Gophers redshirt senior big man Eric Curry overcame several injuries to finish his career on the court this year, but he said Friday this will be his last season playing basketball.
The 6-foot-9 Memphis native is one of three players who will be honored Saturday on Senior Day vs. Rutgers, including transfer Brandon Johnson and walk-on Hunt Conroy.
The NCAA will allow athletes this season to return for an extra year of eligibility due to the pandemic. But Curry said that will not be something he considers. Neither will a future playing professional basketball.
"I guess I can kind of say it now," Curry told reporters on Friday's video conference call. "I don't plan on coming back next year. This is my last season playing basketball."
No player during Richard Pitino's eight seasons as Gophers coach has been through more adversity than Curry. He recovered from his third surgery and second major knee injury after missing last season following a torn right anterior cruciate ligament.
"I thought about it before the season began," Curry said about calling it quits after this year. "I just tried to give it my last run for the guys. I've been through a lot, everybody knows that. I came to peace with not playing basketball anymore."
Curry, who will have his mother and sister in attendance Saturday, has started the last three games for 7-foot junior center Liam Robbins, who is a game-time decision for Saturday vs. Rutgers due to an ankle injury.
“[Basketball] brought me to Minnesota from a kid who has been down south all my life. It gave me a new experience of the country. It made me so many connections, so I'm thankful for it.”
The Gophers' co-captain has played in all 26 games this year, which is Curry's first full season since his promising freshman year in 2016-17. He was forced to miss the entire 2017-18 season after tearing multiple ligaments and his meniscus in his left knee. He played 15 games during the 2018-19 season before having season-ending surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right foot, keeping him out of the team's run to the NCAA tournament second round.
Curry is the only player left on Minnesota's who played on Pitino's first NCAA tournament team in 2017, but now he is ready for the next step in his basketball career: coaching.
After receiving a bachelor's degree in communication studies, Curry is pursuing a master's degree in youth studies and development leadership. He hopes to be a graduate assistant somewhere next season.
"It brought me to Minnesota from a kid who has been down south all my life," Curry said on playing basketball. "It gave me a new experience of the country. It made me so many connections, so I'm thankful for it."
In 75 career games, Curry he averaged 4.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and started 12 games for the Gophers, but his leadership has been his biggest contribution in the last five seasons.
"He's fighting," Pitino said. "He's always been that way. Eric fights through so much. The biggest thing he has is a great attitude whenever he has adversity."
Pitino said his seniors will be honored on the court Saturday, but the video ceremony will be different because of COVID-19 precautions. There will only be family allowed as fans in attendance, but they can't join the players on the court before the game.
Unlike Curry, Johnson said he will strongly consider the NCAA's option to return next season, but he's trying to focus on finishing the year strong.
"It's definitely going to be different," said Johnson, who will have family in the crowd from Chicago. "It's also different on Senior [Day] knowing I have the ability to come back."