Philadelphia, PA – Former Davidson guard Stephen Curry's journey to the NBA has altered the college basketball landscape more than anyone expected.
Despite being the son of a former NBA player and owning a very impressive collection of trophies from an outstanding high school career, Curry was not offered a scholarship by any top-notch Division I schools. The undersized and weak combo guard elected to become a Wildcat, which turned Davidson into one of the most adored mid-major programs in the country.
Curry averaged 25.3 points and 3.7 assists per game during his three-year collegiate career, which included two trips to the NCAA Tournament.
The player who was deemed as athletically inferior set a new NCAA record for 3-pointers made in a single season as a freshman. He built up a reputation so great that even LeBron James was spotted in the stands among thousands of Davidson red shirts that said "Witness" on the front cheering Curry on as he spearheaded an upset of North Carolina State.
Curry began his career at Davidson playing off the ball before becoming the first point guard out of college from a non-power conference school to be selected in the top 10 of the NBA Draft in this century, when he was selected seventh in 2009. One year later, Jimmer Fredette of BYU was taken 10th and this season's rookie of the year, Damian Lillard, went sixth after a quietly brilliant stint in the Big Sky Conference at Weber State.
Lehigh's C.J. McCollum could very possibly crack this year's top 10 if he performs well enough during pre-draft workouts to make scouts forget about his season-ending injury last season. McCollum would be the fourth player from a mid-major school selected in the top 10 in the past five years.
Derrick Rose (Memphis) was the first player chosen in the 2008 draft and Andre Miller (Utah) had his named called ninth in 1999. Both Memphis and Utah have moved on to more competitive conferences in recent years as both programs were clearly overqualified for the mid-major level. The most recent point guard selected in the top 10 of the NBA Draft from a current mid-major program before Curry was Lindsey Hunter, who was the 10th pick out of Jackson State in the 1993 edition of David Stern's rookie welcoming party.
The responsibility of the point guard used to consist primarily of setting up and running the offense. The traditional pass-first approach to the position is quickly becoming a way of the past. While the exposure a top-tier program like North Carolina can offer a recruit can boost draft stock, becoming the undisputed leader of an underdog certainly has its benefits.
Kendall Marshall was on prime time national television throughout his two-year stint as a Tar Heel. In Chapel Hill, he had an elite coach in Roy Williams to go along with three teammates who became 2012 first round draft picks.
Marshall seemingly engineered the offense with ease as he led Division I players in assists as a sophomore, but he was still selected behind Lillard on draft day. Marshall's first season as a professional failed to measure up to the unknown from Weber State by a long shot. Since UNC did not need him to be aggressive for it to be successful, there was no pressing need for Marshall to develop into a scorer.
Last season, there was a bountiful crop of talented point guards playing for mid-major schools such as Isaiah Canaan (Murray State), Matthew Dellavedova (Saint Mary's), Nate Wolters (South Dakota State) and McCollum. Do not be surprised if any of the following players show up on the list of 2013-14 Bob Cousy Award finalists:
Chaz Williams (Massachusetts) - The Minutemen made a push in the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament before falling to Virginia Commonwealth in the semifinals thanks to their 5-foot-9 guard from Brooklyn. Williams led the team last season in scoring (15.5 per game), assists (7.3) and steals (2.0) as a junior.
Williams, who played one year at Hofstra before transferring to UMass, gave Amherst something to be excited about in late April when he announced he would be back for his senior campaign.
"I love this program and coach (Derek) Kellogg, and I love all the guys on the team," Williams said. "The pieces we have coming back next season was a big reason I decided to stay in school."
There may not be too long of a wait for UMass to find its replacement for Williams as sophomore guard Derrick Gordon will be making his Minutemen debut in 2013. Gordon was a highly touted recruit coming out of St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, N.J., before leading Western Kentucky in scoring in 2011-12 as a true freshman.
Siyani Chambers (Harvard) - The Crimson managed to win another Ivy League title this past season after many thought their season would suffer from an academic cheating scandal that caused Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry's removal from the team.
Chambers helped Tommy Amaker's team return to the Big Dance and earned the Ivy League Rookie of the Year award after leading the nation's freshmen in assists per game. Jeremy Lin may not be the only Harvard alum in the NBA for too long if the Crimson's floor general builds on his outstanding rookie campaign.
Chambers already has the court awareness and defensive capabilities needed to compete at a very high level. He was an efficient scorer from long range with 42.4 percent accuracy from beyond the arc, but lacked consistency from game-to- game.
Dundrecous Nelson (Jackson State) - The Jackson, Miss., native played his first season as a Tiger in 2012-13 after being dismissed from Ole Miss for violating team rules. Nelson showed he can transform into scoring machine this past season as he posted 12.8 points and 2.1 assists in only 18.4 minutes per game.
JSU had a disappointing sub-.500 finish in 2011-12 in what turned out to be Tevester Anderson's last season at the helm of the program. The Tigers' new coach, Wayne Brent, will be able to turn the program instantly if Nelson develops an outside game to pair with his already explosive first step.
Brent also will have Arkansas transfer Julysses Noble to pair with Nelson in the backcourt. Noble, who played for Brent during his high school days at Callaway High School, will take some of opposing defense's attention away from Nelson.
Kendrick Perry (Youngstown State) - The Horizon League has not seen too many future NBA players pass through its corridors since it was founded in 1979. Norris Cole (Cleveland State) became just the second guard in the conference's history to be selected in the first round in 2011, joining current Valparaiso head coach Bryce Drew, who was picked in the middle of the 1998 draft.
Ray McCallum of Detroit may become the third player on that list this June after electing to forego his final year of eligibility.
Perry led the Horizon League in scoring as a sophomore and finished second to only McCallum this past season with 17.3 points per game. The senior-to-be may be among the scoring leaders in the nation in 2013-14 as YSU graduated two players with double-digit scoring averages.
Perry has a full arsenal of weapons on the offensive end, but he may need to exhibit leadership skills and help the Penguins contend for their first-ever trip to the Big Dance to garner more interest from scouts.
Jake Odum (Indiana State) - Although Creighton and Wichita State were the only two Missouri Valley Conference schools to make it to the 2013 NCAA Tournament, the Sycamores were in the discussion for much of the season due to the outstanding play of their point guard.
Odum did a little bit of everything for ISU as a junior with 13.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists per outing. Odum has excellent size for the position and should be hungry after having the end of his junior year spoiled by a shooting slump.
The Sycamores defeated both the Bluejays and Shockers by double-digit margins after notching overtime decisions over Ole Miss and Miami (Fla.) during this past season. A few more upsets are most likely going to be reported from Terre Haute, Odum's hometown, in 2013-14.
Honorable Mention - Dylan Garrity (Sacramento), Billy Baron (Canisius), Evan Roquemore (Santa Clara), Elfrid Payton (Louisiana), Duke Mondy (Oakland)