JamesOn Curry: To Be Great Again

After four solid seasons at OSU between 2004 and 2007, the arrow was clearly pointing in the right direction for JamesOn Curry when he left Stillwater. The North Carolina native was taken in the second round of the 2007 NBA Draft by Chicago and after signing was sent to their NBA Development League (D-League) affiliate, the Iowa Energy.

In 2008 he found himself overseas for the first time, playing in France and then in Cyprus. He returned to the D-League in 2009 (with Iowa) and other than some time in Venezuela in 2011 and in Italy in 2012, the now 28-year-old has spent most of his pro career stateside in the D-League, with a majority of that tenure with the Springfield Armor.

Curry began the 2013-14 season in Springfield, but was traded to Bakersfield last January. He is forever thankful for his time with the Armor, but was equally glad to have a fresh start on the West Coast.

“It’s been great for me,” he said in an interview conducted near the end of the season. “I’ve come to a new team with a new arrangement, new situation, new coaches, just everything, even the weather, that’s been the best thing. It’s been a great change for me.”

As for the early 2014 trade that sent him to a completely new organization with its own way of doing things, it was something he never saw coming, which is often the case in pro basketball.

“I was shocked. Before the season, I was trying to get traded,” Curry said. “This was the first year for our coach, so I saw more opportunity after that. I wanted to go Dallas (and play for the Texas Legends) at first because it’s so close to home. I live up in Edmond. I was trying to get to Dallas, but coming to Bakersfield has been great.”

Along with Maurice Baker and Terrel Harris, he is one of three ex-Cowboys currently playing in the D-League, something that remains a great source of pride for this OSU product, especially since he and Harris were roommates for part of his time in Stillwater.

"Oh yeah, those are my boys. Mo used to come back in the summertime. Terrel, he was my roommate my first year. To have some of that same DNA around is definitely good,” he said.

Seeing Baker or Harris whenever they play each other harkens back to his days at OSU, and rekindles the love he’s always felt and will always feel for that chapter of his life.

“I love Stillwater. I feel like I hadn’t had a chance to be in that community at all. I want to be back there doing something,” Curry admitted. “I love the people, everything. I grew up in North Carolina, but I love Oklahoma too. I want to be there. So I came back to Oklahoma and got a house in Edmond. But I love Stillwater, too.”

Curry is just focused on doing what he can to get another shot in the NBA, which has eluded him since he rode the pine for the Bulls in 2008 and played just 3.9 seconds of garbage time for the Clippers in January of 2010.

As he looks back on his pro career he would like to have a larger body of work in the NBA, but he is proud of everything he’s done on the hardwood, whether it’s been in the NBA, D-League or abroad.

“I just feel like I have done a lot. I’ve been in the game for a few years. I just want to be a good dad to my kids. It’s just been hard, being a player when you don’t get another chance, another good chance. It’s just taught me to keep going and going,” Curry said. “I feel like that’s what I’ve done. I’ve given it my all. I haven’t been paid millions of dollars, but I’ve played with top players and have held my own with them.”

Since he has children, he more than likely isn’t about to rush to play abroad even though the money is great for most American players who want to do that. During his stints in France, Cyprus, Italy and Venezuela, Curry capitalized on the chance to do something he likely would not have gotten a chance to do otherwise: learn about the colorful histories of those nations.

“I like history. I like to study the government and all that,” Curry said. “So when I went someplace, I could study that all day long. I got to reading all that, and that was really interesting.”

So, some might wonder, why does he continue to kick around the D-League, a circuit that has a great level of competition but doesn’t pay well, when he could be earning much bigger bucks abroad? Well, besides being close to his kids and being a good father to them being in the D-League means that he’s just a phone call away should an NBA team need a player.

Foreign team contracts are much more complicated than their D-League counterparts and some American players who venture abroad also have to deal with the uncertainty surrounding something they take for granted: actually getting paid.

All sorts of variables come into play with foreign teams like financial issues, questionable living situations, less-than-ideal arenas and general on-court safety (like crowds that aren’t afraid to pelt opposing players with foreign objects). Playing overseas does have its financial positives but depending on the locale and league there are also considerable downsides.

Besides, Curry figures that as long as he’s in the D-League, NBA officials are still seeing him play and his name is still fresh in their minds. It’s a textbook case of out of sight, out of mind.

He admits he’s a bit puzzled as to why he hasn’t gotten another shot in The Show, but doesn’t dwell on why that call has yet to come. Instead, he’s focused on what he can control, and leaves everything else to the decision makers on the other end.

“I just continue to do great things, continue to be a great father to my kids, a great teammate and great player to my coaches,” Curry said. “I need to have a good aura about myself. I can do plenty of great things.”

NOTE: THIS STORY APPEARS IN THE WINTER 2014 ISSUE OF GOPOKES MAGAZINE

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