She Got Game

Even if you don’t know Sydel Curry, chances are you’ve at least seen her before. Her smiling face has been visible in countless big-time sports settings, whether it’s under the glare of CBS network cameras during March Madness or just a few feet from ESPN’s screaming Dick Vitale in some of college basketball’s most famous arenas.

In those instances, Curry is a spectator – a family member who’s simply there to cheer on her family member on the court.

The thing is: When your family member is Stephen Curry, the former Davidson College star and current NBA point guard, or Seth Curry, the silky-smooth senior guard for Duke University, the TV cameras tend to find you in the bleachers more often.

“I really like supporting my brothers, and I don’t like that much attention on myself,” said Sydel Curry, who’s preparing to graduate from Charlotte Christian School, as did her brothers.

“I like going to watch them, and every now and then you see a glimpse of me in the stands next to my mom on TV, and I’m like, ‘Hey! That’s me!’ So that’s how I got my 15 seconds of fame usually.”

A soft giggle ensues.

Curry giggles because she knows that, in recent years of sweat equity and improving skills, the roles have reversed some. Her famous brothers – and did we mention her famous dad, Charlotte Hornets legend Dell Curry? – have shown up with her mother, Sonya, to watch her shine on the court.

The volleyball court.

And while the major networks haven’t yet found their way to Charlotte Christian volleyball games, Sydel Curry is doing quite well making a name for herself there.

Last season, Curry was named to the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association All-State squad, and she was wooed by a number of college programs before committing to Elon University last May.

This year, as a senior setter, the 5-foot-10 Curry has 122 digs, 92 kills and leads the Knights in blocks (56) and assists (672). She’s also helped them make strides in a league laden with strong teams, starting with eight-time reigning state champion Charlotte Latin.

And with each bounce of the volleyball, Curry’s family has been there to support her. That includes Stephen, who attended nearly every game with his wife and newborn daughter before heading back to California for the opening of training camp with the Golden State Warriors.

“It’s pretty special what Sydel’s doing,” Stephen said. “Myself and Seth came up through Charlotte on the basketball track and had successful careers in high school and went on to play in college. I’m sure that added some pressure for Sydel, but she’s handled it really well.

“It’s fun to watch her do what she does, following in my mom’s footsteps.”

A new tradition

On the surface, most people consider basketball to be the Curry family business. And while there’s some truth to that, it also doesn’t tell the whole story. In the 1980s, Dell Curry met his wife when he was a basketball star at Virginia Tech and Sonya was a standout on the Hokies’ volleyball team. While at Virginia Tech, Sonya earned All-Metro Conference honors as a setter.

Initially, Sydel was on course to follow the family’s basketball path. She excelled on the court, and some even whispered she could be the most talented of the young Curry hoopsters. But by middle school, she’d also fallen in love with volleyball. And when she reached high school, she felt it was time to make a choice.

“When you play club volleyball, it takes up your whole time,” she said. “Freshman year, after volleyball school season, I had to make that decision: ‘Do I want to play basketball and club volleyball?’ I wasn’t sure I had enough time to do both.

“I went to the first (preseason workout) for basketball, and I thought, ‘I love basketball, but I don’t like playing it.’ I’m more into watching and supporting, because I’ve done that my whole life. I just loved playing volleyball more, so that’s what I decided to focus on.”

For a brief moment, though, she had reservations.

“I remember my mom coming home one day and saying, ‘Apparently, a college came to one of the varsity girls basketball games, and they were coming to see you,’” Sydel recalled. “I thought, ‘Ah, dang! Did I make a bad decision? Should I go back and try to play basketball again?’

“But it all paid off in the end, so I’m happy about my decision. Besides, someone’s got to show my mom’s side of the story!”

Curry said she’s learned a lot about volleyball from her mother throughout the years, particularly since they play the same position. It also helps that Sonya is a Knights assistant coach this season.

“She’s been such a huge support for me, because I’m going to college for setting, and I hated setting when I first started playing,” Curry said. “I used to say, ‘I just can’t do it!’ But it’s funny how I started setting. I was sitting in my living room one day with a basketball in my hand. All of a sudden, I was doing it. I said, ‘Look, Mom, I’m setting! I’m setting!’

“After that, she kept working with me a lot and just helping me get the technique down. It’s been cool having her as an assistant coach my last year. She gives a lot of insight. On the bench, it’s really nice to have her. She’ll help me decide what to set. Or if I’m not on my ‘A’ game, she’ll say things like, ‘Your footwork’s wrong’ or ‘Your hands are a little off.’ A lot of girls aren’t able to get that.”

A college recruit

As was the case with her brothers, Curry had early dreams of following in her parents’ footsteps as a Virginia Tech athlete. But although the Hokies didn’t come calling, other schools did. One school jumped out a little more than the others.

“I was looking at a bunch of schools, but I really wanted to be close to home and Elon asked me to come visit,” Curry recalled. “While I was there, I fell in love with it completely. I had heard about it through the SoCon with Stephen and Davidson.

“They called me the next day and said, ‘We would like to offer.’ I was really excited, but I didn’t want to seem too eager, so I said, ‘OK, I’m going to talk to my parents, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.’ But I couldn’t even wait. I called them back the next day and said, ‘Yes, I’ll take it!’”

For Curry, earning a scholarship was affirmation to the mantras she’d heard throughout her home as a child – the ones about staying focused and having faith and seeing that hard work pays off.

“It was awesome,” Curry said, shaking her head. “With my brothers doing what they’ve done, I’ve always been like, ‘I really want to get that scholarship, and I really want to show my abilities and go out in my own light because I feel like I’m the unknown Curry – the daughter that they never had.’

“I don’t really feel like that,” she continued. “But no one ever knows about me, so it’s kind of cool being able to do that by myself and through my own sport, and not just basketball. Everyone always asks me, ‘Why don’t you do basketball?’ I say, ‘Well, I’m trying to do my own thing and maybe follow Mom’s footsteps.’”

Her siblings are just as excited. Stephen paused as he recalled getting the news about his sister’s scholarship.

“All I can tell you …” he began. “Let’s just say I was a proud brother at that time. Support is a big thing in our family, and she’s supported me and my brother since we were in high school. To see her getting rewarded for all the hard work she’s put in is a good feeling. We’re going to be there supporting her, too.”

Even if the network TV cameras aren’t there.

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