From bench to best, Warriors guard adjusts to starting role

Dec. 12, 2010 at 6:12 a.m.

James Murphy wasn't even starting for the freshman team last year.

The point guard was riding the bench for the Memorial freshman team, and the prospects didn't seem to be getting much better as he planned for the step up to junior varsity. The minutes he was seeing each game could be counted on two hands on most nights.

"Not even 10 minutes," Murphy said. "It's a big difference. I just have to keep my pace up and keep my breath about it."

A year later, he's running the offense for Victoria West as the starting point guard, one of many new faces Warriors coach Pat Erskine is relying on in the first season of boys basketball at the new school.

The sophomore bypassed a stint on the JV level and has made the best of his short time on varsity, posting double-digit minutes and successfully running the Warriors offense. He's also improved defensively in just a short 10 games this season.

His progress isn't being tracked game to game.

Rather, it's quarter to quarter.

"He was a backup guard as a freshman, for him to get as much playing time as he is, it's a tribute to his heart and his hustle," Erskine said.

But a big part of the adjustment for him has been moving up. Like most of his teammates, he's having to get used to the speed of the game at the varsity level.

Unlike those teammates, he's moving from slow freshman games to the up-tempo varsity level.

And this without having really started.

"It's a big difference, making the jump," he said.

A big part of his game is energy. The sophomore guard's job is to control the ball and bring it up. So far, scoring hasn't been a big part of it.

Murphy was mum on how he made the jump from freshman to starter on varsity.

But one thing is certain.

"I didn't think I could be starting, to be honest with you," he said.

He has an uncommon cool for a player his age. Late in Tuesday's game against Lamar Consolidated, with the Mustangs mounting a comeback and every point key for the Warriors, Murphy lined up for two shots from the line.

Hitting both meant a two-possession game and a four-point lead. Missing even one meant the Mustangs could tie the game with a single shot.

"We just practice it every day, shooting our free throws, take our time," he said. "No pressure, just make the free throws. They win game."

Practice makes perfect, even in pressure situations, he said. He hit both, and the Warriors went on to win.

"It's nothing," Murphy added. "As easy as a layup."

Erskine said Murphy's hard work on the court has helped out, but part of necessity.

The split of the successful program at Memorial left holes at both Victoria East and West, and it necessitated moving players up levels.

"We just knew that James was going to be the man that came and helped bring the ball of the floor," Erskine said.

And he only stands to learn more with each quarter he plays.

John Hornberg covers Victoria East and West for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him by e-mail at, or comment on this column at



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