‘I don’t want to be an average dude. I want to be great when it’s all said and done,’ says Husky guard Dejounte Murray of his own expectations.
About an hour after their latest victory, the Washington Husky players, gathering with family, friends and fans, begin to head for the exits.
As the postgame crowd dwindles, Dejounte Murray remains behind.
The precocious freshman for the Washington men’s basketball team isn’t ready to go home. Not after the worst shooting performance of his short college career — 1 for 10 from the field, 1 for 5 on three-pointers and five turnovers.
UC Santa Barbara @ Washington, 8 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
So Murray does what he’s always done after disappointing games — he immediately returns to the court and puts up hundreds of shots.
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After midnight, a member of the cleanup crew at Alaska Airlines Arena looked at the tall, shirtless figure running on the floor and asks: “Is he going home?”
Not yet. Not until Mark Caesar gives him the OK.
Murray said Caesar is just like family, but on this night, the Harlem-born basketball trainer is more taskmaster than friend as he barks commands.
“Over the fingertips.”
“Keep snapping that wrist.”
“Let’s get this five in a row.”
Terry Thompson, Murray’s uncle, sits in the stands and claps with approval as Caesar pushes Murray through a grueling two-hour workout.
Finally, at 12:46 a.m., three hours after UW’s 79-68 win over Seattle University, Murray walks off the court breathless, exhausted and satisfied.
“Now I can get some sleep,” he said, grinning. “I had a bad game and I just felt like getting in the gym. I knew going home and going to sleep wasn’t going to make nothing better. So coming here and putting up shots — hundreds and hundreds of shots and free throws — I know I got better after having a bad game.
“Now I feel comfortable. I feel really good about myself that I came here after the game and put up hundreds of shots so I can go home and sleep good and wake up and do it all over again.”
By most measures, Murray is having an outstanding freshman season for Washington (8-3), which hosts UC Santa Barbara (3-7) at 8 p.m. Monday in its final nonconference tuneup before its Pac-12 opener Jan. 1.
Murray leads the Huskies with 4.5 assists per game. He’s tied for the team lead with 6.4 rebounds per game, and his 13.5 scoring average is second.
But the 6-foot-4½, 175-pound guard has saddled himself with weighty expectations.
“I don’t want to be an average dude,” he said. “I want to be great when it’s all said and done. I know it starts right here, right now. And it starts with putting extra work in. I never want to get comfortable with anything. I want to keep going until I can’t go anymore.”
Murray honed his work ethic and began the late-night workouts when he was a junior at Rainier Beach High School while helping the Vikings to three Class 3A state championships.
“Hard work and dedication equals success,” said Caesar, whom Murray affectionately calls Jingles. “You’ve got to come in here and put up these shots. You’ve got to work on your craft. That’s one thing about him — he’s not afraid to work hard.”
As good as Murray has been, there are a few fundamental flaws in his game. He’s an erratic shooter who struggles to make three-pointers (26.7 percent) and free throws (62.2 percent).
Murray also leads the Pac-12 with 40 turnovers.
Husky coach Lorenzo Romar can live with a few miscues this season, knowing Murray is developing into one of the most promising young players in the Pac-12.
“He is somewhat of a perfectionist,” Romar said. “The day that he gets content is the day he’ll quit improving. You have to make sure he keeps it in perspective, but at the same time, that’s the inner drive in him that’s gotten him to where he is right now — one of the top freshmen in the country and one of the top players in our league.
“He has a certain standard that he has for himself, and when his play does not match that standard, he’s not pleased.”
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