CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Eric Curry remembers his mother predicting he would get a standing ovation in his first game back in more than a year at Williams Arena last month.
That’s exactly what Gophers fans did Dec. 30 during a 71-53 victory over Mount St. Mary’s.
“I didn’t believe her,” said Curry, who missed last season and the first 12 games of this year because of injuries. “So I was just imagining her watching the game. It was going through my head that she’s probably crying.”
The 6-9 redshirt sophomore’s mother, Audrea Phipps, couldn’t be there that night, but she and other family members made the five-hour trip from Memphis to see Curry play Wednesday at Illinois. He had seven points and two rebounds in the Gophers’ 95-68 loss.
It was the first time she’d seen him play in person since the U’s 81-72 NCAA tournament loss to Middle Tennessee in Milwaukee in 2017.
“He keeps getting better and better,” Phipps said. “He worked hard and did everything they asked him to do. A lot of people don’t bounce back like him.”
Curry sat out last season because of torn ligaments and meniscus in his left knee, but he needed another surgery in October to repair cartilage damage from his previous injury. The original 4-to-6-week timetable for his return passed without him being fully cleared to play after his knee continue to have swelling.
It was the most adversity he had experienced in his career, but his mother helped him get through it from afar.
“She helped me out a lot,” Curry said. “She called me every day to check on me and make sure everything was all right. She was just a big part of my recovery process and my mind-set and my mental state.”
Through four games this season, Curry was averaging 3.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 18 minutes. He’s shown glimpses of the freshman who showed promise in 2016-17, when he averaged 5.5 points and 5.2 rebounds in 19.9 minutes as the Gophers went 24-10.
Curry made his season debut with four points and six rebounds in 17 minutes vs. Mount St. Mary’s off the bench. He had two points and five rebounds in 22 minutes in Minnesota’s last previous road game, a 59-52 victory at Wisconsin on Jan. 3.