Sports Odd & Ends
Eric Curry was doing his job to help ensure the recent five-day, Big Ten women’s basketball tournament, held here for the first time, ran as smoothly as possible and provided a positive experience for everyone who attended.
The 24-year-old Memphis native and University of Minnesota grad is in his first year of a two-year Big Ten fellowship program, working in the commissioner’s office.
“I’m in the operations department,” explained Curry on his role working on the various sponsored league events. “That’s the football championship game [and] both basketball tournaments,” he added.
I almost did not recognize Curry as he and fellow former Gophers Kiera Buford, Lea B. Olsen, and Crystal Flint-Holloman ran a youth basketball clinic on the tournament’s second day at the Lifetime health club, downstairs in the Downtown basketball arena. Later, they all spoke to the youngsters on various topics, and Curry definitely has the experience to speak on the topic of perseverance.
He first came to campus as a highly touted recruit in 2016, but only played four seasons—he missed two seasons, 2017-18 and 2019-20—due to knee injuries.
Yet he recovered and finished his Gopher career last season—Ben Johnson’s first—with 104 games played and 25 starts, along with 555 points and 462 rebounds. His final collegiate game came at last March’s Big Ten tournament when he posted 10 points and a career-high six assists.
Curry also earned two degrees, a bachelor’s in communications studies and a master’s in youth development leadership. Now he’s hoping that his current internship will better prepare him for a post-athletic career.
“It’s a new journey for me,” admitted Curry, in his first season not playing basketball. “The only thing I’ve known all my life is basketball. So transitioning to the business side of sports has been amazing. It’s a great learning experience. It’s been amazing.”
Working in the league office, “I wanted to get on the other side of [basketball], see how everything goes on the other side of it,” said Curry. “I definitely would say it is preparing me…to get back into the basketball world and be on the business side of basketball as a GM or assistant GM one day.”
Reliford a top guard
New Hope native Jayla Reliford, a sophomore guard at Park (Ariz) University, was named honorable mention all-conference. The MSR featured her earlier this year when she led the nation in assists. Reliford finished third among the nation’s guards.
Black coaches recognized
About 20 coach-of-the-year awards this season have gone to Black men and women coaches: WBB—Billi Chambers (Iona), Niele Ivey (Notre Dame), Kim McNeill (East Carolina), Brenita Jackson (Texas Wesleyan), Jeff Cammon (LBSU), Terence McCutcheon (Catawba (NC) College); MBB—Shaka Smart (Marquette), Jerry Stackhouse (Vanderbilt), Rodney Terry (Texas), Larry Vickers (Norfolk State), Dennis Gates (Missouri), Jeff Capel (Pitt), Jerome Tang (Kansas State), Speedy Claxton (Hofstra). Chris Lowery, Northwestern assistant coach, was named Assistant Coach of the Year.
This year’s Big Ten WBB tournament held here in Minneapolis earlier this month set new highs for attendance, viewership and merchandise sales:
4,890 — record first-round session attendance
8,577 — record attendance for a quarterfinal session
9,375 — record attendance for a semifinal
9,505 — record attendance for a single session or game
47,923 — record total attendance over five days
11.6 percent— increase in tourney merchandise sales over last year
380,000 — record viewership of Iowa-Maryland semifinals
745,000 — record viewership of title game on ESPN platforms
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