ORLANDO, Fla. – If he can sustain his level of play, the sky is the limit for rookie basketball sensation Jahmal McMurray.
McMurray, a native of Topkeka, Kan., has proven to be a revelation for the men’s program at USF. He has garnered numerous accolades during his freshman season, including a unanimous selection to the American Athletic Conference (AAC) all-rookie team.
Despite McMurray’s stellar play, the USF Bulls finished 7-24 in the regular season. The Bulls still made it to the AAC post-season, with McMurray at the helm, and he feels he can only get better.
“The experience that I’m getting is wonderful,” said McMurray. “I’m growing every day, getting better every day and every game, so I’m blessed to be a part of something like this.”
The talented guard, who is leading the team with 15.3 points per game, has also forced his opponents to take notice. After a narrow 54-51 loss to the Cincinnati Bearcats on Jan. 10, their head coach Mick Cronin had some high praise for McMurray.
“He is, in my opinion, the best small guard in the country,” said Cronin.
McMurray said the fact that his own coach trusts him enough to average 35.1 minutes a game – another team high – is something that prepares him for games in a number of ways.
Despite that, in his first post-season 70-66 win against the East Carolina Pirates on Thursday, McMurray had a shooting percentage of .250 – tied for his fourth lowest output of the regular and post-season combined.
“I couldn’t really get going,” he admitted. “But I didn’t get down because I was missing shots. I kept my head in the game and focused on finishing strong, and that’s what we did today.”
Even without his scoring, the Bulls were leading by one point at halftime. Coach Orlando Antigua did not look his way with any criticisms despite the poor shooting performance, said McMurray.
“He just said keep doing what I’m doing,” McMurray said. “He didn’t say anything about my shots not falling. I was facilitating, getting other people shots. It worked out for the best.”
With many players leaving once their senior year is finished at the end of the season, McMurray is focused on raising his game to the next level. Part of the self-improvement is becoming a leader.
“Leadership skills are important,” said McMurray. “Making sure I’m talking to my guys, and always giving that positive energy.”