FIU men

Tymell Murphy has no regrets staying at FIU

FIU's Tymell Murphy keeps his eyes on the basket as the Cardinal's Chane Behanan defends in the first period during the Florida International University men's basketball game against No. 6 Louisville at the U.S. Century Bank Arena on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013.
FIU's Tymell Murphy keeps his eyes on the basket as the Cardinal's Chane Behanan defends in the first period during the Florida International University men's basketball game against No. 6 Louisville at the U.S. Century Bank Arena on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013.

Thursday: FIU at Southern Mississippi

When/Where: 7 p.m.; Reed Green Coliseum, Hattiesburg.

TV/Radio: Comcast Sports Southeast; none.

Records: FIU (13-15, 5-8 Conference USA); Southern Miss (23-5, 10-3).

Scounting report: Tulsa penetrated the lane well on FIU, especially in the second half. Southern Miss is tied with Tulsa for the conference lead in rebounding margin and Daveon Boardingham leads the conference in field goal percentage, shooting 63.6 percent from the field (both statistics from conference games only). This is the first time FIU and Southern Miss have met.

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.”

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