Murphy, Wofford hope to keep dream season alive

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
Former Middleton High School standout Storm Murphy helped Wofford earn the No. 7 seed in the Midwest Region./Photo submitted

Storm Murphy has always brought great passion, energy and vitality to the basketball court.

These days, Murphy brings the same liveliness to his interviews. And it’s easy to see why.

Murphy, a former Middleton High School standout who’s currently a sophomore point guard on Wofford’s men’s basketball team, has helped the Terriers produce the finest year in school history.

Wofford is 29-4 this season and has set a school record for wins. The Terriers have also won a school record 20 straight games and went a perfect 18-0 in the Southern Conference.

Wofford received a No. 7 seed in the Midwest Region of the NCAA Tournament — the highest seed in school history — and will meet 10th-seeded Seton Hall (20-13) Thursday at approximately 8:40 p.m. CST in Jacksonville, Fla.

Murphy, an endless ball of energy during his days at MHS, is bouncing off the walls again over the Terriers’ remarkable regular season and their chances for postseason success.

“The year has been awesome! Absolutely awesome,” Murphy said Monday night. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been a part of something so special. Our team is so close and we enjoy each other so much it feels like the year has flown by. In the offseason and early on in September we knew all the potential we had.

“We knew we were going to be good and knew we had many opportunities to prove that, but all that potential means nothing if you don’t put the work in. So we worked. We have worked incredibly hard day in and day out.”

That’s always been Murphy’s modus operandi.

He spent so much time in the gym during his MHS years it’s a wonder his mail wasn’t delivered there. Despite being generously listed at 6-feet and 180 pounds, Murphy willed himself into one of the best points guards in Wisconsin.

Murphy became Middleton’s all-time assist leader with 280 and finished his career with 1,094 points. Murphy was a first-team all-Big Eight Conference selection his final two seasons and earned honorable-mention all-state honors as a senior from the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association.

“Storm is a one-in-a-lifetime player with the highest overall skill set I have been privileged to see day in and day out,” Middleton coach Kevin Bavery said of Murphy.

To the surprise of no one, Murphy has found immediate success at Wofford, too.

Murphy started 29 of 34 games as a freshman where he averaged 6.3 points, 4.0 assists and 2.2 rebounds in 27.4 minutes per game. The Terriers also stunned the basketball world that season by upsetting North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C. and eventually reached the CIT Tournament.

Amazingly, things have gone even better in 2018-’19.

Murphy leads the team in assists (3.2), is fourth in scoring (8.0) and third in three-point field goals made (47). Murphy is shooting 50.8% from the floor, 48.5% from beyond the arc and 84.4% from the free throw line.

Murphy’s ability to set up Wofford standouts Fletcher Magee (20.5 ppg), Cameron Jackson (14.6) and Nathan Hoover (13.3) has gone a long in Wofford’s sensational season.

“I feel this season has gone really well personally,” Murphy said. “I have had a blast. Being a sophomore I’ve been able to step up into a little more of a leadership role. It’s been awesome having such great seniors on our team who lead by example and really push us. I feel I’ve tapped into that a little and know I will continue in the coming years.

“With guys like Fletcher Magee and Cameron Jackson on our team, a huge job of mine as the point guard is to get them the ball, execute the plays, and be the floor general. They also make it easier for me because they make shots! When teams key in on those two, things tend to open up for me. I’ve been more aggressive this year, but as I grow and get more opportunities down the line, I’ll have to step up even more.”

Wofford has stepped up as much as any mid-major in the country in recent seasons.

The Terriers have played a daunting out-of-conference schedule to get themselves ready for March.

Wofford defeated South Carolina of the Southeastern Conference, 81-61. The Terriers four losses have come against North Carolina, Oklahoma, Kansas and Mississippi State — four teams that all qualified for the NCAA Tournament.

“Playing teams like North Carolina, Kansas, South Carolina and Oklahoma … has definitely given us confidence, especially playing well against them and beating UNC last year and USC this year,” Murphy said. “Those games showed us where we needed to improve, but also showed us we can play with anyone in the country.”

The Terriers have showed that all season.

Wofford defeated reigning conference champion UNC Greensboro by 29 and 30 points. The Terriers also rolled through their league by an average of 16.9 points per game.

Wofford hasn’t lost since falling to Mississippi State on Dec. 19. And the Terriers jumped to No. 20 in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Polls, the program’s first-ever national ranking.

So selection Sunday was a day of celebration at Wofford.

“It was thrilling,” Murphy said of hearing Wofford’s name called. “As a kid you can only imagine what that feeling is like. It was pretty awesome to have so much of the community come out and support our team. To sit in those seats, watching our name get called, and knowing we’ll play in the greatest show on earth is pretty cool.”

Now, Murphy and the Terriers hope to make even more history.

Wofford is 0-4 all-time in the NCAA Tournament. The No. 7 seed attained by the Terriers, though, is the best seed given to a Southern Conference team since 1979.

Wofford meets 10th-seeded Seton Hall, which won four of its final five games and reached the Big East Conference finals before losing to defending NCAA champion Villanova. If Wofford wins there, a likely second round date with Kentucky awaits.

Murphy knows the Terriers will need to be at their best to make some noise this weekend. But Wofford has prepared all season for this moment, and can’t wait for its big opportunity.

“I feel great about our matchup with Seton Hall,” Murphy said. “I’m really excited. They have some great talent and play in a great conference, so it will definitely be a great game.

“Only one game exists right now and that’s the opportunity to play against a good team on Thursday night. Everything we’ve done this year is cool, but there’s a time in the future to celebrate all of that. We just have to have a great few days of practice, come ready to play, and enjoy this journey. I can’t wait!”

 

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