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On again

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
The question looms.

It will loom for JamesOn Curry at least until he starts burying heroic jump shots for the Bulls. It will loom until his thoroughly laid-back, countrified persona is as much a given on the global SkiPax registry as charitable considerations toward Sudan, Argentina and other points east, north, south and west. It will loom until another throbbing strain of New Player, Transgression Past arrives to meld into All Things, New Bulls.

And The Question is: What about the arrest, JamesOn?

''I expect that question to be asked,'' said the 6-3 rookie guard, a second-round pick in the NBA draft June 28. ''All the time I expect it to be asked, and I am just thankful that I can stand here with a clear head and try and be professional and answer it. And answer it in a good manner and not be disrespectful to anybody or anything. I have to keep trying to take the positive out of what happened.''

What happened, CliffsNotes version, is that Curry, now 21, got cracked for selling $95 worth of marijuana at age 17 to an undercover investigator posing as a fellow student at Eastern Alamance High School in Mebane, N.C. His transgressions -- one for $50, one for $45 -- occurred in the fall of his senior season, just as he was embarking on a final prep campaign that would make him the leading career scorer in the history of boys high school basketball in the state. He initially was charged with six felony counts -- three per deal -- involving possession, sale and intent to distribute the dreaded weed.

Sixty other students in the six-school district also were nailed in the sweep. Fifty-nine, including Curry, pleaded guilty to diminished charges and were given sentences that included fines, probation and community service. Two went to trial; one was found guilty and the other not guilty. Curry was encouraged by at least one area attorney to fight the charges with a defense hinged on entrapment. He and his parents, Leon and Connie, declined.

''Ironically, the whole sting began because of a simple survey sent to parents in the [school] district,'' said John Moon, Curry's coach at Eastern Alamance and an unshakable supporter. ''Parents were asked what they perceived as problems in the district, things like: 'Are facilities adequate?' 'What curriculums are we lacking?' And on and on. One question was, 'Do we have a drug problem at our schools?' Enough parents answered yes that the district superintendent went to the sheriff and asked him to investigate. The sheriff, a good man named Terry Johnson, organized a very thorough, professional investigation. That still doesn't mean that what happened didn't break a lot of hearts.''

Johnson enlisted six youthful-looking officers from outside law-enforcement agencies to staff his undercover probe. One was assigned to each school in the district encompassing Eastern Alamance. One of the six, at a sister school, was ''outed'' before his work was done, pre-empting the investigation at that institution. Curry wasn't so lucky.

''The story, never completely substantiated, was that the sheriff's department had its undercover man get video from a camera hidden in a book bag of the second sale by JamesOn because no one would believe it if they didn't,'' said Tom Boney Jr., the editor and publisher of the weekly Alamance News. ''When the news hit, it was astonishing, baffling, sad. He is without question one of the greatest athletes ever produced around here, and he was headed to [the University of North Carolina]. It was still hard to believe he was involved.''

Beyond the criminal-justice system, equally hard for Curry and his family was the collateral damage from his arrest. Roy Williams, the incoming coach at North Carolina, eventually rescinded his scholarship offer. Curry was expelled from Eastern Alamance -- capping his four-year career with 3,307 points -- and compelled to finish high school with other accused students at an alternative school in nearby Burlington. Plans to retire his jersey number were canceled. He was forbidden from attending the Eastern Alamance senior prom.

''And,'' father Leon told media, ''we cried so much, our little white house could have floated away.''

That little white house -- in fact, a mobile home that sits on a tobacco farm owned by Connie Curry's family -- was brightened later in the spring of 2004 when Eddie Sutton and his second-chance ranchers at Oklahoma State came calling with a scholarship offer. Curry accepted. By January, he was embedded in a Cowboys starting lineup alongside Final Four veterans John Lucas III, Joey Graham and Ivan McFarlin.

Curry's high-water mark in Stillwater was a run to the Sweet 16 in the 2005 NCAA tournament. The transitting Cowboys finished with National Invitation Tournament bids in 2006 and 2007. He ended his three-year stay with 1,363 points (13.5 per game) and a three-point percentage of .404.

''I don't think there is much question John Paxson and the Bulls made a very good choice getting JamesOn [with the 51st pick in the draft],'' said John Lucas II, the former NBA head coach and father of Curry's original running mate in the Oklahoma State backcourt. ''He has a major-league ability to score points, passes the ball very well and is an underrated defender. If he has any weakness -- and it's one he can work on -- it's that his ballhandling can be suspect. He reminds me of a Rip Hamilton-type, although I think his upside is better than Rip Hamilton's.''

Said Moon: ''Mechanically, I don't think you have ever seen as near-perfect a jump shot as JamesOn's. It's that good. He is a gym rat, and he and his father worked on it endlessly. I will go way back in NBA history and say that the last NBA jump shot I saw with such near-perfect mechanics was when Geoff Petrie was playing for the Portland Trail Blazers.''

So even if The Question still looms, so does the possibility of An Enduring Answer, a career in the NBA. As silent testament toward hope of that redemption completed, Curry wears a tattoo on his left biceps bearing words from Psalm 71: 20:

Though You have made me see troubles

Many and bitter

You will restore my life again

''It is a blessing simply to be here,'' Curry said. ''Now I am ready to work.''

News Hawk- User 420 MAGAZINE ® - Medical Marijuana Publication & Social Networking
Source: Sun-Times
Contact: jodonnell@suntimes.com
Copyright: 2007 Sun-Times News Group
Website: On again :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Bulls
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