March 5, 1998
If any Cavalier has known the range of emotions on the basketball court this year, it is a senior guard Curtis Staples.
For Staples, the 1997-98 season began with a stellar performance on the gold-medal winning U.S. squad in the World University Games, which won all six of its games in Italy last summer.
Flash forward nine months later and Staples is in the Virginia locker room, trying to encourage his teammates after a disappointing six-game losing streak.
"It's definitely frustrating. There's been some ups and downs for me." Staples said. "You want to have some big wins and help this team turn around, but we can't quite get over the hump."
Virginia coaches and teammates say it is in character for Staples to be more concerned about the progress of the team just as he nears a possible moment of individual glory.
The 6-3 marksman from Roanoke is closing in on the all-time NCAA record for 3-pointers. He had 396 through Feb. 14 to rank third on the all-time list, 13 behind pace-setter Keith Veney with at least six games left.
Staples has been firing at an even more proficient clip than usual lately, averaging more than six treys per game in five contests through Feb. 11.
But to him, those records are secondary to the performance of the team in his final season as a Cavalier.
"When you lose, some of the guys [on the team] lose confidence also, so my job is to keep pumping them up, and just try to learn some- thing from every game, win or lose," Staples said.
Said sophomore center Colin Ducharme: "That's Curtis. My heart goes out to him. He's coming down on the end of his career here and he's concerned about the rest of us."
Staples came to Charlottesville in 1994 with a reputation for perimeter accuracy. He shot 55.1 percent from the field and 48.0 percent from three-point range as a senior to help lead Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va. to the top of the final USA Today college basketball poll.
Cavalier fans found out quickly that Staples came as advertised. As a freshman, he set a school record for 3-pointers with 103-he eclipsed that mark this year-despite not starting until the 25th game of the season.
He averaged 14.0 points as a sophomore and 13.9 points as a junior before stepping up his game even further this season. He was the fifth-leading scorer in the conference through mid-February.
But pure numbers obscure the excitement of some of his rat-a-tat outings:
1. Staples had nine 3-pointers, including six in the first half, against UNLV as a freshman. He repeated the nine-trey showing against Georgia Tech Feb. 14 in scoring a career-high 31 points.
2. His seven steals against Tennessee-Martin in 1995 ties the Cavalier record.
3. He held top-ranked North Carolina in check for a half earlier this year, hitting six of eight treys at one stage.
"I didn't think Curtis Staples would ever miss a shot," exclaimed UNC coach Bill Guthridge. "He was great."
If there is a criticism of Staples, it is that he is too reliant on the three-pointers. About 75 percent of his shots come from behind the arc, which is why he has tried to develop dribble penetration moves.
"I'm going to keep them guessing. I'm going to the basket a lot, and shooting the three, so I'm just going to keep them guessing. If they have to guess the whole time, they are less likely to stop me."
In the meantime, he would be delighted if the team can pull together for a strong finish.
"We need to just keep on plugging away at it. We're not far off. We're playing pretty good at times. It's my job to keep our spirits up," Staples said.
This story was written by Steven Johnson for Cavalier GameDay. It is reprinted with the permission of the University of Virginia Athletic Department and Virginia Sports Marketing.