By JANIE McCAULEY AP Sports Writer
WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (AP) – Just like Steph, seventh-grader Amanda Kerner stood before a big crowd and knocked down shot after shot from five different spots on the court – 20 makes in 2 1/2 minutes, complete with a buzzer-beater.
For one afternoon, Stephen Curry ensured that 200 girls in his camp had as real a chance as possible to try to be a little bit like him, down to the fancy dribbling work and competitive shooting drills he does daily alongside Kevin Durant throughout the season.
Curry went nuts for Kerner’s success.
Her summer? Absolutely made.
“It was the best thing in my life that ever happened,” the 12-year-old said, recalling her thrilling moment. “He was jumping around afterward. He seemed really excited. He slammed the ball on the floor. He’s the best shooter in the world and I want to be like him, so to see him supporting girls, it’s really cool.”
For the first time, Curry hosted all girls for a free, Warriors-run camp Monday and Tuesday at Walnut Creek’s Ultimate Fieldhouse. Last week at the same facility that he has also chosen in recent years, the Golden State star held his Under Armour “Stephen Curry Select Camp” with two of the nation’s top high school girls playing mixed right in with the best boys.
The two-time MVP and father of two young daughters has made it his mission to better support the girls’ game. He asked longtime Warriors camp director Jeff Addiego to plan an all-girls session this summer.
That gesture goes a long way with everyone Curry influences as he takes a giving approach off the court in the offseason. After two straight NBA titles and three in four years, Curry easily could be spending more time at home with newborn son, Canon, working on his own skills, or even improving his golf game.
“Anytime you have a guy of Steph’s notoriety, his caliber of play, everything that he has going, to take the time to do this and do it for all girls, it just speaks volumes,” said Olympic gold medalist and former WNBA star Jennifer Azzi, who coached at the University of San Francisco and is now the NBA’s global director of special initiatives. “In my experience with the guys around the NBA, they’re very supportive of women, but for him to go the extra mile and do this, I think it means the world to young girls to see that caliber of NBA male is taking an interest in them. I think it’s really exciting, and really it’s not about gender. It’s about your passion for the game.”
After Kerner’s remarkable shooting performance, Curry brought her up in front of the other campers to talk about the triumph and then signed a pair of his custom shoes for her on the spot. She had been camper of the week at a session two years ago in San Ramon, so Kerner received an invite to this camp based on past participation.
“It was special,” Curry said. “We had four girls go through the shooting drill. They had to make two in a row from five spots around the court and back. The first three girls, two of them made it to the top of the key on the way back but didn’t make it all the way around. Amanda got up, she made her first four practice shots. I was worried she wasted all her makes in the practice, so when the actual competition started, the timer started, she made it around to the left wing and got a little cold and the time started ticking. It was kind of one of those photo finishes. She made eight in a row to finish off the last four spots and the last one was at the buzzer. So we had one girl finish the competition, which was a perfect way to end my segment, end the day at camp. And for Amanda, I know that’s probably a highlight that she’ll remember for a long time.”
When someone of Curry’s stature insists your shot is top-notch, it means everything.
So imagine how high school players Azzi Fudd and Cameron Brink felt about the high praise when they took part in Curry’s select camp as the first females to ever participate.
“It’s really cool that he’s saying that because he’s definitely one of the best shooters at least in my generation, and I’ve grown up watching him play,” said Fudd, who will be a high school sophomore at St. John’s in Washington, D.C.
Brink described herself as “completely humbled.”
It wasn’t only the star point guard noticing the girls’ shooting touch, either – Curry’s father, Dell, who is Brink’s godfather, and Warriors development coach Bruce Fraser, who works with Curry daily, brought them up as two of the best.
“We did a couple competition drills with all the campers and they were definitely in the top 10 in the first run through,” Curry said. “It’s a new look. Cameron is my god-sister and her being the No. 1 rising junior in the country is pretty crazy, and then you’ve got somebody that’s been touted in the Maya Moore category as well, so I think it’s a pretty cool dynamic to have them eager to learn and be around the guys and play and compete and push themselves in this atmosphere.”
Dell Curry loved watching the girls’ success, proud of his son for inviting them.
“He’s always trying to make this camp a little better and put a special touch to it, so having the two ladies here really does that,” Dell said.
Curry would motion to Brink to calm down when she was overcome by nerves: playing with boys, shooting a bigger ball, just the anxiety that came with the enormity of this moment.
“It’s been surreal,” said Brink’s mom, Michelle, who played at Virginia Tech where she met Dell and Sonya Curry, her college roommate.
Curry takes pride in having a Bay Area presence “to reach out to the next generation of basketball players from all different ages, all different skill levels, boys and girls.” His two daughters, Riley and Ryan, are impressed with the girls.
“To have an all-girls camp, one for me, it’s going to be an eye-opening experience to really truly understand the talent that’s out there on the basketball court for the next generation of women that are playing the game,” Curry said. “For me, I have two daughters that are excited just to find what they’re passionate about, what they’re interested in. So hopefully they’ll get inspired in that sense to see those girls that are a little older, a little bit more developed that enjoy playing the game and have such high skill levels.
“It’s been fun, just enjoying the opportunity. This is still very surreal to have a camp like this knowing that when I was in high school I probably wouldn’t have been invited to my own camp, so it’s pretty cool.”
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