|Davidson's former hoops hero is now just a full-time student at the North Carolina school. (Getty Images)|
Not even 10 seconds into a call with Stephen Curry, we were interrupted. It was his wife on the other line. She was calling to check in with him after his first Wednesday class of the semester.
"It's going well -- we're still talking," Curry said of his new marriage to his high school sweetheart, Ayesha.
Curry is arguably making more out of the NBA lockout than any other player. And perhaps no other program is benefiting from the pros' work stoppage like Davidson. That's because Curry is taking advantage of an opportunity and fulfilling a promise at the same time. Upon leaving early from Davidson to enter the NBA Draft in 2009, he swore to his parents and his coach, Bob McKillop, that he would earn his degree as soon as possible.
"He's walking the walk," McKillop said. "Our culture in college athletics is going through a few hits right now, but here's a great story."
The NBA: just helping make dreams come true, even when it's clogging up news feeds with stodgy non-updates about a lockout that's as bleak as this weekend's beach weather along the Jersey shore.
Curry is back on campus and registered as a full-time undergraduate, taking three classes. The school's most recognizable commuter student lives approximately 30 minutes away, just outside of Charlotte.
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"I've had a couple of run-ins already where some kids are a little star-struck," Curry said.
It's an intangible gift he can give back to the community that he was largely responsible for invigorating. After Davidson's Elite Eight run in 2008, applications for the school skyrocketed. Enrollment increased by 300 students, which is large considering Davidson's undergraduate numbers flirt with the 2,000 mark. Suddenly, there was a housing crisis on campus, which led to two new dormitories.
"I have always wanted to finish since I left," Curry said. "I made a promise to myself to finish at some point. Once the lockout was looming, I thought about it. It was my idea, and coach McKillop was very helpful to reaching out to professors and get a plan back together."
It speaks to the tone of the lockout and the NBA's foggy future for the rest of 2011. Why else would Curry go through the trouble of enrolling at Davidson and committing himself to being a full-time student?
"I'm very optimistic about a deal getting done, it's just the way the talks have gone so far, I want to be as productive as possible," he said.
If the improbable happens and the NBA season does start on time or gets going before Curry's course load comes to an end this semester, there are allowances at the university that Curry could utilize. He would be able to finish up his work from Oakland and send it in.
So, what does Stephen Curry need to take in order to move toward earning his degree? The history of education, medical sociology and research on his senior thesis will be taking up his weekday mornings and afternoons in the coming months. Once he completes those at the end of this semester, he'll have three more credits to finish, plus his senior thesis, which he said he plans on writing next summer.
He's already developing a routine. McKillop said Curry stopped at his office in between classes Thursday, just to say "Hi."
His weekdays go roughly something like this:
• At 7:30 a.m., he has ankle rehab in a suburb of Charlotte. Curry had surgery at the end of May, and said he'll be ready to get on the court and play competitively in a few weeks. "I'm not so far behind that I wouldn't be ready if the season were ready to go in [October]," Curry said.
• After his rehab he makes sure to stop at Chick-fil-A. It's arguably the most important part of his day.
• From there, it's about a 40-minute drive to Davidson.
• He works out for a few minutes before his late-morning/early-afternoon classes.
• He then stops in to see McKillop, gets in some more shooting or weight-lifting workouts, then heads home to see his wife later in the afternoon.
• Mondays and Wednesdays are one class; Tuesdays and Thursdays, a double-dip.
The turn of events also presents an opportunity to be a student assistant for the basketball team.
The rules were checked thoroughly -- though whether he could participate with the team wasn't going to deter him from going back to school -- and it's within the rules that Curry can be a part of Davidson basketball again. He will have individual workouts with players, some of whom were freshmen when he was in his final season. He can practice "occasionally," McKillop said. He'll sit in on coaches' meetings if he pleases, and you're bound to see him on the team bench at Davidson's home games this season, so long as Golden State and 29 other teams aren't called back to report for duty.
You may even see him travel with the team. That stipulation is still being sorted out by McKillop and Davidson's compliance office.
"I'll be involved as much as possible," Curry said.
McKillop is just glad Curry's coming through so soon on his promise. The benefit to the basketball team "is icing on the cake."
"The biggest aspect of this is his coming back to school," McKillop said. "Steph promised to myself and his parents that he would come back to Davidson and get his degree as quick as he could. Each time he's had a chance to take a class, he's done it. ... He was incredibly well-respected by professors."
And the newcomers to the team, the recruits pondering if Davidson should be the place they play -- they seem to know it, too. Curry's presence presents serious benefits for the basketball program.
McKillop painted an endearing picture when describing Curry being back on Davidson's grounds. Apparently, earlier this week one of his assistant's spotted Curry quietly chewing down on a fast-food chain breakfast (surely it must've been Chick-fil-A).
In that moment he saw his old player back on campus, one with the program and college again. There was the humble NBA player, son of Dell and Sonya, older brother to Seth, munching on a morning sandwich, stopping to give hugs and high fives to the longtime workers who clean the school's laundry. Like time and marriage and millions hadn't separated the boy from the college just yet. In most ways, they never did.