CHADRON – The Chadron State College men’s basketball team has received a huge shot in the arm during its recent victory surge from one of the newer Eagles.
No, Chris Curtis, a 6-foot-4 multi-purpose player, is not a freshman. In fact, he’s a senior, but the first time he’d ever been to Nebraska was when he enrolled in classes in August.
Curtis, a native of Tustin, Calif., was a standout basketball player at Tustin High, which he estimates had about 300 students in his grade. He then attended nearby Orange Coast Community College, where he averaged about 11 points and four rebounds as a freshman and nearly 19 points and eight rebounds as a sophomore.
The latter stats were good enough to draw the attention of numerous recruiters. Among them was CSC coach Brent Bargen, but Charminade University in Hawaii made a better offer and Curtis went there in 2010-11.
He shot 47 percent from the field and averaged 7.3 points a game last season, but there were two coaching changes in a short period of time and he decided to return to the mainland to complete his basketball career and graduate.
Last spring when Bargen was searching for talent again, he placed another call to Orange Coast College. He connected with Ye Tran, a former Metro State assistant who is now an assistant at the California college. Tran didn’t recommend anyone from last year’s Orange Coast team, but noted that Curtis was looking to transfer. The CSC coach got back in touch with him and the rest is history.
Throughout the season, Curtis has played well. He’s averaging 11.6 points and 4.7 rebounds through 23 games.
But he’s shot 60.6 percent from the field and averaged 16.4 points the last nine games, and he really starred last weekend. That’s when the Eagles did what in the past has been impossible—sweep Metro State and Regis in Denver. It’s never happened since the Denver teams joined the RMAC in 1996.
In the two tilts, Curtis hit 17 of 25 field goal attempts, including four of five 3’s, made nine of 11 free throws, grabbed 14 rebounds and scored 47 points—24 against Metro and 23 against Regis.
“It’s kind of ironic that a former coach at Metro helped me make contact with Chris and he’s the one who led the way in beating Metro,” said Bargen, whose team has won eight of its last 10 games.
“He’s a good kid from a good home and has a big heart,” Bargen added. “He’s fit in well with the returning players and they have welcomed him to the team. We’ve got good chemistry, and that’s part of the reason why we’re winning some tough games.”
Curtis, a communications major who expects to graduate in another year, said there’s definitely a major change in his game since he was a high school and community college star.
“I’m finally playing a little defense,” he said. “My old coaches used to get on me about not playing good defense. I’m enjoying playing it now.”
Last Friday night against Metro State, Curtis was the Eagle’ defensive stopper. He was assigned to Metro’s top gun and the preseason RMAC Player of the Year, Reggie Evans.
The Roadrunners’ senior was limited to four field goals in 14 shots and nine points.
And, Bargen points out, a late 3-pointer that Evans hit came after a defensive switch and Curtis was guarding someone else at the time.
“Chris has definitely given us a big boost,” Bargen said. “He’s blended with the other seniors (Kevin McClelland, Christian McGhee and Moala Tautuaa) to give us great leadership.”