When DeSean Murray made the decision to transfer from East Gaston to Northside Christian Academy for his senior season, Knights players familiar with Murray from AAU had one thing to say to coach Byron Dinkins about the power forward.
“Coach, he’s going to get every rebound.”
At 6-foot-5, Murray doesn’t exactly look the part of a big-time rebounder.
However, after only a few minutes observing a Knights’ practice at Alvin Dark Sports Center, it became clear what teammates like Saint Joseph’s (Pa.) commit James Demery and Charlotte 49ers’ signee Keyshawn Woods were talking about.
When a shot goes up, Murray – no matter where he is on the floor – bolts for the painted area with the quickness of a smaller player.
And as the ball comes off the rim, Murray uses his long wingspan to reach for anything that falls in his area.
The Knights haven’t tested their vertical leaps this season, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Murray’s is the best on the squad.
It’s not just his first jump that makes him such an effective rebounder, though.
“With DeSean (Murray), it’s his second jump that’s so impressive,” Dinkins said. “If the ball stays up on the rim, it’s his ability to get right back up there that sets him apart.”
After graduating 6-foot-9 Phillip Reed and 6-foot-8 Luke Morrison last season, the Knights – ranked No. 8 in the nation by USA Today – had some major concerns about their ability to rebound against taller teams.
The tallest player not to graduate was Demery at 6-4, but he had always been more of a shooting guard than a low-post player.
Enter Murray, who wracked up 499 total rebounds in two seasons with East Gaston.
“You can just write down 10 rebounds next to his name before every game,” Dinkins said. “He plays with a high motor and is a big part of the reason that we’ve been able to hold our own on the boards against teams with more size this season. He’s really fit in well.”
After he was accepted at Northside Christian, Murray joined up with the team for offseason track work and weight room sessions. As a result, he entered this season in the best shape of his life, which has only improved his ability to give 100 percent whenever he’s on the floor.
Through 20 games, Murray has averaged 12.5 points and 11 rebounds a game for the Knights (19-1), whose only loss of the season came at the hands of USA Today’s current national No. 1, Montverde Academy (Fla.), during the Wild Wing Cafe High School Hoops Classic national boys’ tournament championship at Ardrey Kell High in late December.
Murray has also received, and accepted, an offer to play for Division I Presbyterian College (S.C.) since making the decision to join the Knights.
“I talked a lot with my family about the decision to come to Northside Christian,” Murray said. “I knew that it would help me get to where I wanted to be both athletically and academically.
“The transition has been great. What stands out about this team is just how close we all are. We all share the ball well and get along.”
As a general habit, Dinkins doesn’t keep track of stats and tells his players to do the same. However, with Division I scouts at almost every game, there’s certainly some incentive.
But that’s not Murray’s style.
Asked how many points and rebounds he was averaging this season by Dinkins, Murray responded: “Coach, honestly, I don’t even know.”
“That’s right,” Dinkins said.