This community, nestled in the mountains of southwest Virginia, is a town that helped inspire the phrase, "You can't get there from here." Which is one reason not every college basketball fan has heard of Dell Curry.

"A lot of people told me that when I came out of high school, I wouldn't get the publicity here," Curry said the other day. "But I wasn't worried about that."

There are other guards -- Johnny Dawkins, Mark Price, Kenny Smith, Pearl Washington and Steve Alford, to name a few -- who get more attention, but don't be surprised if Curry is the first guard picked when the National Basketball Association holds its draft this June. If everyone in America doesn't know, the scouts certainly do.

"I rate him as the No. 1 big guard," said Marty Blake, the NBA's director of scouting. "He reminds me of Otis Birdsong, and he's definitely a first-rounder. He'll be a great pro shooter. He has a great release and he rebounds well for a guard."

The Louisville Cardinals were in town last Monday, and Curry had 22 points, five rebounds and four assists as Virginia Tech lost, 93-83. Afterward, he drew a crowd. His crowd.

"I wanted to stay close to my family," Curry said of why he picked Virginia Tech over Maryland and West Virginia. "They are a big part of my life and I wanted to keep it that way. They come to all the home games and most of the games in state. But it's real tough on my mom and dad, especially during the week, and it's a 2 1/2-hour drive from home."

Home is in Grottoes, near Harrisonburg, and it is bigger than Blacksburg but is hardly a sprawling metropolis.

"I feel pretty comfortable here," Curry said. "I knew it would be tough adjusting to college, and I thought it might be tougher if I were in a big city. The situation here was okay, so I came."

Part of "the situation" was that Curry would play immediately. He has started in every game in which he's played during his college career, and he's only missed three. During his freshman season, he missed two games with mononucleosis, and this season he missed one game with sprains in both ankles.

"I often wondered what it would be like to be at a big university and get more exposure," Curry said. "But then, maybe, I would not be able to do the things I do here. Johnny Dawkins and Mark Price play in a more known conference, but when you get too much exposure, sometimes people are out to get you. I was talking to Louisville's Milt Wagner and he was saying that his team had a lot of players who can score and he could score more but that they had to have balance.

"I think for me to get exposure, I have to do a lot more things. If you're on Louisville, playing on NBC, people remember you have a big game. We don't get national coverage. I have to have a decent game every night."

And that is exactly what Virginia Tech needs. It should come as no surprise that Coach Charles Moir, whose 18-6 team faces South Carolina at noon Saturday in Blacksburg, has considerable praise for Curry, who is averaging 23.3 points and 6.7 rebounds a game.

"If Dell doesn't score, we're in trouble," Moir said. "About 75 percent of our offense comes from three people -- Curry, Bobby Beecher and Keith Colbert. We have to count on those three and Dell is the big scorer, so if he can get open, we need him to take the shot. He has so much range and is such a great scorer, and we're so dependent on him."

Curry quickly pointed out that this year's team is the most enjoyable of the four to be a part of, but individually, as the responsibility has increased, so has Curry's task.

"This season, it's been harder to do the things I do," Curry said. "Teams are switching a lot and keying on me, and I have to take one step farther to do what I did the night before. It makes me feel good that they respect me, but it makes me work harder."

Wagner guarded him for most of Monday's game, but two others also had a crack. With seven minutes left in the game, Louisville Coach Denny Crum inserted freshman Kevin Walls for the first time in the game and put him on Curry, who had been playing the entire game.

The first time down the floor, Curry had the ball on the left wing. He took two dribbles toward the top of the key, pulled up and stuck a jumper from 18 feet with Walls in his face.

"It takes him down a bit," Curry said of the eager defender. "It takes away some of the confidence, and if you don't do that, it can be a long night."

Having to play defense on a tough player makes the night even longer.

"I definitely think his defense is underrated," said Moir. "It's that he's so smooth. He leads the Metro Conference in steals, and he is deceptively quick and has great instincts."

Last spring, Curry used his athletic ability to pitch for Tech's baseball team, compiling a 6-1 record with a 3.81 ERA, which was enough to prompt the Baltimore Orioles to draft him in the 14th round.

Asked if playing baseball professionally is a possibility, Curry said, "It depends on the offer."

He then added, in a bit of understatement, "Basketball's looking pretty good right now."