Toure Murry is 15 assists from breaking a Wichita State basketball record that has stood for 44 years. It is held by one of my favorite Shockers, Warren Armstrong, who was a 6-foot-2 do-everything guard from 1965-68.
Armstrong dished out 429 assists in three seasons. He was a passer first, a rebounder second and a scorer third. He was the epitome of an all-around basketball player and Murry, who will play his final game in front of the Shocker faithful today at Koch Arena against Drake, is out of that mold.
The 6-4 Murry fooled us, too. When he hit game-winning three-point shots to beat Evansville and Missouri State during his freshman season, we all thought he was going to be a scorer and a long-range shooter. But Murry’s career has been about a lot more than putting the basketball through the hoop.
“Every season, I felt like I had to do something different to help my game,’’ he said. “My sophomore year, I became more of a defensive player and rebounder and I tried to polish those parts of my game as a junior. This season, I’m bringing it all together and showing my all-around game.’’
Pass, defend, rebound, shoot. Murry does them all.
He’s a big part of Wichita State’s successful transition game, which has produced so many easy baskets. He has even expressed himself more openly this season, coming out of his shell to lead not only by example, but also with verbage.
Most of the talk has centered on fellow seniors Garrett Stutz and Joe Ragland, and for good cause. Both have put together All-Missouri Valley Conference seasons. But Murry has had the best season of his career and will finish having played in more games, with more minutes, than any Shocker in history.
And he’s done so by bringing back one of the most forgotten shots in basketball — the mid-range jumper. That’s the area between the three-point line and the free-throw lane and it’s as desolate as the Sahara Desert.
In the days before the three-point line, there was acclaim to be made in the mid-range, but now players either want to take the three-pointer or get to the rim.
Murry isn’t like that. He has taken the fewest three-pointers of his career this season, instead focusing on pulling up for shorter jumpers and a higher percentage. If a path to the basket closes, Murry has another option.
“I don’t know when he decided that was his bread-and-butter,’’ WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “But I sure like the fact that he’s able to do it. Not too many players work on that shot in this day and age but I think Toure relishes that.’’
Murry relishes anything he can do to help Wichita State win games. He was not going to settle for anything less than the NCAA Tournament this season and it looks like he won’t have to.
“I think it all started after we won the NIT last season,’’ he said. “Our team went to Brazil over the summer and we were all on the same page. We made a promise to one another that we were going to stay in the gym and do whatever it took. We were a little upset that we didn’t get to the NCAA Tournament last season. We didn’t want to go to another NIT at all. We have a lot of seniors and this is our last chance, so we want to go out with a bang.’’
Murry, with games to play, ranks No. 11 on the Shockers’ career scoring list with 1,486 points and is just 59 points from moving past former Shocker guard Greg Carney into the top 10.
He will finish his career second to Jason Perez in steals, but it’s that assists record he really wants. When I talked to Murry, he was aware of how many he needed to tie Armstrong.
“That’s the one I’ve been eyeing lately,’’ Murry said. “(Ragland) has been playing at a really high level lately, so I’ve been trying to find him a lot. Somebody’s got to break that record, man.’’
Armstrong has nine more assists than former Shocker guard Bob Trogele, who played from 1975-79. Murry is just five behind Trogele.
“I made some big shots as a freshman and I think I kind of ran with that,’’ Murry said. “I tried to be the guy who hit the big shot every night and it kind of hurt me in some ways. But it also helped me with confidence, too. When the shot comes now, I still feel like I’m the guy to take it.’’
Murry’s not reluctant, though, to give up the basketball if a teammate has a better shot. In fact, that’s become his favorite thing.
“I like it when our guys feed off me and I like being that glue guy that everybody can count on to do the little things,’’ Murry said. “We have a great team and I just try to help my teammates as much as possible.’’
It’s been an interesting transformation. Murry started his Shocker career as Big Shot Toure. He’s finishing it as a well-rounded player whose only interest is finding the best way to help WSU win games.
Give Murry an extra few seconds of standing ovation when he’s introduced today before the Drake game. He’s earned it.