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basketball player stephen curry Stephen Curry when he played for the Davidson Wildcats in college. Today he is a member of the Golden State Warriors. (Photo: Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

March Madness Begins

…with the tale of a college star gone pro

By Julia Desmond | null null , null

March Madness began March 16 with 65 men's college teams fighting to make it all the way to the championship game on April 5. As basketball fever takes over the nation, Kid Reporter Julia Desmond tells the story of a hometown hero lured away by the NBA.

About every two minutes, the announcer's voice reverberates across the basketball court: "Three-point basket, Stephen Curry!" The crowd goes wild as Curry points upward into the sky, thanking God for his shot. He grins, and runs back down the court.

The score was 57 to 59 as the Davidson, North Carolina, Wildcats faced the Kansas Jayhawks. It was March Madness 2008 and the two Elite Eight teams were fighting for a berth in the Final Four. Only seconds remained on the clock. The Jayhawks held the two-point lead.

For rabid Wildcats fans, it was the day they all had been waiting for—an invitation to the dance, as the sportscasters say.

Curry got the ball, but three people were on him. He wisely passed the ball to teammate Jason Richards, who attempted a three-pointer. The buzzer sounded as the ball bounced off the rim. The Wildcats missed the Final Four by only two points.

The next big disappointment for Wildcats fans was Curry's next big decision, one often faced by college players constantly being scouted by the pros.

Curry Fever

Curry was a point guard and shooting guard for the Davidson Wildcats. He was living an athlete's dream as a star player on a Cinderella NCAA team. In 2008-09, he led the nation in scoring with 28.6 points per game. In his college career, he broke more records than be listed here.

But a weight hung over the college junior. He had a chance to go pro. Would he stay and complete his college education, or move on with a career in basketball? Every fan in Davidson tensely awaited his decision. A chance at an NCAA championship was a huge accomplishment for the tiny school of 1,700 students.    

"Curry's skills were not just technical skills," said Wildcats Coach Bob McKillop. "His skills were emotional skills that usually are reserved for people with significantly greater experience. He was able to play in a game, make a mistake, then go on to the next play. And that's very rare in a game of basketball for young players, for high school players, and many college players."

McKillop also had a rare accomplishment: a 100 percent graduation rate among his team. In 17 seasons under McKillop, every student-athlete graduated with a prestigious Davidson College degree. To him it is a simple assumption.

"Isn't that point?" he said. "The players that come to Davidson College come to Davidson College to be educated."

Curry originally did come to get his four years of education. He also made a name for himself in the world of college basketball. The NBA started noticing him, but was he ready to leave college?

"I loved college life and didn't want to leave," Curry told the Scholastic Kids Press Corps. "That's why the decision took me so long."
    
Curry is now a Golden State Warrior in the NBA. Has he had any regrets about his decision? "No," Curry says, and that's that.

But what about McKillop?
    
"I was torn by my personal desire to see Stephen graduate with the rest of his teammates and classmates and yet I knew that the opportunity with the NBA in that particular year would provide a once in a lifetime opportunity." McKillop says. "So, I wanted what was best for Stephen."
    
Curry is not giving up on college, however. He is determined to do both, he told this Kid Reporter.

"I'm going to be working towards it every summer and hopefully finish it in the next three years," he said.

McKillop said it would be hard for Curry, but he believed in him.

"It's going to be something done by him with a tremendous effort made by him, which he has promised me he'll make," McKillop said of Curry's ongoing education. "I know he'll fulfill that promise."

Kid Reporter Sean Coffey on March Madness: predictions and analysis of NCAA Men's Basketball tournament on the Scholastic Kids Press Corps Blog.

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