked or hated Duke or North Carolina or NC State, I just watched them play.

Did you know during the Duke visit that you wanted to go there, or did that come after?

I think it was the end of the visit. Me, my mom and my dad were all excited about it and we talked about it, and then we went back into Coach’s office and told him that Duke was where I wanted to go. By the end of it I knew that’s where I wanted to go at the end of the visit. Going into the visit I was still planning on taking a visit to Clemson and Wake Forest, I had talked with both of their head coaches before the Duke visit, but then I went on the Duke visit not expecting to make a decision. It was during the visit that I decided Duke was where I wanted to go.

So then you are sitting out for your transfer/redshirt year and that ends up being a National Championship season for Duke that year. What was the transition like for you that year and what did it mean to be a part of that team?

It was great all around, it was great for me to be able to compete in practice every day against Nolan and Jon and try to get them better and also trying to help me get better as a player as well. I took it very seriously, went in there to compete and that’s one of the best things about Duke practices, it’s serious, it’s live and guys don’t go through the motions. I definitely got a lot better as a player that year and I think I had a big impact on that team getting them ready to play that year. It was great to be a part of a National Championship team. 

Dahntay Jones and Roshown McLeod both talked about how Coach K coached them during their transfer/redshirt years after coming into Duke. What was your experience like with him in that transfer year?

I think the biggest thing is he stayed on me about always competing and not looking at that transfer year as just a year off. Him and Coach Collins were huge that year for me, I would watch film of my practices with them to make sure that my game didn’t take a step back that year and that it got better. They would say that sometimes guys on their redshirt year would kinda sit back and relax and not get better and waste time, but I was trying to take that year seriously and when you play guys on that team that are really good, you don’t want to set them back when it’s time for practice time. You want to go out there, compete and make them better as they prepare to play in the ACC.

Behind the scenes, what were your biggest memories from that redshirt year?

It was the Final 4, going there and being there for the whole thing and winning it. Being on the bench and seeing what those guys did to win the National Championship. Even though I wasn’t playing, it was a memory I’ll never forget.

What do you remember about how the team was during the Final 4 and the day of the National Championship game?

The main thing was once it came time for the Tournament, that team had a different type of focus. They were mainly veterans and they knew what it took to win game by game and advance. Being around that team and being in those practices and how Coach prepared them, it was special to see how that team worked.

So then your first year playing it was a little bit of a newer team with Kyrie coming in—what was the year like for you?

That first year we had the best team in the country I thought, we were so deep with Kyrie, Nolan, Kyle, Mason, myself, Ryan, we could play any type of style before Kyrie got hurt. Once Kyrie got hurt, I moved into the starting lineup which was huge for me and we still played really well. We still had the Number 1 ranking for awhile and I think that team was still a special team but if Kyrie doesn’t get hurt, I think we could have gone to the Final 4 and been one of the best teams ever. 

I remember the North Carolina game at Duke that year—that was probably one of your best games ever in a Duke uniform…

Yeah that’s probably my best Duke memory, that was my first Duke/Carolina game at home. We went down big and then me and Nolan played really well that second half and we came back to win. Cameron was awesome that game and during my time there I always tell people that that game was the loudest game I ever experienced in Cameron. I remember being at the free throw line and the backboard was literally shaking from the noise in there, that was a special game.

That first year you had some pretty big scoring games in big games—what do you think helped you to have that success so early?

I don’t know what it was, I don’t think I really got rattled by it because I was used to being around big NBA games, I just had a certain time of calm around me in those types of games and I would just try to prepare the same way and God gave me opportunities to make big plays in those types of games. 

Then that year ends and you are now an upperclassman at Duke on a really new team with guys like Quinn Cook and Austin Rivers and others, what was the transition like for you to being a team leader?

Yeah that was a really different time with me and Mason and Ryan taking on leadership roles with guys like Nolan and Kyle leaving, we took on those roles. We had a good year that year, had some good wins, and I think that year set us up for the next year, my senior year. We knew we didn’t want to experience losing in the first round again, so we took ownership of that team. When you are at Duke, you have young guys coming in every year that are very talented and who can play, McDonald’s All Americans. So you have to figure out how to fit those guys in and how to play with them while being a team leader and trying to win games.

How did you try to do that with the group that included Austin Rivers?

We didn’t do it as well as we should have, but we tried. We were learning on the job as junior leaders. Austin came in and he had a big role on our team and he tried to fit in with everybody and like I said, we had a good team that year, we were #1 at the time and we had some big wins, we just ended up getting knocked out early in the Tournament and we had a bad night that game. That year the biggest thing was it set us up for that senior year.

The Lehigh loss was really tough, to lose a game like that at Duke. We used that game though as lessons learned and as motivation that next summer to never lose a game like that again. Coach K is big on talking about next play, take the next shot, stuff like that. So we moved on from that and came back stronger.

How did you see your relationship change over time with the Duke staff including Coach K?

I loved it, the relationships I built while I was there, the relationship I built with Coach K and with Coach Collins and Coach Capel, we got close. Those relationships will last an entire lifetime. The players I went to battle with every day, that’s the best experiences you can have with those guys. It was very special and Duke, there’s no better place than there.

How do you think Duke prepared you for the next steps you have taken in your professional life?

I don’t think there’s a better place to prepare you for something like that. It’s a huge stage all year, a lot of eyes on you, things of that nature. Coach K always talks about things beyond basketball and being competitive in whatever you do. You take away a lot from that experience.

In closing—what did it mean to you to see Coach K win his 1000th game?

It meant a lot knowing the amount of guys that came through and won those games with Coach K and being a part of that. Being a part of that legacy, it’s a huge thing for me and all the former players.

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