Nobody would have blamed forward Tymell Murphy for leaving FIU for his senior year.
Recruited out of junior college into a program that the FIU athletic department expected to be on NCAA academic punishment for a year later (which it is) by a coach who jumped to the Big Ten after one season at FIU, Murphy had all the whys necessary for a breakup.
Instead, Murphy stayed. The Panthers, suspended from the postseason for low academic progress rates in 2010-11 and 2011-12, sits at 13-15, 5-8 in Conference USA, going into their final three games after losing four of their past five.
Any regrets at any point during the season? “Nah.”
Murphy explained, “This season for me was a learning experience in all aspects, not just basketball. I made a commitment to Coach [Anthony] Evans early and I was going to stick to that commitment. He’s shaped me into a different person than I was before I met him. I really am glad I came back because I learned a lot.”
Asked to elaborate on what he learned, Murphy said, “Just responsibility, taking ownership of the things I’m capable of controlling. Just to be a better person, a better man about things. When adversity hits, weather the storm no matter what it is.”
Murphy leads FIU in scoring at 16.8 points per game and his 57.7 percent career field goal percentage is a school record. On the defensive end, his 49 steals leads the team.
He and fifth-year senior Rakeem Buckles, FIU’s second leading scorer (13.6 ppg), each have a team-high 41 blocked shots, including several cannonballs sent into the bleachers. Not useful for starting fast breaks, very useful for getting the student section crowd involved and a flow of energy in the building.
The dead-end fact of this season never visibly became a factor in the play of FIU’s seniors. Nor did the loss of point guard Raymond Taylor to NCAA eligibility issues seven games into the season.
Evans praised the seniors — Murphy, Buckles, Ivan Jurkovic, Steven Miro, George Naldjieff — for their work ethic,which set an example for their younger teammates.
“I told them when I first got here I will forever be grateful to them for helping to lay a foundation for this program,” Evans said of his team, which made the leap from the Sun Belt Conference.
“Moving into Conference USA was a great decision. It’s a tough league. I think Tymell, Rakeem, Ivan, all those guys. They’ve done a great job of helping to lay a positive foundation for the program.”