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VALLEY/VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Making Some Noise

Curry Starts New Era of Women's Basketball at Northridge

March 04, 1998|STEVE HENSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — It is a strange sound on a basketball court, used to the psychological advantage of the most extraordinary women's player at Cal State Northridge.

Cling. Clang. Cling. Clang.

Without the slightest hint of a smile, her eyes staring straight through her opponent, Edniesha Curry bounces the ball in a hypnotic cadence, hitting the same spot on the floor with each dribble.

Cling. Clang. Cling. Clang.

Curry has found a single circle of metal on the hardwood, the brass cover for a hole used to hold a volleyball net pole. The sound ceases and the opponent's heart sinks to the floor.

Curry is all motion, a dribble between her legs, now a cross-over, straight to the key, liftoff, a soft release and two points.

Ring in the new at Northridge.

The sound reverberates throughout the Big Sky Conference. Curry was voted all-conference and freshman of the year. She leads the Big Sky in scoring and three-point baskets, and ranks among the leaders in assists, steals, free throws, even rebounds.

The impact at Northridge (13-13, 9-7 and fourth in conference play) of the 5-foot-5 guard from Palmdale High is profound. This is a team that in the past six years was one of the most pathetic in Division I, lurching to a 21-138 record and never winning more than six games in a season.

The Matadors begin the Big Sky tournament Thursday at 5 p.m. against fifth-place Weber State at Montana.

Curry is one of six Matador freshmen, five of whom are among the top eight in playing time. In his third season, Coach Michael Abraham has maneuvered a dramatic U-turn, largely because he put Curry behind the wheel.

"She is tremendously creative and exuberant, a coach's player," Abraham said. "Eddie simply loves to play. She has exceeded my expectations and my expectations were high."

Abraham could hardly believe his good fortune when Curry committed to Northridge. She was not heavily recruited and somewhat unknown because, growing up in Palmdale, she lacked exposure.

"Too many coaches recruit from all-star lists in magazines," Abraham said. "Eddie didn't play on any high-profile travel teams, so she wasn't on those lists.

"In the end, she made a quick decision, decided this was a good place and didn't look back."

The greatest factor to Curry was the tireless recruiting of Abraham, whom she could tell believed in her from the start.

"I was surprised I wasn't getting attention from bigger schools, but stuff happens to every individual for a reason," Curry said. "Coach Michael and I became real good friends. It's a real close relationship and it helps my playing knowing that no matter what I do, he still respects me.

"He'll give me the green light. If we need a shot to win, he'll count on me."

Abraham temporarily forgot his go-to gal while drawing up a play for another player during a timeout with the game on the line against Portland State in the Matadors' Big Sky opener.

"I looked up from the clipboard and Eddie was glaring at me," Abraham said. "I changed the play right there. She knocked down a three-pointer and gave me a look like, 'I told you coach.' "

Northridge won, 62-57, and started 5-1 in the conference, making believers out of a team that had never known success.

"Edniesha gave this team a spark it needed, and we have all been open to that," said Tammie Mills, a senior who gladly moved from point guard to off guard to accommodate Curry.

Sometimes Curry, 18, needs a spark too. As willing as Abraham is to get her the ball when it counts, he can sit her down as well.

Two weeks ago at Weber State, Abraham pulled Curry early in the game and blasted her for not giving her best effort. She returned with 10 minutes to play in the first half and scored 36 points in a 62-60 victory, the highest scoring total of any Big Sky player this season.

It is on such occasions Abraham gets most effusive, comparing Curry favorably to the five guards he coached as an assistant at Long Beach State and Oregon State who now are professional players: Penny Toler and Trise Jackson of the Los Angeles Sparks, Dana Wilkerson of the Long Beach StingRays, Boky Vidic of the Atlanta Glory and Tanya Kostic of the Portland Power.

"I don't know if any in that group were more effective as a freshman than Eddie," Abraham said. "Especially under the circumstances she has had to play under. This was not a loaded team. She has pulled this team up by their bootstraps and showed them the way."

Although only one season into her college career, Curry does not hide her desire to eventually play professionally.

"We've missed that around here, a true dedication to be at a level above where they are now," Abraham said.

Even now, Curry's game is well-rounded. She leads the Big Sky with a 17.1 scoring average and is four short of the Big Sky record of 66 three-point baskets. She also leads the Matadors with 128 rebounds, 112 assists and 55 steals.

"I like defense and I guess I'm proudest of leading in rebounding," she said.

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