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Inside College Basketball

July 24, 2000
July 24, 2000

Table of Contents
July 24, 2000

Inside College Basketball

The Next Big Thing
Eddy Curry may be the next high school player to go straight to
the NBA

This is an article from the July 24, 2000 issue Original Layout

When Eddy Curry was growing up, he didn't look in the mirror and
see a future millionaire athlete. He just saw an oversized kid
who, despite being 6'2" in the seventh grade, was looked down
upon by those around him. "There were a lot of mean kids in my
neighborhood," he says. "They used to call me the Jolly Green
Giant." Curry didn't start playing organized basketball until
the seventh grade, and his too-small uniform embarrassed him so
much that, to avoid having to suit up, he sometimes told his
parents his game had been canceled. "That can be real traumatic
for a kid, being talked about and not fitting in," says Curry.
"I just didn't stop growing, and I didn't know why. I felt like
it had no purpose, but it's all paying off now."

All eyes were on Curry again last week, at the Adidas ABCD Camp
in Teaneck, N.J., but no one was putting him down. As he
prepares for his senior season at Thornwood High in South
Holland, Ill., Curry has filled out to an imposing 6'11", 295
pounds, yet he remains nimble enough to do a backflip. All that,
combined with an SAT score that already meets NCAA eligibility
requirements, should make him a prime recruiting target of every
college coach in America. Curry, however, is so widely expected
to enter next year's NBA draft that many of the nation's elite
programs haven't bothered to call him.

Curry sounds exasperated that so many people are making that
assumption, but in the next breath he concedes that they are
probably correct--especially considering that Darius Miles, a
6'9" high school graduate, was selected third by the Los Angeles
Clippers in last month's draft. "Darius is a real good player,
but he's smaller than me," Curry says. "If I could go top five,
man, it's pretty hard to turn that down."

Curry is still discovering the many ways in which life as an
elite prospect can become complicated. During the past two
summers, for example, he spent the first week in July at the
Nike All-American Camp in Indianapolis, but after two of his AAU
teammates were invited to the Adidas camp this year, Curry
decided to join them. That prompted Nike's L.A.-based manager of
high school basketball, Don Crenshaw, to make a futile trip to
Curry's home outside of Chicago to ask him to reconsider. In
addition, on June 9, DePaul coach Pat Kennedy hired Chicago
State assistant Donnie Kirksey, who just happens to be Curry's
second cousin, as an assistant coach. Curry insists Kirksey's
hiring will not affect his decision on where he will go to
college--if he goes to college--but it obviously won't hurt
DePaul's chances. Kirksey has been closely involved in Curry's
basketball development, and Curry called him last week to
discuss his play at the Adidas camp.

Though his performance was uninspired at times--the consensus
among evaluators was that he could stand to lose 20 pounds--that
didn't appear to alter Curry's draft status. "He's just massive,
and he's got great hands and feet," said one NBA assistant
coach. "You can see he has to work on some things, but he'll get
there."

And a Child Shall Lead Them
Sebastian Telfair's Debut

Eddy Curry may have been the best big man at the ABCD camp, but
when it came to creating a buzz, he was dwarfed by 15-year-old
Sebastian Telfair, a 5'10", 135-pound wisp of a point guard who
has yet to play his first high school game. Sebastian, who is
about to enter his freshman year at Brooklyn's Lincoln High and
is a cousin of Lincoln's most famous hoops prodigy, Stephon
Marbury, was supposed to be an observer at ABCD, but so many
hoops gurus prodded camp director Sonny Vaccaro to let Sebastian
play that Vaccaro extended an invitation when a slot became
available. Sebastian may have been the youngest player
competing, but by the end of the week many were calling him the
best pure point guard in camp. "He's mature beyond his years,"
said one NBA scout. "He's so creative with the ball, he gets
anywhere he wants on the floor, and he doesn't back down from
anybody."

Added 10-year NBA veteran and TNT analyst Kenny Smith, "There
are other guys here with more physical ability, but nobody has
more poise and savvy at the point than he does."

Even Sebastian himself seemed surprised at how well he was
playing--"It's a lot easier than I thought," he said--but it is
worth noting that for every young New York City phenom such as
Marbury and Kenny Anderson who made it to professional stardom,
countless others never panned out. In fact, the last guard to
make a big splash at the ABCD camp at such a young age was Bronx
native Jarrett Lockhart, who just completed a nondescript career
at Pittsburgh and was not selected in last month's NBA draft.

Still, Marbury, who watched his cousin one night at the camp,
bristled at the suggestion that Sebastian might be ill-served by
the publicity he's generating at such a young age. "He's an
eighth-grader and he's dominating," said Marbury. "You should
write about him. Why does that have to be a negative? All it's
going to do is make him work harder because he'll want it more."

Marbury is not Sebastian's only family tie to basketball.
Sebastian's half-brother, Jamel Thomas, starred at Providence
from 1995 through '99 and is now a reserve forward on the Trail
Blazers. "When I was real young, my mother would leave me with
the two of them, so they would have to take me wherever they
went," Sebastian said. He was a frequent visitor at Providence's
basketball camps when he was younger, and last summer Marbury
flew him to Atlanta so they could work out together. Sebastian
also appeared to soak up the advice he received last week from
the coaches and players who worked at the camp.

"He doesn't think he knows it all; he's very attentive," says
former Lincoln High coach Bobby Hartstein, who coached Marbury
but had never seen Sebastian play before last week. "People told
me how good he was, but it's still amazing when you actually see
it. I hope the adults around him keep things in perspective."

Carolina Shops At Wal-Mart
Matt Doherty Takes Over

When Matt Doherty received his initial call from North Carolina
athletic director Dick Baddour on July 6 to feel him out about
taking the Tar Heels' vacant coaching position, Doherty stood in
the paper products aisle at a Wal-Mart in Mishawaka, Ind.,
thoroughly stunned. He considered his one year of experience as
a head coach, a 22-15 season at Notre Dame in 1999-2000, and
asked himself, "Am I ready?"

His definitive answer came a few days later at the Nike camp in
Indianapolis, where he had a chat with Roy Williams, his former
boss at Kansas and the man who had recently shocked Tar Heel
Nation by turning down the North Carolina position. Williams
assured his protege, "You can do that job." After fellow Tar
Heel alums Eddie Fogler, Larry Brown and George Karl all melted
away as candidates for one reason or another, Doherty became the
school's third coach in 40 years almost by default and then
vowed to try to continue the lofty legacy of his predecessors.
"I can't be another Dean Smith or Bill Guthridge," Doherty said.
"I'll have to be Matt Doherty and hope that's good enough."

Doherty, 38, is known as a persuasive salesman. Before getting
into coaching he worked for three years as a stockbroker on Wall
Street and later showed his skill as a recruiter by helping to
lure future NBA players Raef LaFrentz, Paul Pierce and Jacque
Vaughn to Kansas during his seven seasons under Williams. Last
week Smith praised Doherty's savvy as a player on the 1982 NCAA
championship team and told the story of a Carolina basketball
camp one summer in the early '90s when all the other counselors
fled to the golf course after workouts, but Doherty, then a
Davidson assistant, stole away to the kitchen in the basketball
office to make recruiting calls.

Ten minutes after the conclusion of his introductory press
conference on July 11 in Chapel Hill, Doherty was already
phoning prospective recruits, remaining at the Smith Center
until 1:45 a.m. During the next four days, the new Tar Heels
coach traveled more than 5,000 miles, from Baltimore to Orlando
to Las Vegas, to scout prospects and to introduce himself to
North Carolina sophomore guard Joseph Forte at Forte's home in
Greenbelt, Md. Doherty averaged three hours of sleep per night
in his first week on the job. "I haven't had time to be awed by
the responsibility," Doherty says. "But I have noticed how happy
recruits are to get a call from the coach at Carolina."

After the staid and stately administrations of Smith and
Guthridge, the hiring of the extroverted Doherty and the total
turnover of the Tar Heels coaching staff--former assistants Phil
Ford, Dave Hanners and Pat Sullivan were sent packing when
Doherty brought his own assistants from Notre Dame--represent a
jarring new era in Chapel Hill. "It's as if you have a puppy and
he turns up missing," Doherty assistant David Cason says. "Your
mother and father get you a new puppy, but you can't expect it
to take the place of the one you had immediately."

Clearly, Doherty was not supposed to be Carolina's new puppy.
Not yet, anyway. Baddour had assumed Williams would take the job
even before Guthridge's resignation, and if Guthridge had known
Williams would reject the offer, he might have remained for
another season or at least delayed his announcement until after
the summer recruiting period. It's easy to joke that after
whiffing on several big-ticket candidates, North Carolina
settled for finding a coach at Wal-Mart, but don't dismiss
Doherty simply because of his lack of seasoning. Remember that
when Smith and Guthridge assumed the top job, neither had any
college head-coaching experience. Nor did Williams when he began
his successful reign at Kansas and, like Doherty, he was only 38
at the time. --Tim Crothers

The Spartans Remain Strong
Tip-ins

Don't expect a big drop-off at Michigan State next season
despite the loss of Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson. Two
Spartans, 6'6" sophomore Jason Richardson and 6'9" freshman Zach
Randolph, were the most dominant players at last week's USA
Basketball camp in Miami. Both players made the 12-man team that
will represent the U.S. at this week's Young Men's World
Championships in Brazil. Another Spartans recruit, 6'3" Marcus
Taylor, was among the final players cut.... When Lou Henson, 68,
returned to New Mexico State as an interim coach in October
1997, he agreed to accept a monthly salary of $1 until a
permanent replacement was found. As it turned out, Henson was
the permanent replacement. Last Saturday he signed his second
contract extension, at $148,000 per year.... Arizona coach Lute
Olson may have unearthed another hidden backcourt gem. Travis
Hanour, a 6'6" freshman from Laguna Beach, Calif., has been
drawing raves during workouts in Tucson. If he is as good as
Olson says, the Wildcats should be favorites to win it all next
season.

COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN Even though Curry needs to lose weight, he showed he's headand shoulders above his peers.COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN Sebastian had his cousin Stephon Marbury in his corner at ABCD.