Ryan Curry fits the mold perfectly: An under-sized player, who uses a combination of brains, a lot of heart and quintessential, gym-rat mentality of practice, practice and more practice to make up for any physical deficiencies that creates the difference between successful and unsuccessful college basketball players.
One might go so far as to say that if you look up the word scrappy in the dictionary, Curry’s photo, signature mop-topped red hair and all, would be right there next to the definition.
On Saturday, Curry, a starting guard and one of five Army freshman basketball players on the varsity roster, scored 13 points, including seven down the stretch, to help the Black Knights pull away from stubborn Holy Cross in the second half to win their Patriot League home opener, 70-57, before a sparse crowd of around 500 at Christl Arena at West Point.
Curry, who the Army press guide graciously lists at 6-feet tall and hails from Montgomery, N.J., also had five rebounds and dished off five assists to help the Black Knights run their overall season record to 5-10 and 1-1 in the Patriot League.
The victory made clear that if Army expects to make some noise in the Patriot League this season, the team, and first-year head coach Kevin Kuwik, will need a lot of help from the five plebes, especially Curry, forward Josh Scovens, who scored nine points on Saturday, and backup guard Dylan Blair. Thus far, these players have stepped up. For example, Curry has already been named the Patriot League Rookie of the Week three times in a row and Scovens has posted some sensational numbers in recent games, scoring 31 against Stony Brook, 25 at University of Texas-San Antonio and 20 against U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
“They are an excellent bunch,” Kuwik said of his freshmen. “They are all competitive. They love each other and they love the game. They are the kind of guys you want to have in the locker room. Josh had a tough first half. It was not clicking, he just kept attacking and he stayed with it and, obviously in the second half, he made some really big plays for us.”
Ahead by four, 23-19, after a lackluster first half by both squads, it seemed the entire Army team woke up in the second period. After hitting just 34.6 percent of their field goal tries (3-for-13 from 3-point range) in the first half, the Black Knights shot 53.6 percent from the field in the second half, hitting five of 13 three-pointers to slowly pull away from the Crusaders (3-12, 0-2 Patriot League).
Junior guard TJ Small scored 13 of his team-high 15 points in the second half and Curry hit a three with 2:52 left in the game to give Army a 57-49 lead. He followed that up with a two-point basket with 1:44 left to again give the Black Knights an eight-point cushion, 60-52.
“Ryan is just tenacious and he battles,” said Kuwik. “Trust me, there is going to be some film review and some things we need can clean up. But that being said, even when he makes mistakes, he was fighting his butt off all the time. Obviously, for a place like this, it is a metaphor, but he can be in my foxhole any day.”
Curry, who attended the West Point Prep School last year along with Scovens, says that he knew he could not say no to West Point when the academy offered him a spot on the basketball squad, despite offers from several Patriot League teams and other colleges.
“Ultimately, it was the opportunity,” he said. “As a young kid, my parents told me what a prestigious place this was and how much a blessing this was when I got the offer to play basketball here. Not only do I get to play basketball, but I have become a cadet here. It was the best decision of my life, I have my best friends on this team. With the bond I have, I just could not say no to.”
Calling it a learning experience at every practice and game, Curry said that he is excited for the team and his four classmates, who the whole team calls “the Fab Five” and what damage this Army team can do in league play.
“So far so good,” he said. “It is awesome. It is the time of my life. Going to school, having fun and playing the game I love here.”