Jun Murdock (JR/Wichita, Kan.) would avoid the glare of the spotlight each and every time if given a choice.
Last week was a prime example. Participating in a typical pregame shootaround before Kansas Wesleyan’s basketball game against Tabor in Hillsboro, Murdock was informed he was 10 points shy of the 1,000-point plateau for his career.
Great news but …
“I had no idea and I was surprised,” the soft-spoken Murdock said. “They made a super big deal about it and I got embarrassed in front of the team.”
He reached the milestone during the Coyotes’ 74-71 victory, finishing with 16 points and bumping his career total to 1,006.
Accolades, though, aren’t Murdock’s thing. Performing his duties as KWU’s point guard as well as he can is his sole focus.
“It’s definitely a blessing,” said Murdock, who earned NAIA Honorable Mention All-America honors last season, his first at KWU after transferring from Friends following the 2019-20 season. “I feel like I’m in a great position, I’ve got a great opportunity and I’m just making the most of it.
“I feel like my teammates and coach (Anthony Monson) definitely put me in a position to do this. I know a lot of people don’t get to play college basketball, let alone even score that many points.”
Murdock and the Coyotes play Southwestern in a pivotal KCAC game at 8 p.m. Wednesday inside Mabee Arena. Both teams are 15-1 overall and 9-1 in the conference.
Murdock burst onto the Kansas Conference scene his freshman year at Friends scoring 376 points and earning All-KCAC Honorable Mention and All-Freshman Team recognition. He wanted more, though.
Murdock liked what he heard and saw after talking with Monson and decided to head north to Salina. He sat out the 2020-21 season according to transfer rules but was in the Coyotes’ lineup for the 2021-22 season opener and has been for every game since then.
“At Friends I wasn’t really in a leadership role or anything like that, I really wasn’t a focus,” Murdock said. “When I got here it was more like being a leader, me having the ball and just taking charge. It was kind of hard getting back into it because I took that year off but once I got into it, it was a habit.”
The best habit possible, according to Monson.
“They hear the Murdock name and in the KCAC it’s like ‘that’s a score’ but that’s not Jun,” he said, referring to Jun’s older brother Jordan, who also earned All-America honors during his celebrated career at Friends. “Jun can score and has had plenty of 30-point games. But he’s a guy that’s just going to give you everything he’s got and he’s going to make sure that things go well on the court.
“Coach Murdock said it best, ‘he’s your ultimate game manager’ and that’s what he is. He manages the entire game not just one end of the floor.”
Jun Murdock averages 11.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists but Monson and his staff are mighty uncomfortable when he’s not on the court. That was evident last Saturday in KWU’s game at York when Murdock was sidelined a good portion of the second half with foul trouble.
“We’re sitting there going ‘man, what do we do next’ because for us as coaches that’s our heart right there,” Monson said.
Murdock’s effectiveness also is reflected in the amount of attention he gets from opposing teams.
“He might garner more attention on 12 points game that any human being in college basketball and I’m talking all levels. It’s amazing,” Monson said.
Though his scoring numbers are down Murdock remains a force on offense with his ball distributing abilities and is a pit bull on the defensive end, as always.
“Jun Murdock is the top defender in the league,” Monson said. “The reason he doesn’t get the accolades or the credit for it is because he’s so fundamentally sound and doesn’t gamble and take chances. Guys don’t score on him.”
“Like coach says, our defense leads to offense,” Murdock said. “When we get stops and we get out in fast breaks it’s just easier for me and the team score. I like passing the ball too, I like seeing my teammates score and cheer them on. But when I need to score it, I try to go do that. Whenever is working that’s the game, that’s what I’m going to try to go do.”
Monson was thrilled to see Murdock reach the 1,000 milestone.
“What makes Jun special is obviously he’s a really good basketball player but he’s a great person and somebody I enjoy being around, somebody I enjoy coaching,” he said. “You don’t get to coach a lot of guys that are as talented and as driven as he is but are humble and easy to be around at the same time.
“He doesn’t care about his individual accolades; I guarantee he was embarrassed about us bringing it up. It’s one of those things where we need to celebrate Jun because he won’t do it for himself.”
Murdock typically maintains a pragmatic view.
“The coaches have set the highest standards for us and we just tried to reach those every day,” he said.