by Will Stewart,, 8/5/96

It was announced this week that one of this year's new inductees to Tech's Sports Hall of Fame will be Dell Curry. There were three other inductees as well, but I'm not here to talk about them.....I'm here to talk about Dell.

Dell made it into the Hall on his first try (at least ten years must pass after an athlete's sports eligibility is finished before that athlete can be voted into the Hall), and he deserved to. If you never got to see Dell play in person, then that's too bad for you, because you missed one of the smoothest guys ever to flick a basketball in the goal from 25 feet out.

Tech's Biggest Recruit Ever?

Dell was a McDonald's High School All-American out of Fort Defiance High School in Grottoes, Virginia. There are only about 25 McDonald's HS All-Americans in the whole country, and in my mind, that makes Dell perhaps the most highly prized recruit ever at Virginia Tech, in any sport.

Dell played at Tech from 82-86, and he played on what I consider to be the most entertaining basketball team Tech has ever had. Dell's junior year, the Hokies fielded a team that included Al Young at point guard, Dell at shooting guard, Keith Colbert and Perry Young at forward, and Bobby Beecher at center. It was a treat beyond compare to watch those five guys play in the old Metro Conference (but that's another story).

The Guy Could Flat-out Shoot

Dell scored approximately 2250 career points, second only to Bimbo Coles, who had about 200 more. But Bimbo's record should have an asterisk beside it, because as we all know, Dell played before the three-point line became part of the college game. And while Bimbo almost never scored from behind the three-point line, well....Dell lived from about 22 feet out. Dell would have sneered at today's pitiful three-point line, because it's way too close for him.

Dell's shot was effortless. He didn't so much have a jump-shot as a "flick"-shot. Dell would pull up and casually fling the ball at the basket from what seemed like half court, without much arc on it, and swish! - the ball would go through the net, and Cassell Coliseum would roar. That was back when 10,000 fans routinely packed the house and made some serious noise.

I read one of the most fascinating things about that butter-smooth shot once. Legend had it that Dell didn't look at the basket when he shot. Instead, he would glance at the hoop to gauge the distance and angle, but when he actually shot, he would look at the ball as he released it. Personally, I think that was just a story that Dell would tell the media in the hopes that opponents like Keith Lee of Memphis State and Alton Lee Gipson of Florida State would read it and wet their pants.

Hitting One From the Turkey

Sure, the three-point line didn't exist back then, but Tech had something better painted on the floor of Cassell Coliseum: turkeys.

You know the stylized Gobbler silhouette that the Hokies used to use to symbolize their sports teams? Tech had four of those, about three feet across in size, painted on the basketball floor, two on each end. They were located on "the wings", about 25 feet away from the basket, and Dell always knew exactly where those things were. He also knew what it did to the crowd when he pulled up from one of the turkeys and hit a jumper.

Dell would always pick those moments perfectly. Memphis State would be in town, ranked number one in the country, as usual, and they would be battling Tech. It would be a critical point in the game, with the Hokies building a run, and Tech would wind up in a fast-break situation. Instead of taking the ball to the hoop, Al Young would dish it to Dell as the Hokies came across half court, and Dell would do it ... he would pull up and swish one from the turkey. The Cassell would erupt.

Johnny Fort, a highly regarded transfer from Iowa who never amounted to a hill of beans for Tech, did have one of the best quotes I've ever heard. Talking about Dell one time after a big victory, Fort gushed, "We all get excited when Dell hits one from the turkey."

Amen, Johnny.

On the Road at Memphis State, 1984

Perhaps the most remarkable performance Dell ever had was in a loss on the road at Memphis State when I was a freshman. I watched the game on a black-and-white 12-inch TV in my dorm room, and although the details are a bit fuzzy, I'll never forget the end of the game:

Memphis State was leading by 6 with about a minute to go, and the Hokies brought the ball up the floor. State's defense was suffocating, but Dell didn't notice. He pulled up his dribble 25 feet out, and using his patented quick release, he flicked the ball in the net. State up by 4.

Tech fouled, and Memphis State failed to score. The Hokies brought the ball down the floor again, and with State's defense stretched out to 25 feet, Dell sneered at them, pulled up from 30, and hit it. Swish. Memphis State by two.

Once again, Memphis State failed to score, and once again, the Hokies brought the ball down the court, time winding down on the clock. Al Young got it to Dell, and with Memphis State's defense in disarray, Dell pulled up again, this time from at least 35 feet out.

It was to be Tech's last shot of the game. Dell knew it was going in, his teammates knew it was going in, the TV announcers knew it was going in.... everybody knew it was going in.

Unfortunately, so did Memphis State's Keith Lee, the bane of Tech's mid-1980's basketball existence. Keith Lee was waiting for Dell, and although he didn't look like he was close enough to block it, when Dell went up, Lee went up, too. He stretched and extended himself as far as a human being can possibly go, and he blocked the shot. Barely. The buzzer sounded. Game over. The Hokies lost by two.

That was about 12 years ago folks, and I'm not going to whine and cry. I'm not going to talk about how the game would have gone to overtime if we'd had the three-point rule back then. But I will tell you this: if Keith Lee doesn't block it, that shot goes in, no question.

He's a Nice Guy, Too

Dell has since gone on to distinguish himself in the NBA, playing for the Utah Jazz, who were foolish enough to let him go, and the Charlotte Hornets. Dell deservedly won the NBA's Sixth-Man award in 1994 with the Hornets. But more importantly than that, Dell has been a class guy and a credit to the university the whole time. In fact, Dell and his wife donated $50,000 to Tech athletics a few years ago, a la Frank Beamer and Bruce Smith.

I had the good fortune to bump into Dell in the stands at a Tech-UVa football game in Charlottesville once. I wanted to talk to him, just say hello, but one of my drunk friends butted in, threw an arm around Dell, and screamed repeatedly, "Look at this guy! I LOVE this guy!" I was worried about what Dell would think about a total stranger being that obnoxious, but I guess I shouldn't have worried.

Dell merely smiled and said hello. He shook my buddy's hand, said "Thanks," and went on his way.


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