Clayton State forward Omari Murray has averaged 12.1 points and a team-leading 7.6 rebounds in 16 games this season for the Lakers. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
MORROW — As his teammates were getting into mid-season form, Omari Murray was just getting started for Clayton State in December.
Murray, a 6-foot-6 forward, had to sit out the Lakers first five games to satisfy an NCAA requirement. To make matters worse, the Marietta native was not allowed to practice during that time or in the preseason.
While the rest of the Clayton State team was learning its system under new coach Paul Harrison, Murray had to do workouts on his own.
The lost time on the court hasn’t seemed to be a problem for Murray. Heading into today’s game at Georgia College, he is averaging 12.1 points and a team-leading 7.6 rebounds per game.
“It was very different and disappointing to not be with the team at the start of the season,” Murray said. “I wanted to come back and play real strong once I got back with the team.”
Because Murray hadn’t met full-time student status at the start of the school year, he couldn’t practice with the team during the first part of the semester. With a new coaching staff coming on board this season, it wasn’t known how Murray and his teammates would adapt once he returned.
It seemed to be a flawless transition when he made it into the lineup.
But Murray admits that it looked easier than it actually was in grasping the new system.
“I had to find my touch,” Murray said. “It was about building a relationship with the staff. Coach tried to keep me in the loop. It wasn’t easy because I had to learn a lot of new things. My teammates were really good about it.”
With Murray in the lineup, the Lakers started to have a good inside presence on the court.
“Omari gave us a solid player in the post,” said Lakers forward Charles Shedrick, who leads the team with a 17.1-points-per-game average. “We all had to sacrifice a little of our game to make it work. In the end, it has been worth it for the team.”
“There were some little things that he missed by not being a part of the team,” Harrison said. “We had to give him the Cliff notes version once he got back. He has blended in real well with the rest of the team.”
This is Murray’s second season with the team after transferring from Stillman College in Alabama at the start of the 2011-12 season. At Stillman, a NCAA Division II in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, Murray was the leading scorer as a freshman, averaging 13 points and six rebounds a game.
He helped pace Stillman to an 18-11 mark during his sophomore season, averaging nine points and five rebounds a game, while shooting 44 percent from the field.
After becoming eligible last season, Murray started all 27 games, and led the team with a 15-point scoring average in addition to seven rebounds per game.
“I’m really enjoying the season,” Murray said. “I wish we would have more wins, but I still feel we have a good team.”