DURHAM — During a timeout in Dukes most recent win against Clemson, Seth Curry gave Quinn Cook a pat on the back and said a few words before the two entered the huddle. That was a notable vocal moment for Dukes latest captain.
Hes not going to be a vocal guy, a rah-rah guy, a guy thats going to be giving motivational speeches in the locker room kind of guy, associate coach Chris Collins said. Whats Seth is going to do, the way he goes about his business, he comes every day with a purpose. His leadership is through the example he sets as a player.
When Mike Krzyzewski named captains last April, much earlier than he had in years past, he picked Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly but not Curry, who had been a captain during the 2011-12 season. At the time, Krzyzewski told Curry that he would still have a major role, and that was enough for the rising senior.
I just focused on what I needed to do to get better at my game and things like that, Curry said. I know the game a lot, so guys respect my opinion.
Curry spent all summer improving his game, and he also focused on building his vocal leadership, not an innate trait by his own admission. But by the time classes resumed in August, Currys role was in doubt. A right shin injury sidelined him, and the Blue Devils didnt know whether he would be able to play.
He couldnt scrimmage during the preseason, but as time went on he started offering more advice from the sidelines. Duke decided to test his leg in the second exhibition,against Winston-Salem State. Curry shot 1 of 9 and scored four points. But he showed coaches and teammates he could play through the pain. That spoke volumes.
It didnt take long for his shooting touch to return. Curry scored 15 points in Dukes opener against Georgia State and then poured in a game-high 23 against Kentucky despite practicing just four times. The double-figure scoring games continued, as Curry has topped that mark in 11 of Dukes 15 games.
With him, with the situation hes in with his leg, for him to come out and do what he does regularly is an unbelievable sign of leadership, Kelly said. Hes really been a leader for us the whole time.
By January, Krzyzewski had seen enough from Curry to change his mind. Before No. 1 Duke headed to Charlotte to play Davidson, he told the team that Curry was joining Plumlee and Kelly as an officially recognized team captain.
Its something I have been thinking of doing for a while, Krzyzewski said after the Davidson game. Without Seths injury, I would have done it earlier. I wasnt even sure that he was going to play. Every game, youre not completely sure. Thats a heck of a thing for him to go through. Hes handled it really well.
In the teams eyes, the move was a mere formality. Curry had been viewed as a leader all along.
Hes been steady, Plumlee said. I feel like coach made that change because he knows that guys on the team respect Seth. He just has the title now. Us three together, we all demand respect, and the guys look up to us.
With Kelly, the most vocal of the three captains, out indefinitely with a right foot injury, more responsibility will shift to Plumlee and Curry. The two seniors lead Duke in scoring Plumlee averages 17.7 points and Curry 16 and theyll likely need to post those type of numbers in Saturdays noon showdown with N.C. State if Duke wants to stay undefeated.
Curry has had big games against the Wolfpack. In last years game in Cameron Indoor Stadium, he scored 21 of his 26 points in the second half as Duke rallied from a 20-point deficit to stun N.C. State 78-73.
Before a few of Dukes marquee nonconference games, Krzyzewski gave his three seniors the floor. Curry has taken that opportunity to share some of his immense basketball knowledge. And the team has listened.
He doesnt talk a lot, so when he does have something to say, guys perk up, because you know its going to be important, Collins said. Hes got a lot of good things to add. So the more comfortable he can get with that, thats only going to make us better.