December, 17 2017

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Far from home, former N.C. prep star shining

STILLWATER, Okla. � One bad decision was all it took, and JamesOn Curry went from being the star of stars in high school to finding himself without a college team.

Scoring more than 40 points a game, Curry was popular, successful and headed to North Carolina to play for the Tar Heels. Then he was caught in a drug sting at his high school, and it was all taken away.

He was kicked off the basketball team, his scholarship offer was rescinded, and other schools shied away, too.

But Oklahoma State came along to give him a second chance � and he's taking advantage of it.

The freshman guard from Mebane earned a spot in the starting lineup five games ago, and he has the Cowboys playing more like the team that made it to the Final Four a year ago.

Since the move, he's gone from averaging 5.8 points to scoring 14.2, he's shooting 65 percent from 3-point range, and the Cowboys have won five games in a row.

"I'm the type of player that I want to be in there," said Curry, 19. "I want to be in the game. I want that shot, I want that good pass, or I want that steal. I want to make that big play.

"I just have that attitude."

Curry set North Carolina's single-season scoring records for a freshman, sophomore and junior before breaking the career mark his senior year. He averaged 40.2 points and scored at least 25 in every game of his senior season before being dismissed following the drug bust.

At age 18, he was caught selling marijuana to an undercover police officer who had been posing as a student at Eastern Alamance High School. Dozens of students were charged in the drug sting.

Curry pleaded guilty to six felony drug counts on April 5, received three years of probation and was ordered to pay several fines and perform 200 hours of community service. Two days later, North Carolina coach Roy Williams rescinded his scholarship offer.

At first, no one showed an interest in the TROUBLED TEEN.

Then, Oklahoma State assistant James Dickey got a phone call from a friend asking about Curry.

"When the question was posed to me, 'Would you guys be interested in JamesOn Curry?,' I tried to temper my enthusiasm," Dickey said.

Oklahoma State had heard about Curry but never expected he'd be available. The 6-foot-3 guard had told his high school coach he didn't want to play for a school more than a two-hour drive from home � or one that forgot to capitalize the 'O' in his first name.

"The more we researched, the better sounding it was," Dickey said. "I think the theme from everyone was: terrific young man, outstanding basketball player."

Dickey and head coach-designate Sean Sutton went to visit with Curry and came back hoping he'd commit to Oklahoma State.

"After we made the trip to North Carolina, there was no doubt in our minds that we really wanted him," Dickey said. "We were really impressed."

Cowboys coaches talked to people who knew Curry and became comfortable trusting him in the program.

"The bottom line was he made a mistake as a young man. All of us have made mistakes," Dickey said. "He'll grow from that. He's past it, and we're going to move on and focus on the positive things."

And there are plenty of positives since Curry arrived in Stillwater. He surpassed his goal of at least a 3.25 grade-point average, was able to jell with a team that features seven seniors and has contributed more and more as the season progressed.

"I had to grow up fast because of my past and what happened," Curry said. "Coming here and being so far away, I had to grow up.

"I think there's no doubt coach (Eddie) Sutton would always be there and my teammates are always there, but it's nothing like your mom and dad."

Making the starting lineup is not enough for Curry. He has big plans.

"I want to be best player ever to come here," Curry said.

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