published Friday, November 30th, 2012

Davidson reaping recruiting crop from Curry days

UTC Doubleheader

Lady Mocs vs. Samford, 5 p.m.

Mocs vs. Davidson, 7:30 p.m.

• Gold Rush: All fans are encouraged to wear gold colors to the game; Gold Rush T-shirts will be given to the student section

•Halftime act: Atlanta's Air Elite will perform at halftime of both games, showcasing a high-flying slam-dunk team

•Bi-Lo BoGo: Fans can buy one, get one free ticket by showing a Bi-Lo BonusCard

Stephen Curry is giving back to Davidson every night the Wildcats take the floor. And he's long gone.

Davidson won the Southern Conference regular season and conference tournament last year and was this year's preseason pick as champion. The Wildcats have backed it up with wins over Vanderbilt and West Virginia and a runner-up finish to Gonzaga in the Old Spice Classic.

It's the ripple effect from the wake Curry left.

Before going to the NBA, the guard led Davidson to the NCAA Elite Eight -- and within a 3-pointer of the Final Four -- which allowed coach Bob McKillop to recruit his current crop of seniors.

"It's the class we recruited in the year after the Elite Eight run," McKillop said. "When we recruited them in the spring and summer, we were coming off that Elite Eight run and we were pretty attractive to people at that point."

Davidson bowed out of the 2009 SoCon tournament with a hobbled Curry. UTC won that year. Then Wofford won two straight tournament titles before Davidson reclaimed the NCAA tournament bid last year.

The class that followed Davidson's Elite Eight run now includes three senior starters as well as senior sixth man Clint Mann, who has 33 career starts.

Davidson's five current starters have combined to play in 434 games and start 283. The top seven players have 558 games and 318 starts.

"It's the concept of passing the torch," McKillop said. "You're getting players teaching players, and there's no greater teaching process than when you have juniors and seniors teaching freshmen and sophomores."

The Wildcats (3-3) have much more experience than University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach John Shulman's team. They will meet Saturday at 7:30 in McKenzie Arena in the SoCon opener for both teams.

"This was a young team that lost in the early rounds of the SoCon tournament their first year and were down 20-something to The Citadel at home, and they're now reaping the benefits," Shulman said of Davidson. "If people can handle that, then you can reap the benefits later. Those kids needed to grow older, and this is the end result for them."

UTC's starters have combined to play in 119 games and start 60 times in Mocs uniforms. Senior Drazen Zlovaric accounts for more than half of starts with 37.

Shulman has four freshmen and seven healthy young players in the rotation that will take its lumps -- like Davidson did for two years without Curry -- then perhaps have the same SoCon success at Davidson.

Well, that's Shulman's plan.

"I see that for us," Shulman said. "To be honest, I'm thrilled with our growth. I thought it would take a couple months to be competitive.

"Hopefully success will follow."

UTC freshman forward Casey Jones is willing to follow a similar path as the Wildcats. He'd still prefer success this season, but he does have a thought about the future, when he's a junior and senior.

"I think I'll be pretty good, and as a team I think we'll be very good," Jones said. "They have 100-something games? I'm not worried about it. Anybody with five games or 105 games can defend and rebound."

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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