Improving Murray ‘in no rush’ to leave Morgantown after up-and-down junior season
Published: Monday, February 4, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 4, 2013 00:02
When Aaric Murray was sitting out last season after transferring to West Virginia from La Salle, he heard one constant message from a lot of people close to him.
"Just play in Morgantown for a year before moving on to bigger and better things in the NBA."
For a 6-foot-10, 245 pound center who can stretch the floor and had already emerged as one of the nation’s premier big men in his first two seasons in college, that wasn’t completely out of the question. But make no mistake about it, it put a lot of pressure on the junior.
"It was just a lot of weight on my shoulders coming into every game," he said. "You feel like you need to go out and perform like some kind of NBA prospect every night, and you start to press a little more. It was tough to stay focused."
And it showed early on in his first season with the Mountaineers.
Although he leads the team in points, rebounds and blocked shots, Murray has also lost a starting job and at one point was left at home while his teammates went to Brooklyn, N.Y., to take on then-No. 3 Michigan.
Throughout this roller coaster of a season, Murray learned those things everyone was telling him were wrong. He’s not ready to leave Morgantown just yet.
"I don’t want to leave like this," Murray said. "I’m not leaving like this.
"I definitely came here to have a great college career with Coach (Bob) Huggins and, as of right now, things are up and down. I’m not leaving like that ... I’m in no rush."
One of Murray’s toughest critics this season has been Huggins, who sees the potential his big man has to offer.
Murray is currently on his longest streak of double-digit scoring games of the season.
In the last three games, Murray has scored at least 10 points – including going for 17 points and seven rebounds as the Mountaineers nearly upset Kansas a week ago.
It was a game that, even though WVU came out on the losing end, Murray showed a little bit of his progress maturing as a player and handling when Huggins takes him out of games.
"He was miserable to start the (Kansas) game. Let’s be honest, he was terrible," Huggins said. "But to his credit, he came back and played pretty good and played with some enthusiasm.
"Earlier in the year, he wouldn’t have responded that way."
For Murray, the ability to do that came with the realization he needed to just focus on playing basketball, not the person on the sidelines, when he’s in the game.
"You can’t let Coach (Huggins) get to you if he’s yelling at you. You have to listen to the message and not how he’s saying it," Murray said. "I was listening to how he said it instead of what he was saying and getting frustrated and worrying about him instead of playing the game."
The Mountaineers’ victory against Texas Tech this weekend brought them back to just a game below .500 with a stretch of winnable games on the horizon for the next few weeks.
Now’s the time, he said, for WVU to start working toward getting back to the NCAA tournament for the sixth straight year.
"We’re still pushing to get to the NCAA tournament," he said. "It’s just frustrating to keep losing so much and having people that are counting on you feel like they should have never counted on you to do what you’re supposed to do.
"We get all this support from the West Virginia fans, and for us to come out and keep losing – it’s just embarrassing and frustrating."