The Southern Conference is celebrating its 100th year of basketball, and though it has been a strange season, COVID-19 has surprisingly not compromised the quality of basketball played in the league.
That’s a tip of the cap to players like Storm Murphy, who has helped the Terriers exceed preseason expectations to this point. They were picked fifth by the media and coaches, but currently sit second overall in the league’s standings with two weeks to play.
Murphy finds himself among several outstanding point guards in the league, with the likes of reigning league player of the year Isaiah Miller at UNC Greensboro, Alex Hunter at Furman, and Neftali Alvarez at Mercer. Over the summer, Wofford head coach Jay McAuley called him a “silent killer.”
If you have seen Murphy play, then you know that’s a spot-on assessment. Murphy has been known to make clutch shots throughout his career, including in his sophomore season, when he helped the Terriers to wins over Samford and Furman. That season saw Wofford run the table in conference play and defeat Seton Hall in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament.
As with any program that develops talent and extends tradition like Wofford does, it’s all about learning in the process and waiting your turn to become a leader. Even though Murphy has been a factor from the outset of his career, it wasn’t until this year that he became Wofford’s floor leader, along with fellow backcourt mate and senior Tray Hollowell.
“I’ve learned a lot over the years as to what it takes to be a leader, and there’s been great leaders before me that I have learned from,” Murphy said. “This year I’ve had more of a leadership role and have been t more of a vocal leader and been more of a leader by example.”
Now two years removed from that remarkable NCAA Tournament journey, Murphy is busy trying to lead another one. To do that, the Terriers, who are 12-8 overall and 9-5 in SoCon play, will need some help along the way. Winning out will guarantee Wofford no worse than a second-place finish.
Heading into the weekend, the senior guard from Middleton, Wisconsin is a candidate for SoCon Player of the Year honors, having scored in double figures in 18 of 21 games this season. He ranks fifth in the league in points per game (18.0 PPG), fourth in assists (4.5 APG), seventh in field goal percentage (.476), second in free throw percentage (87.2%), sixth in three-point field goal percentage (40.5%), third in three-pointers made (62/3.0 PG), fourth in minutes played (34.8 MPG) and eighth in assist-turnover ratio (1.6).
He also ranks ninth in program history in three-pointers made (213) and is tied for fourth in free throw percentage (85.9). He is the active leader in the SoCon in assists and ranks fifth in school history in the category (453).
Murphy’s words paint a full picture of what student-athletes are going through just to play this season.
“I think for our team and for me as well a big key is going to be focus,” he said. “This whole stretch, it can be kind of difficult to have real positive, energetic days in practice and have that type of swagger going into games sometimes, and so and we don’t want the season to take a toll on us and I think the biggest thing we have to stay focused on is the joy of just playing the game.”
Wofford takes confidence and swagger from its star guard. Murphy is well-versed on Wofford’s March tradition because he’s lived it.
“We just need to remember what Wofford is and what Wofford is built on,” he said. “It’s a winning program that always succeeds in [SoCon Tournament host city] Asheville and we want to take that momentum and pride and swagger with us.”