Harvard's Curry hits stride down stretch

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Brandyn Curry was flying high.

Having sat out the entire 2012-13 season, after he was one of more than 100 Harvard students implicated in an academic cheating scandal, on the eve of the 2013-14 season the Crimson senior co-captain couldn't wait to get back on the court.

"I came back and I was feeling the best I ever felt," Curry said Monday, in the lounge at Lavietes. "I told numerous people, that was the best I ever felt health-wise, my basketball game, everything. I put a lot of work for those prior months. And then I had a very good game against Holy Cross, I felt like I played very well and I was looking forward to doing well in the next couple games and then that just kinda came out of nowhere."

"That" was a left Achilles injury, and just as Curry was starting his senior season it knocked him out again.

"It was definitely tough, because I thought I wasn't gonna be out that long," Curry said. "I thought I would maybe miss the MIT game and stuff like that, and then come to find out I was gonna have to take all those weeks off. So it definitely was very tough.

"But if anything I learned from last year that everything happens for a reason, and there's always some good in the face of adversity."

For Curry, who ended up missing nine of the team's first 11 games, the silver lining is that as the Crimson careen down the stretch of the Ivy League schedule his legs feel fresh.

He matched his season high with 17 points in Harvard's 59-47 win at Princeton, the first at Jadwin Gymnasium since 1989, and has hit double figures in points in three of his past five games.

"We don't come away with a victory, obviously, on Saturday without Brandyn," Crimson coach Tommy Amaker said. "I'm happy to see how well he's playing. He's in a very good rhythm right now and that's critical as we go down the stretch of this season."

Amaker calls Curry a sixth starter, making clear how high he holds him in regard.

"There's no maintenance with him, he's terrific," Amaker said. "He's everything that you could ask for and then some. ... There's no one more respected than Brandyn."

That respect was clear when his teammates voted Curry a co-captain, along with Laurent Rivard, despite the Huntersville, N.C., native not being on the team in 2012-13.

And it's only grown as the former starter and primary playmaker has seamlessly adapted to his new role off the bench.

"[He's been] giving us senior leadership, giving us scoring, toughness and all the things you would expect out of a veteran, senior guard, he does it," Amaker said.

Curry is averaging a career-high 9.5 points per game, 45.7 percent shooting and 37.5 percent shooting on 3s in 2013-14, and is averaging a career-low 2.9 assists per game as he has moved off the ball and ceded playmaking duties to Siyani Chambers and Wesley Saunders.

Harvard (22-4, 9-1 Ivy League) has a one-game lead over Yale with four games left in the regular season. The Crimson will celebrate their seniors this weekend, as Cornell (2-22, 1-9) and Columbia (17-10, 6-4) visit for the final two Harvard home games.

It has started to hit Curry that it will all be over soon.

"After our last home game, I was like, 'Damn, so we've got two more weeks, two away trips and then come back and it's our last home game,'" he said. "It kinda hasn't hit me yet, I kinda don't want it to. Think about it's the last time I'm gonna suit up and play here ...

"It's definitely gonna be a special moment. I've got some more family coming up and I'm just gonna enjoy it. I'm just gonna enjoy every minute of it."

Amaker has certainly enjoyed having Curry, and his teammates Matt Brown, Kyle Casey and Dee Giger -- who also sat out 2012-13 due to the academic scandal -- back this season. Though he wouldn't say it outright, Amaker clearly feels it's unfair that Casey and Curry have largely been identified as the poster boys of the incident, while others have gone mostly unnoticed.

"I'm incredibly proud of those guys for what they had to endure, and how they handled it and how in a lot of ways they became the face of it for everybody," Amaker said of Casey and Curry. "I thought those guys were magnificent with it. I'm proud of that and I'm proud they're in the position they're in right now in their final season. Because this is what they wanted to return to do, to be in a position like this."

Four games left with a one-game lead and a shot at a fourth straight Ivy League title -- there's nowhere else Curry and the Crimson would rather be.

"It was like, 'I already sat out. I missed a whole year,'" Curry said, explaining how he dealt with the frustration of being injured. "I'm just so grateful just to be a part of this university and be able to play basketball, period. I have much more of an appreciation for everything in my life because of what I had to go through.

"So being injured was unfortunate but it really wasn't that big of a deal."

Headed for the finish, Curry and the Crimson are flying high once again.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.