All the Right Reasons

NEW PALESTINE — A senior, the Hoosier Heritage Conference’s leading scorer and uncommitted to any college program, Ryan Curry already was on the radar of several of the state’s university coaches as New Palestine neared the end of the regular season Feb. 6 at Shelbyville.

That night, the Dragons’ guard netted a program-record 46 points, and one persistent college coach was in the stands to witness the prolific effort. He approached the locker room afterward with a recruiting pitch, and got the same answer Curry has offered all along.

“It’s pretty tough to turn them down, because I know they’re really looking at me and they’d really like me to come play for them,” Curry said this week while accepting his second straight Hancock County Player of the Year award. “It’s a lot of work in college. And I need to focus on schoolwork and getting through that, making sure I have a job after.

“I’m ready to give it up now rather than waiting until later.”

Curry will attend Indiana University this fall, content in his high school accomplishments. They include finishing third on the Dragons’ all-time scoring list with 1,106 points, buoyed by this season’s 20.4-point scoring average and the historic mark in Shelbyville.

Much like Pendleton Heights’ Sean McDermott — a Butler signee and No. 2 among HHC scoring leaders behind Curry — the New Palestine standout did more than put the ball through the hoop. They each pulled down nearly seven rebounds a game, with Curry leading Hancock County in that category. McDermott, though, at 6-foot-6, has four inches on Curry.

“He’s more well-rounded basketball-wise than I ever thought he was going to be,” New Palestine coach Adam Barton said. “What he did rebounding with his size … and they weren’t gifts. He went up and got them.”

Curry, the son of Sean and Teresa Curry, credits an offseason workout program for being able to bulldog his way toward the glass. In a 57-52 sectional quarterfinal win against Center Grove, Curry grabbed nine rebounds to go along with 20 points.

It was his teammates’ performance that made Curry most happy, however. Fellow All-County honoree Kevin Riley had 17 points and Cody Long added 11 points, while a host of other teammates assisted, particularly defensively, in knocking off the Trojans.

In a sectional semifinal win against Greenwood, Curry scored just 11 points, but Riley (16), Long (13) and Ben Farley (10) made contributions. And in a sectional final loss to Franklin Central, Alec Cook’s 12 points were nearly the difference.

“Definitely wanted to make sure I was getting everybody involved, so it’s not just ‘Pass the ball to Ryan. Pass the ball to Kevin,’” Curry said. “That’s what wins, when everybody gets involved. I didn’t want it to be just about me, I wanted it to be about everybody.

“I might have been a stat leader, but there was a bunch of people that did stuff that didn’t show up in the stats.”

Curry and Riley are joined on the All-County Team by Greenfield-Central’s Tate Hall and Mt. Vernon’s Michael Ertel and Erick Shepherd. Michael Lewis of Greenfield-Central is the Coach of the Year.

Lewis received Barton’s Coach of the Year vote, with Barton noting that Lewis had Greenfield-Central within two possessions of a perfect conference season, save for overtime losses to the Dragons and Pendleton Heights.

It was a last-second 3-pointer from Curry that sent the Greenfield-Central game into overtime, one of the highlights in New Palestine’s streaky regular season.

The Dragons took an 11-11 record into the state tournament, and Curry’s “happy-go-lucky” persona that kept New Palestine on track, Barton noted.

“He was good leadership-wise, because he just had the right attitude with this group of kids to keep everybody relaxed,” the coach said.

“Kind of a contagious attitude. Coach (Jeff) Wright liked to describe him as that little yippy dog that sometimes irritates you, and you smack him on the nose and he comes right back.”

During New Palestine team-building exercises, Barton explained, Curry declared himself the MVP of bowling, flag football and Wiffle Ball outings.

“He actually might have been, but we try to knock him down a peg, keep him humble,” Barton added with a laugh, Curry within earshot. “So, anytime there was an award to pass out, we made sure to give it to someone else.

“We talked to our kids about having that same attitude. Just come out, be a little irritating and be a little positive. For him to have that even through our ups and downs … Everybody just kind of got in line behind what Ryan did.”

As for Curry’s future, it takes a certain sense of self to turn away a college basketball opportunity. Hoops stardom clearly doesn’t define this New Palestine teen.

There’s no reason for Curry to be “miserable” a year from now just because that’s what some people might believe is best, Barton said.

“Everybody wants to see him play some more,” the coach commented. “That’s not something he’s interested in, and that’s fine. I’m happy that he’s mature enough that he can make that decision on his own.

“If he would listen to one of the small coaches in Indiana who has chatted with him a few times and chatted with me a few times, he would be their No. 1 recruit and they would take him right now. But, that guy was there the night of the 46 points in Shelbyville, and I discussed with him that if Ryan’s wasn’t going to change his mind then, then Ryan wasn’t going to change his mind at all.”

Curry had his mind made up months ago, and that made his senior campaign all the more enjoyable. It’s a decision he happily stands by.

“I’ve been around basketball my whole life, so it’s going to be definitely a big change,” Curry said. “I knew from the beginning of the season that I probably was not going to play in college, and this whole year I’ve really taken it all in and made the most out of every single night. I think that showed on the court a little bit. Just had fun with it, had fun with all the guys.”