Curry Fills In Nicely
Freshman Subs For Absent Moore
HARRISONBURG — In the final minute of Wednesday’s game at Old Dominion, James Madison freshman Charles Cooke got tripped up near the ODU bench and entered one of those little jawing/shoving matches with several Monarchs that is quickly stopped and forgotten.
The not-quite skirmish never amounted to anything, in part because Ron Curry separated Cooke from the opponents and put his hand around his teammate’s head – offering simple words of encouragement for Cooke, who drilled key free throws to help secure JMU’s 58-55 win.
Curry is just a freshman. But in his first start at point guard – filling in for fifth-year senior Devon Moore, who is in Ohio with his ill mother – the Pennsauken, N.J., native looked like a veteran.
“There’s a need for your point guards to be verbal and to be trying to organize your team,” coach Matt Brady said. “I think [Curry] understands it. It’s not something that necessarily comes naturally to him, but he accepts the responsibility.”
The Dukes (7-6) will continue to rely on their budding new point guard with Moore still inactive for their Colonial Athletic Association battle today at Georgia State in Atlanta at 2 p.m. Madison will try to improve to 2-0 in league play for the first time in Brady’s tenure.
Curry matched a career high with 13 points and four assists against Old Dominion on Wednesday – his third game in the last five in which he’s reached a dozen points.
“He’s got that in him,” Moore, by phone from Ohio, said of the 6-foot-4 rookie. “It’s just him being young and him playing behind me. He got his opportunity and he’s doing well. Any time you get a win, as a point guard, that’s big. I’m proud of him. It’s a hard thing to do to be the quarterback of the team.”
Curry is averaging 7.9 points in 13 games, but it’s those little things, like keeping teammates on an even keel and setting up the offense, that bring even more value.
“That adds to your team,” Brady said, when asked about Curry going over to Cooke late in the ODU game. “Every piece of that helps your team grow up, and I think it’s critical that your point guard does more of that.”
The Dukes will have to compensate not just for Moore, but also senior Andrey Semenov, who will miss today’s game and likely several more with a sprained left ankle. The Dukes are 1-5 this season without Semenov, a versatile forward who helped open up the team’s once-stagnant offense.
JMU has won four straight and six of its last seven, but has dropped its last three games at Georgia State. Road teams, however, are 4-0 in CAA games so far this week.
The Panthers (5-9 overall, 0-1 in the CAA) have struggled with a young lineup this season and have lost their last five games.
“When you replace nine players, it takes a while to get that identity,” second-year coach Ron Hunter said. “That’s something we’re trying to figure out right now.”
GSU ranks in the middle of the pack in the CAA in most statistical categories and doesn’t do one particular thing exceptionally well.
It can be pesky against opposing ball-handlers, though. Playing in a pressing zone defense, the Panthers force 14.1 turnovers per game (opponents turn the ball over on 21 percent of their possessions).
Curry has 19 assists compared to 11 turnovers this season, but he knows teams will be gunning for him.
“Just got to be prepared for everything,” he said after the Old Dominion game, in which his only turnover was when he tripped in the backcourt early in the first half. “I’m a young guy, so I already know coming into the game that they’re going to try to pressure me, try to make me turn the ball over. So I just try to play smart and be aggressive.”
Curry won’t be the only key freshman in today’s game.
Hunter’s son, R.J. Hunter, is averaging a team-best 16 points per game and is the lone CAA freshman in double figures. Like Curry, Hunter is only getting stronger as the season progresses. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard has poured in an average of 21 points per game in his last four outings.
One of the top high school basketball players in talent-rich Indiana (Ron Hunter used to coach at IUPUI), Hunter was recruited by several Big Ten schools – including Michigan State – but chose to play for his father in relative obscurity.
“If his dad’s not there, he’s not there,” Brady said. “Let’s put it that way. If his dad’s not coaching Georgia State, he’s not at Georgia State. So it’s a big difference for their team, having a kid like that walk into their lineup, because he was being recruited at a higher level.
“… I think he could play at the highest level.”
While JMU appears to have a capable point guard even without its typical starter, GSU is lacking in that department. Hunter is more of a scoring guard, and so too is 5-10 junior Devonta White, who’s second on the team with 14.4 points per game.
“It’s a young team,” Ron Hunter said. “They need a little confidence. We need something good to happen.”