Former School: Illinois
New School: St. John’s
Years Remaining: Three
Recruiting Ranking: 47th
2021-22 Stats: 7.5 ppg/3.1 rpg/3.2 apg/19.3 mpg; 32.9%/17.6%/74.5%
Andre Curbelo burst onto the scene as a freshman at Illinois in 2020. The top 50 recruit made an immediate impact for the Illini, with his 9.1 points and 4.2 assists per game landing him on the Big Ten’s All-Freshman team. Curbelo recorded these numbers without starting a single game, earning him Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year as well.
He was poised to step into the starting lineup as a sophomore and help lead an Illinois team that opened the year at No. 11 in the AP. Unfortunately, things would not go as planned for Curbelo. A concussion suffered before the season kept him out of the opener, and he lasted only four games before neck pain caused him to sit out again. Curbelo went nearly two months before returning to the team, but he would not return to the starting lineup for the rest of the season.
By the time his sophomore year wrapped up, Curbelo played in only 19 games while averaging less time on the court than his freshman season. His numbers dipped across the board, with one exception - turnovers. Those jumped from 2.6 to 2.8 per game. Curbelo’s field goal percentage fell from 49.8 to 32.9.
After two years under Brad Underwood at Illinois, Curbelo opted to hit the transfer market and ended up picking St. John’s. The rising junior has no shortage of talent and has proven production in a power conference.
What’s His Game?
In one word, Andre Curbelo is aggressive. On offense, he’s always looking to push the ball towards the basket. On defense, he’s looking for steals and opportunities in transition. When he’s on his game, good things happen when Curbelo touches the ball.
As a freshman, Curbelo finished 1st in the Big Ten in assist rate per KenPom.com. His touch as a passer stands out, especially when navigating the pick and roll. He also has a good handle on the ball. Curbelo flashed ability to beat defenders with the ball and to use his tempo to create space.
Curbelo is a slick passer and adept at manipulating defenders in the pick-and-roll. He should help the St. John's offense in the half court there. pic.twitter.com/k5MyXplqlM— Matt St. Jean (@mattstdream) June 9, 2022
Unfortunately, Curbelo’s aggressiveness often got him into trouble. He had turnover rates of 25.4 and 26.7 percent in the past two seasons. No member of the Red Storm turned the ball over at that high of a rate last season.
Here's the Curbelo experience. A lost dribble turns into a basket. His aggressiveness can be a double-edged sword, but it works here. pic.twitter.com/EBULEk52u4— Matt St. Jean (@mattstdream) June 9, 2022
While Curbelo saved that play, things didn’t always turn out that favorably. Against Marquette, Curbelo turned the ball over twice in the final four minutes while the Illini scored just one point. One of those came on the final possession which handed Marquette the win.
He also got bothered by Marquette's ball pressure last year. Curbelo has averaged nearly 3 turnovers per game for his career. This turnover cost them the game at Marquette. pic.twitter.com/5Ao8Zq0HHe— Matt St. Jean (@mattstdream) June 9, 2022
When things are going well for him, Curbelo is an asset in transition. He’s crafty with the ball in space and not afraid of taller defenders. In Mike Anderson’s high-paced system, he should see a lot more of those opportunities. Hopefully that can bring back the shooting touch Curbelo showed as a freshman, when he was in the top 25 of the Big Ten in two-point and free throw shooting percentages.
Curbelo is very good at weaving through traffic to find open looks for himself. He's quick, and he knows how to adjust his tempo to keep defenders off balance.— Matt St. Jean (@mattstdream) June 9, 2022
Also, look at the time and score here. Curbelo is not afraid of big moments. pic.twitter.com/fydphBFJvT
Curbelo’s defense will help create those opportunities. His quick hands help him make plays on the ball, and his awareness and athleticism let him make plays away from it. He will be encouraged to make those plays under Mike Anderson.
Curbelo can get up as well. Here's a block on Marquette's Kur Kuath where he flies in from off the ball. pic.twitter.com/IqFzNLfXX3— Matt St. Jean (@mattstdream) June 9, 2022
What’s His Role?
Curbelo should be the starting point guard in Queens next year, with Posh Alexander and Dylan Addae-Wusu joining him in the back court. Those three should form a dynamic group if Curbelo gets up to speed. It’s a trio that could cause havoc for opponents at either end of the floor.
For the trio to succeed, Curbelo needs to learn his own limits. St. John’s turned the ball over more than most teams last year, and that’s a problem that will only get worse should Curbelo face the same issues as a ball handler he had at Illinois.
Curbelo also will not help St. John’s spread the floor. With his career numbers of 11-65 from deep, he won’t help boost a perimeter offense that was in the middle of the pack in the Big East last year.
It’s clear that Curbelo’s game needs refinement. Most seem to believe last year was an anomaly brought about by injuries. If that is that case, Curbelo could see the sophomore leap a year late. If not, the Red Storm could have a back court with turnover issues and inefficient shooting.