Lost amid the excitement of Virginia Tech’s successful National Signing Day is the marquee men’s basketball game here in Blacksburg on Thursday night, when No. 7 Duke comes to town to face the struggling Hokies. But one person who has had this date circled for quite some time is Blue Devils guard Seth Curry.
His first trip to Cassell Coliseum as an opposing player didn’t go so well last year when Virginia Tech scored a 64-60 upset of then-No. 1 Duke. Curry went 0 for 2 from the field, was held without a point or an assist and committed a crucial turnover in the waning moments that was ultimately ]the finishing touch to a victory the Hokies’ faithful celebrated by storming the court.
This week, Curry called it “one of the roughest games I’ve ever had.” But perhaps the most unforgettable part of the evening was the Virginia Tech student section’s loud chants of “who’s your daddy” that were a fixture on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” highlights the next day. Curry, as many already know, is the son of former Hokies great Dell Curry, the second-leading scorer in Virginia Tech history.
“I knew the atmosphere was gonna be crazy. I knew they were gonna be on me,” Seth Curry said. “When your dad has his face up in the rafters, you expect it. It was fun, but we lost so it wasn’t fun at all at the same time.
“The biggest thing is I let my team down. We didn’t get the win that night. We’re just trying to go back there and right that wrong.”
The recruitment of Dell Curry’s two sons has drawn a lot of interest around Virginia Tech considering neither Seth nor Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry ended up as Hokies. In Stephen’s case, Coach Seth Greenberg infamously asked him to be a walk-on and redshirt for a year before offering a scholarship later on. He ended up at Davidson.
But Seth Curry said both times he went through the recruiting process – he started his career at Liberty before transferring to Duke after the 2008-09 season – Greenberg offered him a scholarship.
“Virginia Tech just wasn’t a good fit for me at the time,” Curry said of his decision to go to Liberty instead of coming to Blacksburg. “They had a lot of young guards. It just wasn’t the right fit for me to go in there and make an impact right away, so I don’t have anything bad to say about Greenberg or anything like that.”
Things haven’t worked out so bad for Curry now that he’s the starting point guard for Coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. It’s a role that has taken some adjusting to, especially because this year’s Blue Devils have a more balanced scoring attack than when they were relying on Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler in recent years.
Curry is one of five Duke players averaging double figures in scoring this season, but he’s been in a bit of a shooting slump of late. He’s 9 of 32 in his past three games, and his battle with Virginia Tech point guard Erick Green could go a long way toward determining whether the Hokies can pull off another shocker this year.
“I think Seth can be a lot better,” said Krzyzewski, who wasn’t pleased with his team’s defense in a closer-than-expected 83-75 win over St. John’s this past weekend. “In the last couple weeks he’s not played to the level that he can play at, and some of it could be the change going back to handling the ball more or just being a human being, you know, where he’s not shot the ball well. I think one of the biggest things I’d like for him to do is not let his shot impact who he is as a player. Who he is as a player shouldn’t be a shooter; he should be a player.”
Unlike Duke, Virginia Tech hasn’t been able to get away with an off night this year. The Hokies have lost six of their past seven games, and though Greenberg was disappointed his team started slowly for a second-straight contest in Saturday’s loss at Maryland, the coach wasn’t thrilled that Green called out his teammates for it after the game.
A key Thursday for the Hokies will be how they handle the Plumlee brothers inside. As Curry put it this week, “we’re throwing the ball into them more and they’re coming through for us.”
Duke forward Mason Plumlee is averaging a career-high 12 points and 9.8 reboounds this year. Greenberg said the Hokies will have to decide whether to take away his abilities inside with extra defenders or focus on Duke’s plethora of three-point shooters (the Blue Devils currently lead the ACC in three-point field goal percentage). Last week, when Maryland held Duke to 3-of-16 shooting from three-point range, Plumlee exploded for 23 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks in a Blue Devils victory.
But even Greenberg conceded this is a much different Hokies team than the one that pulled off an upset over the Blue Devils last February. Virginia Tech is 3-9 against ACC competition, and 15-13 overall, since then.
“We have a philosophy on how to play them. Then it’s tough to go out and execute it,” Greenberg said. “When you play Duke, first and foremost, you’ve got to match their intensity. They’re going to draw a line in the sand and compete each and every play. That doesn’t mean getting in a fight. You’ve got to be ready for the physicality of the game, the intensity of the game.”