MORGANTOWN — University senior Zoe Murphy always stood out for her outstanding play — she’s a four-year starter who paced the team last season with 15 points and 3.5 assists per game. This year, Murphy stands out in other ways, as well.
Whether it’s the brace covering a large portion of her left leg, or the slight change in gait compared to previous seasons, it’s not hard to tell that Murphy’s leg isn’t at 100 percent.
The injury dates back to July, where the point guard tore her ACL playing for her travel basketball team — damage that would require surgery and months of rehab to repair. Unfortunately for Murphy, surgery would have kept her sidelined for the entirety of her final season.
“I was super determined to play my senior year because I wasn’t going to let my team down,” Murphy said. “Not playing wasn’t even an option for me.”
With her choices limited, Murphy decided to tough it out. She wears a brace to stabilize the knee and undergoes a special warmup routine each time she takes the floor to make sure she’s ready to go. In addition, she spends time outside of practice rehabbing the knee. Eleven games into the season, she continues to be an offensive force and occupies a crucial leadership role on and off the court.
“She puts on gutsy performances. To be injured like that and to keep pushing forward, I have a lot of respect for her as a player and as a person,” University coach David Price said. “I know she improves our team dramatically being able to be out there.”
Murphy approaches the game in a more low-key manner since the injury; she tries avoiding the paint, she said, and she has spent more time crafting her jump-shot. Between the game prep, the rehab and the change in playing style, it’s been a tough adjustment.
“It’s something I’m not used to and it’s a pain, but I’m willing to do anything just to be out there playing,” she said.
It turns out Murphy doesn’t need to be that aggressive to continue to play an important role. She converted four 3-point baskets Tuesday night as the Hawks rolled Brooke, 74-34, proving her shot is still deadly, and Price finds himself more impressed with her floor generalship with each passing game.
“She means a ton to our team. She’s the general and I think she’s done a good job at keeping our team focused on the next game and the next thing we need to do,” he said.
“She’s a fourth year starter and she’s played point since she’s got here from middle school, and the kids really look up to her.”
With the Hawks fielding one their strongest rosters in recent years, the Hawks have emerged as a potential state tournament threat — they sit sixth in the first regular season AP poll, with their three losses to top-10 foes.
Early season wins over sectional rivals Morgantown and Buckhannon-Upshur leave the Hawks in position to nab home-court advantage in the sectional tournament, and Murphy recognizes the importance of her role in helping keep the team focused and sharp.
“This team is so full of potential and I know we’re capable of making it far. To do that, we can’t take any practice off. Even coming off a big win, we have to be in the gym ready to work the next day,” she said.
“Communication and having a good relationship with your team plays a huge role in being successful and we definitely have that this year.”