Gophers’ Eric Curry spends summer recovering, dreaming of another winning winter

Published 7:30 am Friday, July 13, 2018

By Marcus Fuller

Star Tribune

Eric Curry’s name comes up every time Richard Pitino looks back on how the Gophers achieved one of their big goals two seasons ago.

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“He was an extremely important part of our NCAA tournament team as a freshman,” Pitino said this summer.

Oozing potential in his first college basketball season, the 6-9, 235-pound Curry had Pitino and Gophers fans predicting a breakout sophomore year until a knee injury in a pickup game before Minnesota’s first fall practice sidelined him.

That was the first major blow for what became a disappointing 15-17 season.

Curry is not yet cleared for full contact, but he returned to practice in June for the first time since the injury. He’s on a conservative recovery path this summer, but the Memphis native hopes to again be a major contributor on an NCAA tournament team.

“It definitely motivates me to get back to that stage and get back to that NCAA tournament goal,” said Curry, who averaged 5.5 points and 5.2 rebounds in 19.9 minutes in 2016-17. “I’m just happy to be back on the court playing basketball again.”

Curry was an all-around performer as a freshman — making key rebounds, defensive stops and even big shots in several victories. Being that versatile and skilled at 6-9 makes him a special talent and NBA prospect.

“I definitely think Eric can be a pro,” said Vanderbilt transfer guard Payton Willis, who played with Curry on the Arkansas Wings AAU team in high school. “He’s a versatile big who can handle the ball and pass it very well. I think he can be a pro for sure if he keeps working.”

The Gophers often left All-Big Ten forward Jordan Murphy on an island to fend for himself in the paint last season. Curry should be there next season to provide plenty of aid for Murphy, and so will freshmen posts Daniel Oturu and Jarvis Omersa. Curry is ready to be a leader and help prepare the younger big men to play in the Big Ten right away like he did.

“I definitely wrapped my mind around [a leadership role], because of the incoming big men we have now,” Curry said. “[Oturu and Omersa] are probably going to be contributing a lot for us this year. I’m just trying to be there for them and help them out like people who were here for me.”

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