March 8, 2011 10:08:00 AM
REFORM, Ala. -- The letter "i" isn''t a singular entity to Deion Curry.
Even though Deion''s father used the letter to make sure his son''s name would be the same as NFL football legend Deion Sanders, Curry didn''t allow individual trappings to distract him.
His focus -- winning a second state title -- was absolute, and it didn''t waver. Curry proved it on the biggest stage and lived up to his nickname.
"Primetime" scored a game-high 22 points to lead four players in double figures in the Pickens County High School boys basketball team''s 70-62 overtime victory against Cedar Bluff on Thursday in the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 1A state title game at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex.
Curry''s performance earned him his second state tournament MVP honor, helped the Tornadoes (30-1) cap the best season in the program''s history, and clinched a second state championship in a row. Pickens County won the Class 2A crown last season.
For his accomplishments, Curry is The Dispatch''s Prep Player of the Week.
"I love the accomplishment of back-to-back state championships," Curry said. "I really love being back-to-back MVPs, too. My whole mind frame was to win the game and to give it all I have.
"I thank God. It is an honor to be crowned back-to-back MVPs. It wasn''t something I was shooting for. I was just going out to do whatever I could to help me team win."
Curry started playing basketball in seventh grade, well after his football career began. He earned a starting spot on the varsity basketball team as a ninth-grader and has been a fixture in the lineup ever since.
Curry said his mental approach was his biggest improvement this season. He said he raised his level of play in part coming off a disappointing finish to the football season. A knee injury, which he tweaked during the basketball season, slowed him in a 36-12 loss to Maplesville in the second round of the Class 1A playoffs.
Pickens County boys basketball coach Russ Wallace said he could tell Curry was motivated and focused coming off that loss.
"It is two years in a row he has stepped up," Wallace said. "This year, he did it coming off the bench. That shows what type of kid he is."
Wallace said Curry showed maturity after returning to the team from a suspension that ultimately cost him his spot in the starting lineup. The Tornadoes didn''t miss a beat when Demarko Hall took Curry''s place, so when Curry was able to return, Wallace talked with his senior guard about how he needed him to fit in.
The transition was seamless, and Curry''s play helped Pickens County complete a back-to-back run at state titles.
"He was like, ''Coach, I just want to win. I will do whatever you need me to do, '' " Wallace said. "It is just like I told him and just like he proved, you can be the best player and come off the bench. He did that in the semifinals and finals. He played some incredible basketball.
"LaJuan (Doss) carried us through the regionals, and Deion stepped up big in the finals, just like LaJuan did."
Curry had 16 of his 20 points in the second half Tuesday in a 65-57 victory against Keith in the state semifinals. He followed that up with a 22-point effort against Cedar Bluff. His free-throw shooting (12 of 21) was the only thing that could have prevented the Tornadoes from taking the title.
But just as he has done the past two seasons, Curry made up for what he didn''t do by doing plenty of other things. He was a terror in the Tornadoes'' defense, and he was even tougher to guard from 15 feet in.
Wallace admits Curry, who signed a scholarship last week to play football at Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C., isn''t as polished a basketball player as other members of the team. But he said Curry has a "motor" that never stops. He complemented that attacking mentality this season with a team-first approach that bonded a chemistry that drove the Tornadoes through all comers, including some of the state''s top Class 6A schools, and back to Birmingham.
"In the 10th grade, me and Deion were like oil and water," Wallace said. "His mentality and attitude didn''t mesh with mine. Junior year, about halfway through the year, and at the end of the year I think he understood me a lot better and I understood him a lot better. I don''t know what it was. I had to get on him, and he didn''t like what I was getting on him about, but I think he finally understood I had his best interests at heart and I wanted to see him succeed.
"We just met in the middle. This year, we had a couple of times we have kind of jawed at each other, but it has been over with just like that because we both have kind of found a mutual respect for each other. It has shown. He has been a lot more mature this year in how he has said things and done things. Everything out of his mouth has been team-oriented and not me, me, me. I think it has carried over and affected the rest of his team."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
2. Schaefer, Stuedeman travel to promote respective programs COLLEGE SPORTS