By Fred Altieri
Culver City High was blessed the day Michelle Curry enrolled at the school in August of 2013. Mutually, she has been accepted, rewarded by and impressed with the school.
The time spent in her first and only year at Culver has flown by in meteoric fashion but what a lasting impression she will leave. Not only was Michelle the most dominant athlete in her sport, she is one of the most skilled athletes on campus and certainly should be the clear favorite for the student/athlete of the year award.
Michelle played center for the recently crowned 2014 CIF Southern Section Division 2AA champion Centaur girls basketball team. From the first Ocean League contest until the championship victory over Mira Costa High, she was "the" tour de force in every single game.
She dominated the backboards, dictated front-court defense, scored from an undaunted low-post, intimidated larger and taller players, hit textbook jumpers inside and outside the paint, split the seams with passes and led full-court breaks with a high rate of success. She unquestionably gave opposing coaches matchup nightmares at both ends of the court.
A senior who will graduate in this June, Michelle recalled her transformation and gave her thoughts on being a member and leader of the school's first CIF championship team for any athletic program since 1982:
"I chose to come to Culver High for a great education. I was hoping to play basketball but I came here for the education. My studies have been going pretty well. I actually pulled off and maintained a 3.0 GPA and was happy about that.
"Some of the adjustments I had to deal with were the school's population size and relationships with the teachers. I felt every teacher welcomed me and helped when I needed help. It was also a big adjustment socially. Aside from a few people I didn't know anyone here. It was raw.
"I learned basketball from my brother in the backyard. I then started to play school ball and my game developed more as I got into AAU ball. But I really learned in the backyard with my brother.
"When I started practicing with the team in September the style, coaching and players were different from my three years playing at St. Bernard High in Playa del Rey where we had four six-footers. We went to State and CIF. I learned a lot from that senior group my freshman year. They really helped me to develop and taught me a lot.
"I felt welcomed when I first joined the team here. The players accepted me, we adjusted to each other and there was good chemistry coming in. It was enhanced as we played more and more. We trusted each other, they helped work me in and I did the same for them. It was equal sharing.
"As a team we are very determined. The games have shown that we play with a lot of heart and we show a lot of passion in what we do. We don't focus on how other teams think and feel about us. We just play our game: box out, hustle for loose balls, get steals and don't let the size factor determine how the game is going to go.
"The biggest change to my game since I came here has been with my leadership skills. I feel like I've shown more leadership than in previous years probably because I know more now. I hear from other coaches: "She always has quiet leadership." It depends on the situation. I also talk when I see something that needs to be addressed.
"I'm determined to get the ball. I've always been a rebounder. I didn't shoot a lot during my freshman and sophomore years. I would always get my baskets off of my rebounds. That's where my rebounding skills developed from, put-backs and defensive boards. I've always been able to step up and play the role the team needs me to do.
"Coach Julian Anderson is calm but when he gets mad, he gets mad. He doesn't scream but when he uses that soft tone of voice we go: "Oh wow!" It's actually a more effective method than screaming. He's a very good coach and very knowledgeable. We definitely learn from his coaching. So this year I improved my basketball I.Q. skills and I'm reading the court better.
"I really like it here. I feel like I've gotten more social. I've never been that person who had go out there and just meet people because I always knew who was around me. At this school I had to meet new people. I wish I would have come here a tab bit earlier but I love it here. It's a cool place."