Stephen Curry wanted to walk-on at Duke, but Blue Devils rejected him

A four-time NBA champion. The greatest shooter of all time. One of the best guards in NBA history.

Before Stephen Curry became all of those things, Duke didn’t even want him as a walk-on.

Stephen’s father, Dell Curry, confirmed this during an appearance on “The Rex Chapman Show” last year Rex Chapman and Dell played together on the Charlotte Hornets, and they’ve been close for many years.

At one point during their hour-long podcast conversation, Rex brought up Stephen’s recruitment and how he tried to help him land a spot on Duke’s roster as a walk-on. However, Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski and associate head coach Johnny Dawkins ultimately turned him down.

“When Steph was in high school, he was going into his senior year and he wanted to go to an ACC school — he wanted to go to Duke,” Chapman said, and Dell agreed. “And I knew Johnny Dawkins a little better than you did at the time, because I was with [agent]
David Falk and Johnny was also with David Falk. I remember you said, ‘Steph would like to go there!’ Johnny and Coach K won’t like that I’m telling this, but so what… I called Johnny one day and I said, ‘Look, Dell’s son, Stephen, he’s [good]…’ And he said, ‘Yeah, yeah, I know. Let me get back with you.’

“This was just to be a walk-on. This was just to be a walk-on! He got back with me the next day and he said, ‘We’re full up this year, maybe next year though.’ So, Stephen signed with Davidson.”

After passing on Curry, the Blue Devils’ starting backcourt that season ended up being Greg Paulus and Jon Scheyer (who is now Duke’s head coach). How did Duke fare that year? They entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 6 seed, and they ultimately lost in the first round to 11th-seeded VCU.

Curry dominated as a freshman at Davidson, averaging 21.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.6 threes, 2.8 assists and 1.8 steals, while shooting 46.3% from the field, 40.8% from three and 85.5% from the free-throw line.

Suddenly, Duke was interested in Stephen.

“Well, Stephen blows up, of course. At the end of that year,
everybody in the country wanted Stephen,” Chapman said. “They saw that he was at Davidson and thought, ‘No way he stays at Davidson.’ And when I say everybody, I mean everybody — Kentucky, Tennessee, Duke, everyone wanted Stephen to come. And I had people calling me
[asking]’Can you put me in touch with Dell?’

“I called you and I said, ‘Hey, there are two or three schools that are really interested in having Stephen.’ And you said, ‘Let me get back with you.’ A day went by… You called me and you said, ‘He told me, ‘Dad, if they didn’t want me then, I don’t want them now. F*** ’em. I’m staying at Davidson.’ I got goosebumps, and I almost started to cry! That’s exactly the answer I hoped I would get!”

Rex asked him if he remembered any of that, and Dell confirmed the whole story.

“Oh yeah, absolutely,” Dell said. “He’s always knew been a loyal guy… Stephen he wasn’t meeting the eye test with the ACC schools, but when [Davidson head coach] Bob McKillop recruited him, he told him, ‘I’ll take you just like you are right now.’ That struck a chord.

“Plus, Stephen Davidson picked not only for Bob McKillop and because it was a great institution academically, but because they were playing a big, tough, DI schedule. They were playing the Carolinas and NC States; they were not afraid to play the big boys to get them ready for conference play. So he thought, ‘Hey, I’m playing against the schools that didn’t recruit me and didn’t want me, so I’m gonna play with a chip on my shoulder!’ “

Curry ultimately played three seasons at Davidson before declaring for the 2009 NBA Draft, where the Golden State Warriors selected him No. 7 jumpsuit. The rest is history.

However, the Blue Devils did manage to land one of Dell’s sons, as Seth Curry transferred from Liberty to Duke in 2009 and played three seasons under Coach K.

Click here to watch the full hour-long conversation between Rex Chapman and Dell Curry.

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