The finality started setting in for Brandyn Curry just before Harvard went on a four-game road trip.
He looked at the schedule and realized that once the Crimson came back he would have to brace himself for his last two games on his home floor.
He put it in the back of his mind as Harvard rattled off four straight road wins. Between ending a 24-year drought at Princeton’s Jadwin Gymnasium and reclaiming sole possession of first place in the Ivy, there was enough to keep him preoccupied.
But when Harvard hosts Cornell Friday at Lavietes, it will be impossible for Curry not to think about the entire scope of his time at Harvard.
“It kind of hasn’t hit me yet,” Curry said. “I kind of don’t want to think about it. Like, ‘It’s the last time I’m going to suit up and play here in Lavietes.’ It’s definitely going to be a special moment.”
In a lot of ways, Curry feels like his last season is just getting started. An ankle injury forced him to sit out nine of the first 11 games.
He’s played in just 17 of 26 games this season, but he’s been a constant boost off the bench, averaging 9.5 points, 2.9 assists and 2.8 rebounds a game.
“We can only put five out there to start, but he’s a starter in our program,” coach Tommy Amaker said. “Giving us senior leadership, giving scoring, toughness and all the things that you would expect out of a veteran senior guard, he does it.”
He’s scored in double digits in three of his last five, peaking as the Crimson try to close out their fourth straight Ivy League title.
“I feel really good, I feel really fresh,” Curry said. “I think having that month off helped me, because I feel like I’m in midseason form right now towards the end. I’m feeling great, so I’m ready to wrap this thing up and keep going.’’
Initially, he thought he would only be out a game. But after talking with team trainers, he ended up missing nearly a month.
“I had a very good game at Holy Cross, I did very well and was looking forward to doing well the next couple games and that kind of just came out of nowhere,” Curry said. “It was bothering me a little bit, but that’s when I really just couldn’t walk on it after.”
It wasn’t the way he envisioned the season going.
Last season, Curry sat out the entire year along with senior forward Kyle Casey after their involvement in a university-wide cheating scandal forced them to withdraw from school. Several Harvard athletes were involved, but Curry and Casey were the most identifiable. When they go on the road — for instance to Penn, where fans made taunting banners about the scandal, or Princeton, where they were heckled from the student section — they still are.
Amaker said he was as pleased with Curry for the way he handled it as he is for the way he’s played since returning.
“I’m incredibly proud of those guys for what they had to endure and how they handled it,” Amaker said. “How in a lot of ways they became the face of it for everybody, for so many students who never were recognized [as being] involved or never were recognized with names and faces or anything. We’ve had to handle that and I thought those guys were magnificent with it, and I’m proud that they’re in the position they’re in right now in their final year because this is what they wanted to return to do — to be in a position like this.”
When he came back, Curry was voted captain by his teammates.
“There’s no one more respected that Brandyn if he’s not the most respected,” Amaker said.
After missing a season, missing a month seemed small.
“I’m just glad to be here,” Curry said. “I’m just so grateful just to be a part of this university and to be able to play basketball period. I have much more of an appreciation for everything I have in my life because of what I had to go through. So being injured, it was unfortunate, but in the grand scheme of things it’s really not that big of a deal.”
Trying to get even
In his first season at UMass-Lowell, Pat Duquette’s done everything to make the River Hawks’ transition to Division 1 seamless. They’ve wrestled for position in the middle of the America East all season with a 9-18 record (7-8 in the league) and with a win Thursday night in their regular-season finale against last-place Maine, they could reach .500 in the conference. Part of the success stems from how well they’ve played on the road in conference. All four of their road wins this season have come against America East rivals . . . Meanwhile, Greg Herenda left UMass-Lowell last April for his first Division 1 head coaching job, at Fairleigh Dickinson. Turning around a program that had gone 26-96 the past four years (16-55 in the Northeast Conference) seemed like it would be a painstaking process, but Herenda’s already put together one of the best seasons in the program’s recent history. At 10-18 overall and 6-8 in the league, the Knights reached double-digit wins and clinched their first NEC tournament berth for the first time since the 2009-10 season . . . The race for the Patriot League couldn’t be tighter. Only two games separate Boston University, American and Holy Cross for the top three spots. On Wednesday, BU defeated an Army team that took them to overtime last month and Holy Cross beat struggling Loyola. Saturday’s game between the Terriers and the Crusaders will have implications if BU loses. After beating last-place Navy on Wednesday, American could steal a split of first-place with a win over Bucknell Saturday.Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.