NCAA BK

Davidson prepares for life after Stephen Curry

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DAVIDSON, N.C. (AP)

Davidson coach Bob McKillop, upset with his team's defense, halted practice and brought his players together. He then reeled off the names of the three starters from last season no longer on the roster - mentioning Stephen Curry last. "We've got to be perfect," McKillop yelled, "We've got to be a team." Above him was the banner proclaiming "NCAA Tournament Elite 8 2008," the dominant symbol of a storybook three-year run that ended steps away in a conference room in April when the dynamic Curry announced he was leaving for the NBA. With Curry taking his limitless range and smooth jump shot across the country to Golden State, a collection of players lacking experience or trying to overcome flaws must be nearly perfect to duplicate the success their superstar and buddy brought to this tiny liberal arts school. "It's like having a Broadway show and actors are now being challenged with playing different roles," McKillop said. "Our leading singer, our leading dancer, our leading dramatic presenter is gone." Curry, the skinny, lightly recruited local kid with the NBA pedigree made it feel like the 1960s again for this town 20 miles north of Charlotte. Bringing this Southern Conference school success not seen since Lefty Driesell was pacing the sidelines, Curry led Davidson to a 85-20 mark in three years, including a remarkable run in 2008 that ended a missed 3-pointer shy of the Final Four and perhaps forever changed this school. "Just being on that stage and being on the map, everybody knows where Davidson is, who they are and what they're about," Curry said this week. "It does a lot for the program." Only now the leading scorer in school history is gone, leaving McKillop with perhaps the biggest challenge in his 21 seasons here. Seniors Will Archambault (8.3 points), Bryant Barr (7.1) and Steve Rossiter (6.1) are Davidson's top three returning scorers. McKillop's son, Brendan, is expected to become the full-time point guard. A collection of freshmen, led by big man Jake Cohen, are going to have to contribute immediately. And the schedule isn't kind. The season opener is Saturday at No. 11 Butler. "We don't have the luxury of replacing an NBA first-round pick with another guy who has the potential to be a first-round pick in the NBA," McKillop said. "The (Bowl Championship Series) schools do have that luxury. "You look at what Davidson has to face in terms of holding its head above water and you can look at so many other parallel midmajor programs who have fought to do the same thing. It's not easy." McKillop listed Xavier, Gonzaga, Butler, Southern Illinois and Creighton as schools from the lower leagues who have been able to sustain the success Davidson achieved with their baby-faced star, who's still getting a lot of attention. "I've been watching him online," Archambault said of Curry. "It's pretty nice to see one of your friends playing on an NBA team." Before the No. 7 overall pick began his pro career, he sent out more than 2,000 postcards to folks in the Davidson community and took out a half-page advertisement in the school newspaper. It included a three-paragraph thank you addressed to the "Davidson Family" in which he vowed to "always represent Davidson to the best of my ability" and to work toward completing his degree. "I'm hoping they're going to follow me as I follow my school," Curry said. "Just a nice touch to keep them in the loop." He'd also like to see Davidson stay in the national conversation. Most of the fans are sticking around, with a school spokesman saying about 80 percent of last season's record 4,000 season tickets have been renewed. But many think Davidson's run is about to end. The Wildcats were picked to finish third behind College of Charleston and Wofford in the SoCon's six-team South Division despite going 62-4 in the league in the past three years. With Curry, Davidson was referred to often as one-man show. Without him, the Wildcats will need almost everybody on the roster to contribute to avoid a steep fall. It's a tall task, but they'll at least have one big fan in a Warriors uniform. "In the future when coach goes out recruiting he doesn't have to go through, 'Oh, we're a small school outside of Charlotte, we're pretty competitive,' and all that," Curry said. "People know where Davidson is and hopefully they'll see what kind of a great school it is, what kind of a great coach that coach McKillop is and keep getting great players." ---
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