MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The past few years have been somewhat of a "Where's Waldo" phase for KK Curry.
He needed to grow up some both on and off the basketball court despite an all-state junior season at Cleveland, so he played his final two seasons up north at two different prep schools where he became one of the region's top prospects. That eventually led him back down south — South Alabama, to be exact, where he spent a couple of seasons with the Jaguars before his most recent move, to the University of Tennessee at Martin.
But it was a necessary change. It was necessary growth.
"When I was in prep school, I was getting in trouble and things like that, but I just learned that I didn't want to make my mom (Trese Hickey) mad anymore," Curry said after a recent loss to Middle Tennessee State University. "The low point was picking up and moving to a different prep school, and my mom having to fork out money for me.
"Now I'm just happy that I learned from my mistakes and I'm not still doing the same stuff."
Athletic success is nothing new to Curry's family. Neither are some of the freakishly-athletic abilities showcased on whatever playing surface of the family's choosing. In the Skyhawks' recent loss to MTSU, Curry leaped high to block a Deandre Dishman dunk at the rim. In the second half, he leaped even higher to block a layup but was called for goaltending in the process.
The 6-foot-6, 205-pounder is currently second on the Skyhawks (3-6) in scoring at 13.0 points per game while leading the team in rebounding (6.4) and ranking second in blocks (1.2). He had a 15-point, 11-rebound double-double against Tennessee in the season opener.
He joined UTM with a blank slate, which worked well for new head coach Ryan Ridder because he inherited a blank slate. The Skyhawks have 14 new players — nine transfers and five true freshmen, which includes another former Cleveland standout, freshman guard Grant Hurst — and none of those players logged a minute in a UT-Martin jersey last season.
"I think what's really cool about KK is he knows exactly who he is," Ridder said last week. "He draws back on his experiences, but what's been really fun for our staff is he's enjoyable every day. I don't know if that's a growth thing, I don't know if it's a maturity thing, but man, he's enjoyable to be around because he's trying to do things at his highest capability. Whether it's rebounding, whether it's playing games, whether it's in the classroom, he really has grown in so many areas that I'm literally beaming with pride because I freakin' love the dude, man. He just comes in and has blown away all expectations of what we thought we recruited.
"We all know KK's well-traveled, right? So sometimes when you have well-traveled guys, there's an issue, whatever it may be, and we've got 14 transfers so I'm not saying anything that's not accurate. But what I think KK has done is he's drawn and learned from his experiences, and I think he understands the importance of genuine relationships, so when he steps on the floor or steps in our office, he generally tries to be his best version of himself."
The Skyhawks have had some moments this season: There was the first half against Tennessee, when the visitors only trailed by eight before falling 90-62 to the Vols. There were also strong first halves against Western Kentucky and MTSU, but as tends to be the case with new teams, trying to figure out the right rotational fits with such a blank canvas has been the biggest challenge.
But Curry says the team can figure it out.
"We've got new coaches and 14 new players, but there are no excuses," Curry said. "We just have to stay together and I know that we've got time. We're going to be great; I feel like we're going to be really good."
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