On one of those nights when JamesOn Curry's sweet outside stroke kept rattling out, he was able to utilize his versatility to finish with 36 points to lead Eastern Alamance to an 80-66 victory over rival Graham High on Friday night.
From pregame warm-ups in the muggy, sold-out gym, it was crystal clear that Curry is a special player. The precocious sophomore escorted his sister across the floor during a Senior Night ceremony, and minutes later proceeded to light up the crowd by hitting consecutive 29-foot jumpers with a teammate's hand in his face.
From the end of warm-ups when he was the last person off the court, Curry showed himself to be the team's emotional leader in addition to being their best player, and filled this role all the way to the locker room after the game.
Curry's skills are that of a consummate scorer; he has a beautiful arcing jump shot and the ability to create enough space for himself to let it fly from beyond NBA range and in.
Curry had the opportunity to showcase his diverse skills, finishing 11-14 inside the arc to overcome a difficult (3-14) day from downtown.
More impressively, he had several opportunities robbed from him by the officials, who consistently mistook his (and other players') quick first steps for traveling violations.
"They were calling a marathon out there," Curry said. "The turnovers, if you look on the stat sheet, are going to look bad because of that, but if you were at the game, you would know."
There was a very real sense that he could have scored 50 or more tonight -- or on any given night, for that matter.
Even more impressive than his uncanny pull-up shots and rim-attacking drives was Curry's intelligence on the floor.
By the mid-second quarter, he recognized that the three just wasn't going to fall for him this night, no matter how smooth the shot looked en route to the basket.
There was a very obvious shift in his game plan, and he started attacking and distributing instead of letting it fly from deep. Also, Curry seemed to get quicker as the game progressed. By the fourth quarter, he was whizzing by everyone in a Graham jersey -- nobody could stop him from getting to the rim. And Curry relishes his versatility.
"I don't look at myself [as one dimensional]. Its like, if I need to take a guy off the dribble, I can take him. If I want to shoot over him, I can do it -- I can do anything," said the confident teen.
While many suppose Curry to be a point guard, it is evident that he is much more suited to the off-guard slot. Curry's flashy handle is capable of point duties; however, his best assets are his scoring and his ability to fly around the court without the ball.
Curry slices from one end of the court to the other with less apparent effort than it takes most to walk, and always with a big grin on his face. He flies above the rim with ease, and his stroke is one of the more beautiful sights this pair of eyes has ever seen. He is the prototypical and ideal shooting guard, with ball handling skills enough to create his own shot, and the scoring skills to fill up a stat sheet in a hurry.
"[I compare my game to] Ray Allen and Allen Iverson," Curry said. "I have Ray Allen's form on my jump shot, and I have Allen Iverson's scoring mentality."
No arguments here, but perhaps a better comparison would be to Indiana-bound senior Bracey Wright -- there is very little difference between the two, a frightening fact when one considers that Curry has two more years to improve.
Curry also is impressive on the defensive side of the floor. His long arms and quick feet allow him to keep all but the quickest opponents in front of him, and his jumping ability gives him the means to swat opponents' shots, as evidenced by his three blocks on this night.
Graham's outside threat was raining bombs on Eastern in the first half -- that is, until Curry switched to him on defense. He didn't score from outside for the rest of the game.
However, Curry's propensity for running the break often reduces his help defense, and causes a similar deficiency in his rebounding. Curry could also use some additional strength and bulk, but with two years to develop, its obvious that he will be one of the most sought after and complete players in the Class of 2004.
Speaking of which, Curry has already received questionnaires from over 40 schools, and has had coaches from Carolina, Clemson, and Duke in for games, and NC State and Kentucky have come to see workouts. According to Curry, his address is pretty popular among Division I schools. He is receiving attention from "the ACC, UNLV…I can't even name all of them. There are a whole lot of them," he says. Curry takes his budding stardom in stride, though: "I feel like I deserve it, because I work hard all the time. I don't look at it as stardom; I look at it as hard work paying off."
He went on to add, "I don't feel pressure to put on a show every time out, but I feel like we have to win every night. I don't have to put up big numbers, but I want to win. I don't have to get the big numbers – if it takes 10 assists or whatever it takes, it's going to happen. We're going to win."
He also feels like Carolina, despite the current struggles, is going to win. "Everybody's going to get on that bandwagon. They'll turn it around, this year or next year. It's a strong university. You know, people are down on them now, but next year they'll be back on the bandwagon."
For now, Carolina fans can hope that JamesOn Curry will be driving that very bandwagon in the near future.
3-14 3pt FG
37 total points