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The Drill: Murray, like her MW team, grew into excellence

Minnesota West Lady Jays basketball player Tia Murray helped her team place fourth in the NJCAA Division III national tournament

Minnesota West women's basketball player Tia Murray (right) leaps to take a shot attempt during a practice session.
Minnesota West women's basketball player Tia Murray (right) leaps to take a shot attempt during a practice session.
Tim Middagh / The Globe
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WORTHINGTON -- If there’s one player who encapsulates the journey of the Minnesota West Community and Technical College women’s basketball team this year, it may be Tia Murray. The 6-foot freshman who hails from Elkhorn, Neb., and formerly lived for a short time in Worthington, was not an instant college success.

Like her teammates, who had to find their way home after losing several games at the start of the season, her 2021-22 campaign was a winding road that didn’t become straight until midway through. But Murray came of age in the best possible way. She was named the most valuable player of the Region 13 tournament. Later, she was named to the All-Tournament team at the NJCAA Division III national tournament, where the Lady Jays placed fourth.

It certainly didn’t help matters that she missed about a month this winter due to illness. That no doubt delayed her development. But just when her teammates were learning how to play together and win, Murray returned and gave the Jays an instant jolt. Soon, they were all on their way to winning consistently.

She led her team this winter in scoring (12.6 points per game) and rebounds (6.6) while shooting 38.7 percent from the field and dishing out 1.4 assists per contest. Long and lean, Murray moves smoothly through traffic. For her size, she’s also a fine dribbler and passer.

Minnesota West women's basketball player Tia Murray leaps past assistant coach Avery Van Rockel as she makes a shot during practice.
Minnesota West women's basketball player Tia Murray (right) leaps to attempt a shot during a recent practice.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

And she is a legacy.

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“My dad, Eric, moved here from Texas after he graduated and started playing basketball here,” she recalled. “Played for two years. I lived in Worthington since I was 1, probably, and then moved my sixth grade year to Omaha, Neb.”

Not surprisingly, her father is a major sports influence in her life -- and a giver of good advice.

“When I’m in a rut, when I’m not shooting well or can’t make layups, or I’m not playing to the best of my ability, I just have to keep going. I can’t get down on myself,” she said. “And I just gotta keep pushing. My dad actually would tell me that. I learned a lot from him.”

Tia Murray was interviewed for this Drill episode on the very day before the team drove to Rochester, Minn., for the national tourney. You can see a video online at www.dglobe.com . Here’s a sample of the interview:

QUESTION: Was it difficult to deal with the losing early in the season?

ANSWER: “When we were losing, I wasn’t really concerned because, you know, we had just started. We were all freshmen. We just had to learn how each other played, and so I wasn’t really concerned, and we were playing a lot tougher competition. … I think it was just making us a lot better for our conference. We just stayed positive and Moz (Coach Rosalie Hayenga-Hostikka) kept telling us, ‘I’m preparing you for conference and for everything that’s going to come.’ I think we just started growing as a team.”

QUESTION: So how far have you come this season?

ANSWER: “I really have come far this year. I was out for a month because I was sick. It was a little hard getting back into shape and just to decipher everything, but I think I really have grown.”

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QUESTION: Tell us something unusual about you that most people don’t know.

ANSWER: “Something unique about me, when I was little my nickname was Monster because I was a monster on the court. I was really tall for my age. I was probably five inches taller than everybody, and I was really thick so I could just bully my way into the post. It’s a little different now, but …”

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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