BALTIMORE – Michael Murray has rung up some impressive statistics during his time as a member of the Coppin State University men’s basketball team.
The Coppin State senior forward has earned plenty of accolades during his marvelous career such as being named Mid-Eastern Athletic Player of the Week earlier this season, leading the conference in rebounding last year and being selected to all-MEAC preseason team.
However, while all of those awards, points and rebounds are nice, Murray, who currently leads the Eagles in scoring (15.0 points per game) and rebounding (6.3 rpg.), is most proud of one number, in particular: 3.916. That’s his grade point average, which fills Murray with pride and keeps a smile on his face. Murray is one of Coppin State’s best and brightest student-athletes.
He’s a gentleman off the court and a monster on it.
“I’ve always been academics first because I was told when I was younger that academics can take you further in life,” Murray said. “I’ve gotten progressively better in basketball as I’ve gotten older and I know there could some opportunities in the future, but academics have always been at the forefront of everything for me. I come from a family that doesn’t take any stuff when it comes to academics. Everybody in my family strives to be the best at what they do, but it all starts in the classroom and that’s something that’s always stuck with me.”
Fans will be able to see Murray and the Eagles at home pretty frequently during the month of February beginning tomorrow afternoon against Hampton University in a key MEAC clash beginning at 4:00 p.m. at the Physical Education Complex.
Coppin State will leave the state of Maryland once between now and the time the MEAC tournament commences next month. The Eagles play six of their final nine games at home. Two of the three remaining road contests are at Maryland-Eastern Shore and Morgan State. That’s a good thing for the Eagles, who travelled over 14,000 miles in the first two months of the season.
The Eagles (7-13 overall, 4-3 MEAC) are currently in sixth place in the conference. They know with a strong weekend especially coming off a 70-54 road win at North Carolina A&T in their last outing, the Eagles could generate some momentum. Something not lost on Murray.
“It’s a great opportunity for us right now,” Murray said. “We are a game and a half from being in the top of the conference. These games are very important for us. We need to play consistently on defense to put together a nice run. We’re capable of it. If we’re all in tune defensively, then I believe we’ll be alright. I know I came into the North Carolina A&T game with a defensive mindset and trying to help us win the rebounding battle.”
A Brooklyn, New York native, Murray has endured some bumps on the basketball court this season. He missed the first two weeks of the season with a fractured hand. When he returned to the line-up against Michigan and Gonzaga, Murray wasn’t in shape to battle the top-20 powers. Then because of his incredible versatility, the 6 foot, 5 inch Murray has been playing different positions during various games depending on the match-ups. There are times when Murray has played small forward, which is natural position, and then there are other times, where he’s been forced to play bigger and stronger players in the post as a power forward.
Yet, through it all, Murray hasn’t complained and continued to shine. If men’s basketball coach Ron “Fang” Mitchell asked Murray to get water, deliver statistics to media members during timeouts and mop the floor, Murray would do it without hesitation especially if it helps the Eagles earn another victory.
“The season has been up and down for me personally,” Murray said. “I just want to become more consistent. I’ve played the 3 and 4 this year. Sometimes when I’ve played the 3, I’ve been able to attack more than when I am playing four. I am learning to pick my spots and as long as we win then I am happy. I want to win at the end of the day, so I’ll do what’s necessary to win.”
Even with playing all over the court, Murray has enjoyed some sterling moments this season. He scored a career-high 28 points to help the Eagles beat Delaware State, 71-52, on Dec. 7. Four days later in a 91-71 victory over UMBC, Murray scored 21 points. He notched his first double-double (20 points, 14 rebounds) of the season in a 75-69 win over South Carolina State. For the season, Murray has scored in double figures 11 times and scored 20 or more points five times.
An example of Murray’s team-first attitude occurred two weeks in the first meeting against Hampton, a 71-68 CSU win. Murray finished with three rebounds and nine points. He didn’t care. Murray was super excited about the win although you probably wouldn’t have known from his facial reaction since he describes himself as a “chill individual.” Overall, Murray is having a blast this season for the Eagles despite the adversity he’s endured. He sees everything as a positive.
“It’s been great,” Murray said. “I’ve been told that versatility is always welcomed. People will really look at that. I am not mad at not playing a specific position. It’s been a learning process for me this year and I am learning something new each day. When I first came back from my broken hand, I didn’t feel as strong, but I am beginning to get back to 100 percent.”
Fortunately for Murray and the Eagles, he is not forced to be a one-man show for Coppin to have success. The Eagles have plenty of talent on the court. Guards Andre Armstrong (12.6 points per game) and Sterling Smith (10.6) average double figures. They have combined to make 70 3-pointers this season. Junior guard Taariq Cephas scores at a 9.8 point per game clip. Cephas also leads the Eagles with 81 assists. Arnold Fripp made a trio of 3-pointers against A&T.
Coppin State is looking for a season sweep against Hampton and Delaware State. Even though the Eagles beat both teams earlier this year, they know that doing it again will be tough and require even a greater level of focus and execution on defense.
Hampton has won its last two games after beating South Carolina State Monday night as sophomore forward Jervon Pressley led four Pirates in double figures with a season-high 14 points and six rebounds. Senior guard Ramon Mercado added 12 points, six rebounds, and three blocks – two of which were key late. It was Pressley’s first game at Hampton in double figures. Senior forward Du’Vaughn Maxwell added 11 points, and sophomore guard Ke’Ron Brown chipped in 10 points.
Meanwhile, Delaware State enters Saturday’s game at Morgan State with five straight losses. Kendall Gray was high scorer for the Hornets with 14 points and led all players with 12 rebounds. He also had four blocks to give him 12 in the last two games. Gray has a team-high six double-doubles this season. Casey Walker chipped in 13 points for the Hornets. He has reached double figures in scoring in each of the last eight games. Coppin State leads the all-time series against Delaware State, 42-22.
Following this two-game homestand, the Eagles will travel to UMES next Saturday, Feb. 8 before returning home to meet Morgan State on Monday, Feb. 10.