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West's Murphy makes name for himself on court

By BY WILL BROWN - WBROWN@VICAD.COM
Feb. 21, 2013 at 11:02 p.m.
Updated Feb. 20, 2013 at 8:21 p.m.

Victoria West's James Murphy gets a hug from his cousin, Bernard Murphy, 12, after the Warriors defeated Medina Valley 55-48 in Tuesday night's bi-district playoff game at Gonzales. Murphy scored 22 points and had four rebounds leading West over Media Valley.

Victoria West vs. Laredo Nixon

CLASS 4A AREA PLAYOFFS

7 p.m. Friday at South San's Ron Durbon Center

Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students at the door.

This James Thomas Murphy has made a name for himself this basketball season.

The point guard for the Victoria West turned in one of the best performances of his career Tuesday night to lift the Warriors to their first playoff win in school history.

His 22 points against Castroville Medina Valley led all scorers. The performance was yet another indicator of his maturation on and off the court over the last three years.

Victoria West coach Pat Erskine said his team is playing its best basketball of the season. The Warriors (19-12) have won five of their last six games, and Murphy has been the leading scorer on four occasions.

"It was good that I started as a sophomore on varsity and learned the game of basketball on a varsity level instead of a JV level," Murphy said earlier this week. "It's a faster pace and harder basketball. As a sophomore on varsity, I did a lot, experienced a lot, and it brought me to where I am today. I know a lot more. It's helped us out as a team and me as an individual."

Over the past three years, the 17-year-old Murphy has blossomed from a deferential point guard to one who is a leader emotionally and statistically for the Warriors (19-12).

If he can continue to average 14.2 points, 6 steals and 3.2 rebounds per game, few will have a hard time figuring out which James Thomas Murphy wears No. 4 for the Warriors.

Murphy's grandfather, James Sr., was on the VISD Board of Trustees for 12 years. His father, James Jr., "is the tall, skinny, black, bald guy," his son says, who is a regular at West games. Murphy's younger brother, James Thomas Murphy IV, is a sophomore and played on West's JV team.

James Jr. and James IV were both in Gonzales for Tuesday's victory, one in which James III did not come out of the game.

"I had no choice. It was my third year in the playoffs. I had to do what it took, no matter what," Murphy said. "I'm not going to lie, I was getting tired and thinking 'Oh my gosh. I just need a break.' I knew I could do it. I was going to tough it out until the end of the game."

Murphy jokes he didn't have much of a choice besides being a point guard since he wasn't the biggest growing up. He was 5-foot-5 in eighth grade. Now, four months shy of his 18th birthday, he stands at 5-10.

"I've only been point guard my whole life," said Murphy, who began playing organized basketball when he was 8. "I probably had no choice but to be a point guard, considering my size. . I didn't start growing until my sophomore year, so I had no choice but to be a point guard."

Murphy sometimes says "I had no choice" when beginning an answer about basketball. But everyone has choices - some are just not the best choices. Murphy has not gone down that path. He credits Erskine with keeping him and his teammates accountable on and off the court.

Erskine marvels at his point guard's decision-making on the court and his fortitude off of it. One such circumstance came last February when the Warriors faced their rivals.

Murphy scored eight points against Victoria East on Feb. 7, 2012. West lost the game by three points. The fact that Murphy played that night is what impressed his coach.

Three days earlier, his mother, Rebekah Murphy, died in her sleep from a heart attack. She was 42. In the 384 days since his mother's death, James III has thought about her every single one of them.

He dedicated Tuesday's win to his mother, as well as former classmates Jacob Guzman and Austin Davis.

"It's been a hard adjustment for my brothers and our family," Murphy said. "She really was a big supporter for me. She was always there for me and someone I could talk to. It's different without her. She would have loved to see me play that game. . I know she was looking down, watching."

Rebekah Murphy would be proud of the young man she raised.

"Words are hard to describe James Murphy. He's such a competitor, a gentleman and a kid with high character," Erskine said.

The coach said Murphy and the rest of the team are so business-like ahead of Friday's playoff game that it resembles their preparation for the SAT.

Murphy said it would be a blessing if his team were able to end Laredo Nixon's long winning streak Friday night in the Class 4A area playoffs. The Mustangs will take a 31-5 record into that contest. West, meanwhile, has a chance to win 20 games for the first time in the three-year history of the school.

"We've worked hard for it," Murphy said. "The type of competition does get tighter. There are teams that are just as good, if not better than us. We just have to work hard to get what we want. I think we can do it. We just keep telling ourselves we can win, and we practice like we want to win, and we believe we can come out with that win."

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