The 5-10 rising senior posted an eye-popping 51 points in West Forsyth's Friday morning 100-53 rout of Eastern Alamance at the State Games in Carmichael Gym on the N.C. State campus.
Paul, who will enroll at Wake Forest in a year, scored mainly on threes and drives in the lane. As odd as it is to say, this was the quietest 51-outing in recent memory. How does that make sense? Because Paul's points come in the flow of the game. He plays unselfishly, keeping his teammates involved, and collects baskets in transition, off the dribble, or from long range. He even won quite a few battles on the offensive board.
Several onlookers asked – ‘How many points does he have? 30? 35?'
Nope. Try 51 points on 21-for-32 from the field, 4-for-7 from beyond the arc and 5-for-8 at the free throw line. And, toss in a good deal of assists, steals and rebounds. His command of his body as he attacks the basket is eerily reminiscent of recent Blue Devil Jason Williams – and one dunk looked just like those that Williams threw down the past three years at Duke.
Was there anything Eastern Alamance could have done to beat Paul's team?
"I don't know, it's hard – we've got five guards," said Curry, who spent some of the game matched-up on the future Demon Deacon. "Maybe play a zone and do better in transition defense."
But when Curry is perhaps your tallest player on the floor (he jumped center for the tip-off), you're facing one of the best teams in the state -- and your team got in late last night and is thus playing on little sleep – it's a lost cause.
A one-point game after one quarter turned into a 20-point halftime deficit.
"[Paul] was playing with a lot of confidence and then his teammates started making shots," said Eastern Alamance head coach John Moon, whose team plays in the state's smaller 2A division, compared with W.F.'s 4A status. "That team beat Reynolds twice last year. They [reveal] our glaring weaknesses … and I don't want to play zone in a summer league like this.
"I didn't think anybody on our team shot the ball well. JamesOn's shot wasn't dropping and we weren't getting any offensive rebounds or putbacks and they scored on us a lot in transition. I'm sorry we got beat that bad, but it's not the end of the world."
For Curry, it was a frustrating morning. With his team overmatched, he tried to carry them, forcing a good deal of shots while being double-teamed, and was unable to earn foul calls when he would draw contact in the lane.
"The ref told me I was getting fouled, but that he wasn't going to call it," Curry said. "I guess these are ACC refs or something. I was taking it strong and drawing the body [contact], but didn't get the whistle. But, that can happen on any given night, I guess."
It was indeed a physical game, and there were a lot of no-calls. But Paul wasn't fazed by the quiet refs. He overpowered his defenders, which is perhaps the most important aspect of Curry's game that needs work.
"That's the factor that will take JamesOn to the next level – and be successful there," Moon said. "His mechanics are solid, his fundamentals are solid and his shot is solid. He needs to be better at drawing contact and being able to finish. A weightlifting program will be [the key] to success in the ACC. We'll work with him on that and I'm sure when he gets to Chapel Hill, Coach McKinney and him will become very close."
In the first half, Curry missed a handful of quick pullup jumpers and tough drives to the hoop, shooting 5-for-16 for 14 points. His first-half highlights included two three-pointers and a strong left-handed breakaway dunk.
Any hope of a second-half comeback was quickly erased as the floodgates were busted wide open thanks, in part, to Paul's 7-for-7, 14-point quarter. (As a sidenote, Paul scored 14 points in each of the first three quarters, and was pulled mid-way through the fourth.)
Curry missed his first few shots to open the second half and then was forced to the bench after a defender's hand hit him square in the face – and eye. But, he promptly returned and swished two quick threes, though that was the end of his offensive production for the game, as Moon sat him down for the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
Curry finished the game with 22 points (7-25 FG, 4-9 3pt, 4-6 FT) and seven rebounds.
"JamesOn's got nothing to have to prove to anybody," Moon said. "He's got a scholarship [to UNC], his future is secure and he's got to just work on his game, get better, work on his academics and he'll be okay."
And that's some solid perspective from the head coach, as Curry did put an end to his recruitment last weekend during a visit to Chapel Hill.
Only a few days before the trip to Carolina, the rising junior spoke of how there was no need to rush into a decision and that he planned to take visits to various schools in the coming months. So, then, what changed?
"I was thinking about it," Curry said. "I don't want to go far from home, and I liked everything about North Carolina. I went around campus, talked to the coaches, saw the Dean Dome. They even made a jersey for me. It was like, there ain't nothing else they can do – it was right."
Curry was recruited by nearby Duke, N.C. State and Wake Forest, but they were unable to deter him from his dream of being a Tar Heel.
"Duke turned his head when they started recruiting him," Moon said, "but Coach Doherty and the staff did a tremendous job and got him to commit early. He'd been over to Duke for a few games, met with Coach K, but Carolina was where he wanted to go. He grew up being a Carolina fan and they've done an excellent job recruiting him. He has tremendous respect for Coach Doherty and that staff and those players that are coming in.
"We went down there to see a game when he was a freshman and he said ‘Coach, I would love to play in a place like this.' I told him, ‘JamesOn, you'll probably have that opportunity.' When you're a high school kid and you dream of going there, and you can make that dream a reality …"
But that reality, when Curry will enroll at UNC, is still two years away – two very long years for Carolina fans. Can he stay focused on improving and preparing for the next level?
"Well, he's going to get everybody's best shot," Moon said. "But he's got tremendous pride in his game and he's worked hard to get his game to the level it's at now – and he'll keep working to get better. I've been here 23 years and he's not only the best player I've ever had but he's one of the best kids I've ever had … and I think the sky's the limit for him. His mother and father are not going to let him get big-headed and I won't allow that – but I don't think it's going to be hard to do, the type of kid he is."
And, there assuredly won't be any time for Curry to become distracted, as he's in the midst of a busy summer of basketball.
"We were at Five Star, came home practiced for two nights, then went to Wilmington and we're here this weekend," Moon said. "Tuesday we go to Colorado Springs, then come back for a few days and go to Nike Camp [in Indianapolis], and he's got AAU stuff in July. So, it's not like he's sitting around the house getting fat and being lazy."