Thursday, December 02, 1999

XU transfer to face ex-team

Murray two-year starter at E. Tenn. St.

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It will be “weird,” Leo Murray admits. It has to be. So many games, so many practices at the Cincinnati Gardens. He remembers playing the role of Marcus Camby before a Xavier game against Massachusetts and Mark Jackson before a game against Temple.

        Now he'll be on the other side for real, walking into the Gardens wearing a different uniform.

        Murray, who transfered from Xavier after the 1996-97 season, returns to town Saturday to face the Musketeers as a second-year starter with East Tennessee State (2 p.m.).

        “I don't want everybody to think that my memories are bad or anything,” the 6-foot-6 senior said Wednesday. “There were a lot of good memories there. I had some great teammates and had a great time along the way. I miss a lot of those guys.

        “It'll be fun to go back there. I'm looking forward to it. I'm not too worried about Xavier; we're worried about how we're going to play. We're struggling right now.”

        East Tennessee State, No. 294 in the Sagarin Ratings, takes an 0-3 record into its game tonight against Virginia Tech.

        Murray — a team captain — is averaging a double-double, leading the Buccaneers in scoring (10.5) and rebounding (10.2). He plays mostly power forward.

        “I'm playing better than I was last year,” Murray said. “I think offensively I could pick it up some.”

        Murray sat out his first year in Johnson City, Tenn., lifted weights with a passion and bulked up to 274 pounds; he left Xavier listed at 230 but after banging against T.J. Johnson and Torraye Braggs in practice decided he needed some size.

        “I got bigger all right,” Murray said. “I got pretty huge.”

        So huge — and solid — that the East Tennessee State football coach approached him about becoming a tight end for his team. Murray declined.

        When he got on the court last season, Murray found himself unable to run the floor well, jump or shoot. He averaged 8.9 points and 5.5 rebounds but knew he could play better. His timing was off. He dunked once all season. Still, he had 17 points and 11 rebounds against Chattanooga and 13 points and seven rebounds against Virginia Tech.

        “I had a subpar season,” he said. “I was a little too big to play. I was getting into foul trouble. My moves inside weren't fast.”

        In the offseason, he dedicated himself to a new diet and played all summer back home in Tampa, Fla. He said he now weighs around 248.

        “I feel a lot better,” he said. “I'm lighter. I'm quicker. I can run and jump again. I look more like a basketball player.”

        Said East Tennessee State coach Ed DeChellis: “Leo's probably the stable guy on the team. He's been a solid addition on and off the court. I think it's all worked out well for him.”

        In two seasons at Xavier, Murray appeared in 28 games and totaled 55 points and 23 rebounds. His sophomore year, he played in just seven games and decided he wanted to leave.

        “I've enjoyed it where I'm at,” said Murray, who will receive a marketing degree in the spring. “I'm around a great bunch of guys and coaching staff here. The reason I left (Xavier) was I wanted to play, and ultimately that's what I've gotten to do, so I'm happy.”


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