When Tommy Murr was 3 or 4 years old, he began paying attention to practices his dad was leading as head coach of Grace Christian School (Sanford, N.C.)
“I didn’t notice at first, someone else did, and they were watching him dribble and (said) he could handle the all a little bit better than your average 3-year-old,” said Steve Murr, Tommy’s dad and now-head coach at Lindsay Lane Christian Academy (Athens, Ala.).
“He was watching the older kids, he was listening, and I think all of that, years and years of that has really helped him.”
Developing his abilities that early put him in position to be one of the best basketball players in Alabama high school history. On Saturday afternoon, Murr passed the 4,000 point mark.
He’s still a junior.
“It was an exciting moment,” Murr said. “Also exciting for the team, we got our 15th win, last game of the regular season. It was kind of a cool feat … when I finish my career and I look back, it’ll be a fun thing.”
Playing on the same court as older kids has been a common theme through Murr’s career. He first played on varsity as a seventh-grader and would often be left open. He would punish the opposing team by knocking down a couple 3-pointers per game.
It took Murr time to reach his current 6-foot-1 stature, so he had to develop his ball handling skills as he matured. He learned how to use his speed, stop on a dime and pull up from all over the court.
He’s an elite ball handler, something his dad instilled in him and helped train early. It’s a big reason Murr leads the nation in scoring with 44.2 points.
He scored 41 on Saturday, the majority of which came in the second half.
On Jan. 25, he put up 59 points.
“He was double-, triple- and quadrupled-teamed,” Murr’s AAU coach, Scott Whittle, said about the 59-point performance. “I’ve worked for two NBA teams, I’ve never seen that in my life.”
Yet ask Murr about his play style and he doesn’t say he’s a scorer.
He first says he likes passing.
“It’s more fun to set people up,” Murr said. “I like getting nice assists, the fancy passes, something like that.”
Whittle took it a step further.
“LeBron James-level, when he was in high school and he came out, they talked about how he was Magic Johnson, the way he passed it,” Whittle said. “I would put him in that category. I know that sounds ridiculous, but he’s just unbelievable.”
He is averaging four assists per game this season, but Whittle thinks he could lead the AAU in assists with a stronger supporting cast (Murr plays at a 1A high school) and less reliance on him scoring.
Whittle’s planning for that to be Murr’s main goal this summer on the EYBL circuit – to highlight his passing. Everyone knows Murr can score, but Whittle thinks if they put his knack for distributing on display, his recruitment activity could rise significantly.
Murr visited Auburn, has offers from Samford and Tennessee Tech and has been in contact with schools including Tennessee and Ole Miss, but he’s yet to reach the recruitment level of many players in the EYBL circuit.
Murr keeps a list of college and NBA players whose game he wants to learn from. If he sees someone do something new he likes, he’ll add the name and watch highlights. Right now, it consists of about 40 to 50 athletes.
His two favorite players are Kyrie Irving – one of the nastiest ball handlers and finishers in the game – and Steve Nash, who was one of the most gifted passers in NBA history.
Those are extremely important parts of Murr’s arsenal, areas that he developed starting as a young child, and has now put him within 552 points of becoming the all-time Alabama high school leader in scoring.
“I had to be smarter than everyone that was taller, stronger, faster,” Murr said. “At this point, I may be the fastest and one of strongest kids on the court, and I still have that IQ alongside me and the ball handling.”