March 18, 2013

Heading south

Indiana in rear view, FSU ahead

By Devin Golden
devingolden@daltoncitizen.com

— Quaneisha McCurty thinks people doubt her now.

The former local basketball standout feels she hasn’t lived up to expectations — that, talent aside, the mental part of the sport has been her deficiency.

But she still talks about reaching the professional level. She still has the drive to lead her team in the NCAA tournament. And she hopes a new scenery is the fuse that will send her career up like a rising firework.

McCurty transferred to Florida State University last month after being indefinitely suspended from the Indiana University women’s basketball program. Just a sophomore, McCurty cannot play in a game for the Seminoles until the spring of 2014, and she’ll have two seasons left to turn her college career into an undeniable success.

“I’m taking everything one day at a time because it’s a new system and I’m adjusting to the change,” McCurty said in a phone interview this week with The Daily Citizen. “I think they’re going to play a big part in where I want to go in my career, whether it is the WNBA or overseas. Even if it’s not basketball, I feel Florida State will play a big part in what I want to do with my life.”

McCurty, a 6-foot, 6-inch forward who said she is studying either secondary education or sports management, played for three seasons at Northwest Whitfield High School and graduated from Dalton High. Originally from Chattanooga, McCurty moved to Tunnel Hill in the summer of 2007 and became a Lady Bruin starting with the next fall. As a freshman, she and Christy Robinson became the area’s best post duo. As a sophomore, she won The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Player of the Year award, scoring 13.9 points and grabbing  8.2 rebounds per game while leading the Lady Bruins to the Class 4A quarterfinals. She averaged 12.3 points and 7.1 rebounds in her junior season and Northwest reached the Class 4A state championship game, where the Lady bruins lost 65-45 to Southwest DeKalb.

After committing to the University of Louisville, she transferred to Dalton High for her senior season. The Lady Catamounts went 32-1 — including two wins against Northwest — and lost 62-50 in the Class 3A championship game to Washington County. McCurty averaged 16.5 points and 11 rebounds and made the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Class 3A All-State team.

A little after the season ended, McCurty committed to Indiana and carried with her some heavy expectations.

“I don’t think I have anything to prove,” she said. “I feel a lot of people will doubt me. I haven’t done as much in college as people thought I would.”

In an exhibition game her freshman year, she scored 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for a double-double against St. Ambrose. In the middle of the season, she was named the Big Ten Conference’s Freshman of the Week for the timespan of Dec. 27, 2011 to Jan. 2, 2012. In a win against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, she finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and five blocks. In a loss to Michigan State, she had five blocks and five points, but grabbed 10 rebounds.

Additionally that season, McCurty scored 20 points against Colorado State and grabbed 16 rebounds against Belmont. She appeared in 28 games and made five starts, but the Hoosiers finished 6-24 and did not reach the NCAA tournament.

After that freshman season, Indiana coach Felisha Legette-Jack, who had personally recruited McCurty at the Macon Coliseum when Dalton played in the state championship game, was fired. She was replaced less than three weeks later by Bowling Green coach Curt Miller.

After Miller’s hiring, McCurty’s playing time decreased dramatically.

In her sophomore season, McCurty had appeared in just 11 games and made only one start, averaging just 6.5 minutes per game. Miller announced McCurty’s suspension from the team on Dec. 21, and on Dec. 30, McCurty used her Twitter account to post, “Here I come Sunshine State! #Seminole.”

Just a few days later, Florida State announced her move to the Seminoles.

“She obviously has so much length that on the defensive end she poses a lot of problems,” Florida State coach Sue Semrau said. “Not only can she block shots but can alter people’s shots. What ‘Q’ brings there is really a special skill. Offensively her ability to run and her ability with the basketball. She has moves facing up and with her back to the basket.”

McCurty, saying “me and a couple of people know the actual reason,” did not wish to give the reasons for her suspension at Indiana. The Lady Hoosiers program never disclosed the reason. On her Twitter feed, she posted on Jan. 3, “its a long long story. Academics. So they say...”

“I don’t want to bash Indiana but they didn’t want me there anyway,” she added. “Me being young, I struggle with my emotions a lot. In the first two years, I learned to focus on the things I could control and let the coaches coach. I learned to open my ears and close my mouth. I’d rather mess up going 100 percent.

Indiana finished the 2012-2013 regular season 11-19, while Florida State finished 22-9 after a loss last Saturday to Duke in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Florida State held the No. 24 ranking and selections for the women’s NCAA tournament will be made tomorrow. However, McCurty will have to do something she never did during the state tournament runs in high school — watch from the sidelines. She is enrolled at her new collegiate home and is attending classes this semester but cannot play until she has a full year of residency at Florida State.

“I’ve changed a lot since I came to Florida State. I feel different already,” she said. “It’s tough not being able to play, but I know I have to work hard this whole year I have to sit out so we can try to get back to the tournament.”