download Audible Rising Above: How 11 Athletes Overcame Challenges in Their Youth to Become StarsAuthor Gregory Zuckerman –

Stephen CurryThere wasnt a single college willing to give Stephen Curry a chance His dream of playing professional basketball seemed a long shot A really long shotIt was , and Stephen was a high school sopho His father had played pro basketball and been a star Steph grew up in North Carolina, close to some of the best college programs in the country, an ideal place to showcase his talent for top NCAA programs And Steph had passion for basketball, an accurate shot, and a hunger to make it to the NBABut no one took Stephen very seriously He kept hearing how he was too tiny and skinny to play Division I basketball, the top collegiate level The NBA seemed truly out of the question It didnt help that Steph had a boyish look, making him appear even younger than his seventeen years Big name schools kept passing on Steph, figuring he couldnt contribute much to their basketball programsThose were the schools that actually knew Steph existed Most of the best coaches hadnt even heard of Steph they sure werent going to recruit him or offer him a scholarshipI dont even remember seeing him during his college recruitment process , says Roy Williams, the legendary University of North Carolina coach I do know when I did see him I thought, Man, he is littleEarlier in life, Steph seemed to have a lot going for him Stephs father, Dell Curry, had been a first round draft pick whod played sixteen years in the NBA for five different teams A six foot four shooting guard, Dell had retired from the NBA after a long career and remains the Charlotte Bobcats all time leading scorer and three point shooter Stephs mother, Sonya, had been both a basketball and volleyball state champion in high school and played varsity volleyball in collegeWith such a rich athletic tradition in his family, Stephen played and enjoyed a lot of different sports growing up But basketball was his first loveI was a competitive guy, Steph said in an interview on ESPN, but something about basketball and doing what your dad did made basketballof a drawHaving a father in the NBA was a thrill, and Steph grew up admiring his dad and his skills on the court His mother wouldnt let him go to Charlottes games on school nights, though, worried hed be exhausted the next day and unable to concentrate on his studies So on weekends, Steph and his younger brother, Seth, attended as many of their fathers games as they could It was exciting seeing the best NBA players up close it was evenfun watching their father compete against them Steph and Seth sometimes even got to shoot with Charlotte players during pregame warm upsIn eighth grade, Steph decided to dedicate himself to basketball, determined to follow in his fathers footsteps He began practicing year round, committing himself to do whatever it took, whatever was necessary, to play in college, he saysBy the time Steph was a sopho in high school, however, he ran into an imposing roadblock He was just too small Steph stood five foot six and weighed in at a scrawnypoundsOn every team he ever played on, he was the smallest guy, his father saysSteph was so frail that he had to begin his shooting motion well below his waist because he lacked the strength to raise the ball and shoot it from above his head Stephs father knew there was no way his son could play college ball if he didnt change his approach Shooting from below the waist makes it far too easy for a defender to swat the ball away Dell knew college coaches would never recruit a player with that kind of shooting formOne day, Dell came to Steph to deliver some unsolicited adviceIf you want to play in college, Dell said, youre going to have to bring the ball up and get it above your headSteph was happy with his shot and wasnt sure he needed to make such a dramatic shift But he eventually understood he had to transform his game if he wanted to play with bigger and better players, as his father told himGiven his size, the NBA seemed completely out of the question for Steph, but he still wanted to play college ball, so he agreed to let his father tutor him Steph took the summer off from his usual activities, even from playing pickup basketball games, to focus on reinventing his jump shotHe didnt realize how difficult the process would be All summer long, he and his father practiced and practiced on a hoop in their backyard But Steph didnt seem to make much progress Some nights he ended up in tearsIt was tough for me to watch them in the backyard, late nights and a lot of hours during the day, working on the shot, Seth, Stephs younger brother, told ESPN They broke it down to the point where he couldnt even shoot at all He had to do rep after rep after rep to the point where he was able to master itThat was a tough summer for him, Dell agreesSteph worked with his father on changing his release point and moving the ball above his head in order to make his shots harder for rivals to block Steph wasnt very muscular, so it was hard making the transition But eventually the lessons kicked in, and he began to master the above the head shotAs they practiced, Dell and Steph developed a unique approach that made his shot both quick and accurate When most players learn to shoot, theyre taught to release the ball as they reach the highest point of their jump But Steph was learning to shoot on the way up, when he wasnt very far off the ground By shooting as he was jumping, rather than at the top of his jump like most people did, Steph could release the ball lightning quick, in as little asseconds That quick shot technique would give him an advantage over defenders the rest of his lifeShooting on the way up rather than at the top of his jump also enabled Stephs shot to take the form of a sharp arc, like a rainbow, making it much easier to swish through the net Unlike everyone else, Stephs shots came in on a high angle, as if they were on a steep, downward slope to the opening of the basket It was a distinctive approach he has maintained,or less the same, throughout his playing career, according to the Wall Street JournalBack at school for his junior year, Stephs hard work began to pay off That year, he averaged nearly twenty points a game It also helped that he had a late growth spurt By the time he graduated high school, Steph was six feet tall and weighedpounds Hed grown half a foot and gained thirty five pounds in two years Steph led his team to three conference titles and three play off appearances and was named an all state and all conference player his senior yearSteph seemed on the road to greatness and began envisioning himself playing for a nearby college power Growing up in Tar Heel country, you want to play for Duke, NC State, Carolina, Wake Forest, Steph saysYet none of those famed schools had any interest in Steph Recruiters thought he was too small and thin to excel at the collegiate level Steph was developing a sweet stroke from the outside, but he just didnt seem like someone who could create his own shots, deal with bigger defenders in his face, and play in college, at least at the Division I level Some overlooked high school players excel in Amateur Athletic Union leagues, gaining the attention of colleges through that route, but Steph wasnt an AAU star, eitherWhile most of the biggest schools had little interest in Steph, it made sense that his fathers alma mater, Virginia Tech, might be willing to offer him a spot on their team Dell had been one of the schools greatest basketball players after all And Virginia Tech doesnt usually go deep in NCAA tournaments, so the school often recruits high school players like Stephcapable and hardworking but with little chance of becoming NBA starsBut even Virginia Tech, which plays in the competitive Atlantic Coast Conference, decided Steph didnt deserve a scholarship The only way he could play on their team, the schools recruiters said, was if he walked on, or tried out and outplayed someone else to earn a place on the team They werent going to guarantee a spot for Steph and wouldnt offer him a scholarship, no matter what his father had done at the schoolI dont think he ever said it, Seth says But you could tell it hurt himSteph was disappointed, though he tried not to get discouraged, hoping a small school might give him a chance That summer, Steph focused on refining his game and improving his shot, using the brush offs as motivation The right college and coach will come, he told himselfSteph needed someone to believe in him He found that person in Bob McKillop, the coach of Davidson College, a tiny liberal arts school located twenty minutes north of Currys home Coach McKillop knew all the famous universities had passed on Steph, but he had a feeling they were making a big mistakeYet like other coaches and recruiters, Coach McKillop saw the deficiencies in Stephs gameHe looked thin, frail, and not strong, Coach McKillop saysThe coach knew something others didnt, though His son had played Little League baseball withSteph as a ten year old, and Coach McKillop got to know Steph, watching him on the field, game after game He continued to follow Steph closely in high school and knew Steph had special talentThats not what convinced him that Steph could be a star at Davidson, thoughYou could see the character, the poise, the work ethic, toughness, and resiliency, he saysCoach McKillop got in touch with Steph and tried to convince him to enroll at Davidson, offering him a full scholarship Sure, Davidson was tiny, with fewer than two thousands students and an average class of just fifteen The university was best known for its academics and hadnt won an NCAA tournament game since , let alone any major tournament But at Davidson, Coach McKillop insisted, Steph could be a difference maker, a player with immediate impact Trust me and the program, the coach told Steph Good things will happen, he assured StephSteph believed in himself and was confident he could enroll in afamous school and make the basketball team as a walk on But even if he managed to make a big time college team, Steph knew he likely wouldnt get much playing time Maybe a few minutes here or there in mop up duty at the end of a blowout Playing a minor role on a team wasnt what Steph was hoping for, howeverCoach McKillop was the first college coach to make Steph feel he was wanted and that he could excel in big time basketball With that in mind, Steph signed on to go to school at DavidsonI could have walked on at an ACC school, Steph says But I wanted the opportunity to playIn his very first collegiate game, Steph got the start at shooting guard, a sign of the confidence Coach McKillop had in himIt was a huge mistakeThe game was against favored Eastern Michigan on their campus, twenty minutes outside of Ann Arbor Curry and his Davidson teammates fell behind early and trailed by sixteen points at halftime, an early destruction By halftime, Steph had nine turnovers He would finish with a humiliating thirteen turnovers in totalIn the first half, Steph seemed truly out of his league in Division I basketball, just like the college coaches had predicted In one embarrassing play, Steph handled the ball in the backcourt with defenders swarming around him and lost his footing Slipping and falling to the court awkwardly, Steph flung the ball to a teammate, only to see an opposing player step in and knock it away The Eastern Michigan fans cheered wildly, celebrating the ugly mistake Davidson fans cringedAt halftime, even Stephs coach had second thoughts about him Im rethinking whether he belongs in the starting lineup, Coach McKillop remembers contemplatingIn spite of his reservations, Coach McKillop decided to leave Steph in for the second half, hoping he might settle down Smart move Almost immediately, Steph and his team began to rally Instead of acting discouraged or scared after the awful first half, Steph called for the ball, camping out on the three point line and begging teammates to feed him the rock Steph began knocking down threes, one after another, becomingconfident with each bucket He quieted the hostile crowd and led Davidson to an improbable comeback victoryIt was an early sign of Stephs self assurance and tenacityThe next night, against an evenimposing University of Michigan team, Steph really went off He scored thirty two points, dished out four assists and even snatched nine reboundsSteph finished his freshman year as the leading scorer in the Southern Conference, averagingpoints per game, second in the nation among freshman, just behind University of Texas forward Kevin Durant, the future NBA superstar Steph also broke the freshman season record for three point field goalsOne day that year, Coach McKillop spotted Stephs parents in the airport and walked over, making a prediction Your son will earn a lot of money playing this game one dayDell Curry was skeptical A great college shooter is one thing Making it at the pro level is a whole different ball game Even though hed had a late growth spurt, Steph was still short and slight, especially compared with guys in the NBA Guarding big, muscular players in the pros seemed improbable As far as Dell was concerned, Stephs chances of succeeding in the NBA, or even getting drafted by a team, werent very strong Coach McKillops prediction seemed foolishIm thinking, Yeah, maybe hell have a chance to play overseas, Dell Curry saysBut Steph kept growing, reaching six foot three inches by his sopho year in college And he continued to perfect his shot On March Steph and Davidson played in the NCAA tournament With his parents in the stands and a national audience glued to their television screens, Steph dropped an astounding forty points on Gonzaga University, shooting an astonishing eight for ten from the three point range, leading Davidson to its first NCAA mens basketball tournament win sinceTwo days later, Steph burned heavily favored Georgetown University, the nations eighth ranked team, for thirty points in another upset victoryHis parents watched from the stands, absolutely stunned Steph was evolving from a good player into a great one before their eyesCan you believe that Dell asked his wifeThey were so shocked they drove home from the game in silence, Stephs mother, Sonya, recallsDuring that years tournament, Steph became a household name around the country, becoming only the fourth player in history to average at least thirty points in his first four NCAA tournament games and leading Davidson to the Elite Eight, where the team lost to the top seeded and eventual champion Kansas JayhawksHe changed from him being Dells son to Dell being Stephs father, Seth saysStephs eye turning performance on the national stage had transformed the way he was viewed in the basketball world and beyond After the NCAA tournament ended, his parents saw up close how much Stephs life and career had transformed in just a few days At a Charlotte home game, they watched as fans mobbed Steph, as if he was a rock starThats how I knew things had changed, Sonya says From the Hardcover editionPraise for Rising Above ATeachermagazine Summer Reading List selectionA Milwaukee Journal SentinelSummer Reading List selection An easy pitch for middle school sports lovers School Library JournalThis collection of mini bios about athletes who overcame major obstaclespacks a powerful messageperseverance and passion pay offEven non sports fans will cheer for superstars like LeBron James and Stephen CurryTeacher So many of the obstacles that these athletes share are retold using personal interviews and primary source material that young readers will find very relatable Though the people chronicled are all athletes, their stories have morals that are easily transferred to life off the court or the field The highly relevant message is that no situation is too dire or insurmountable with the right attitude and that young people shouldn t allow setbacks to define them Booklist O ften inspiringThe underdog stories reveal that dedication and perseverance pay off, as well as that sports can serve as needed outlets and refuges Publishers Weekly I would rate this a it touch es your heart very often with the ways these athletes turn ed their lives aroundColorado Kids