In April of 2011, I rated Aaric Murray as No. 1 on the wish list of big men. By earlier this year ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan noted Murray was seeking redemption in the SWAC and saying he wanted movie rights if Murray came back. The movie deal may be one step closer as Murray rebounded from his dismissal from West Virginia to play one of the best games of any big man in the past decade – scoring 48 points to lead his team to a stunning 90-89 upset of Temple.
That was more points than any big man (6-foot-10 or taller) had scored in over a decade, and he did it despite drawing constant attention from an excellent defense (Temple allows only 44.4% of opponents’ 2-point shots to be made), against one of the tallest teams in the country, and with no late easy points as Temple battled him hard in trying to rally against the double digit underdog Texas Southern.
When I wrote about him in April of 2011, it appeared his points at LaSalle against tough competition made him the best big man on the transfer list. He was projected to be one of the best 150 players out of 3500 based on projections at www.valueaddbasketball.com.
He chose West Virginia, but after sitting out 2012, he was suspended and eventually dismissed despite still registering as one of the top 300 players for the season at www.valueaddbasketball.com. He chose to transfer again to Texas Southern to play for Mike Davis, who landed there after his runs at Indiana and UAB in which he had success but clashed with University personnel. Murray was allowed to play these season – but in the worst conference in the Division 1 level according to the ratings at www.kenpom.com.
Brennan’s piece on ESPN referred to Murray seeking redemption at Texas Southern, calling him the classic archetype who was “talented but troubled.” He finished the piece by writing, “There’s something to admire there, and maybe something Murray can learn. And if something insane happens next spring, and the Mike Davis-Aaric Murray duo wins a game in the tournament or something, I call dibs on the movie rights. That’s legally binding, right?”
Movie Rights Coming?
Murray seems to have it back together. He scored 28 points against Stanford, the only other top 100 team Texas Southern played this year – and Tuesday’s performance was the fifth time he has scored at least 28 points in 11 games this season.
Murray has drawn double teams all year having to take 36.9 percent of the shots for a very poor Texas Southern team – the 7th most shots of any player in the country. Temple is one of the tallest teams in the country, and tried 6-foot-9 Anthony Lee along with some minutes from the 6-foot-10 duo of Jimmy McDonnell and Devontae Watson, but to no avail.
It was the second straight one-point loss for Temple, who fell to Texas in the game before the Longhorns stunned UNC Tuesday night.
But while Temple’s points came from the perimeter, Murray was so dominant that he did not a commit a single foul while showing all the tools that at one point made him look like a sure shot future NBA star. He hit 18 of 23 two-pointers, added 6 of 8 free throws and then went outside to hit two of five three-pointers – a very tough match-up at 6-foot-10 according to the ESPN box score.
With Temple’s defense fighting to come back, Murray fought to the rim to score and draw a foul with 3:37 to go, hitting the free throw after the final TV timeout to make it 81-74. The severely outmanned Texas Southern team struggled to hold on, leading only 83-82 until Murray drained a jumper while being fouled again with 57 seconds left.
When his teammate DeAngelo Scott missed a free throw with 47 seconds left, Murray fought through to put in the offensive rebound to make it 88-82 – ultimately giving them enough for the 90-89 thriller.
Hopefully this will not be another, “I could have been a champion” stories and Murray is ready to be productive in the NBA or elsewhere.