Texas Southern senior forward Aaric Murray is now playing at his third college, with his move to the SWAC school being preceded by stops at La Salle and West Virginia. There’s no doubt that Murray possesses a lot of talent, but maturity issues shortened his stay at each of those first two schools.
On Wednesday night Murray led Texas Southern to a 90-89 win at Temple with 48 points and eight rebounds, with the point total a new high in college basketball this season. Murray’s career-high surpassed the 43 points Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky scored in a win over North Dakota on November 19. He shot 20-for-28 from the field, and he also set the Liacouras Center record for points scored in a game, eclipsing the 43 points scored by former Temple guard Lynn Greer in 2002.
Murray entered Wednesday’s game averaging 22.2 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per contest, and from a talent standpoint he’s the best player in the SWAC. Mike Davis’ team was the preseason pick to win the league after going 16-2 in conference play last season, with low APR numbers resulting in a postseason ban.
With Murray leading the way and forward Jose Rodriguez and guard Ray Penn also being double-digit scorers (forward DeAngelo Scott scored 15 points on Wednesday), the Tigers have the pieces needed to make good on the preseason promise.
With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.
Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.
“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”
Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.
As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.
Duke is coming off of a national championship but the roster will look almost completely different for the 2015-16 season. That means last season’s approach to things on the offensive and defensive end will have to change and head coach Mike Krzyzewski mentioned to reporters on Friday how the Blue Devils are still figuring some things out.
“We’re putting in a different offensive system, to personalize it for these guys,” Krzyzewski said to reporters. “And a different defensive system so that we can max out on the talents that they have.
“We’re really proud of our team. I think we’re going to be a really good team.”
Without Jahlil Okafor in the middle, Duke’s offense could shift to a mostly perimeter-oriented team, as the wing and guard depth is superior for this year’s group. Coach K and his staff making adjustments to schemes to fit personnel is a nice move from the Hall of Famer, as he’s done a better job in recent years of making adjustments like this after his stint with USA Basketball.
As the program moves on from Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Quinn Cook, it’ll be intriguing to see who emerges as a potential go-to offensive player early in the season and how Duke’s offense potentially evolves as the season wears on.