High School Basketball

Seahawks' MacMurray blossoms as thorn in side of foes

Hilton Head Island soccer standout making a name for himself as a shutdown basketball defender

ccox@islandpacket.comJanuary 7, 2013 

Hilton Head Island High's Chris MacMurray (15) prepares to inbound the ball while Beaufort High School students do their best to distract him during Friday's game against the Eagles at Beaufort High School.

DELAYNA EARLEY, STAFF PHOTO — Delayna Earley, staff photo

Chris MacMurray is never going to light up the scoreboard in the Hilton Head Island High School gymnasium. The Seahawks guard understands that.

"I know that offense isn't my biggest strength," he said. "I think it's also my biggest strength that I admit that to myself.

"I know that for me to be effective for my team, I need to commit myself on the defensive end."

The Seahawks senior has taken that commitment to heart. MacMurray has ditched trying to improve solely upon last year's 1.6 points per game average in favor of instead keeping points from opponents off the scoreboard.

It's a desire that has largely gone unnoticed but is nonetheless paying dividends for coach Ken Updike and Co.

"When you look through stats in the paper," Updike said, " ... you see he's going to score a couple points a game, a couple deflections, maybe a steal and a couple of rebounds. But it doesn't all add up."

But it's on the scoreboard where MacMurray makes his talents known. Upon returning to the Seahawks for the first time this season two weeks ago at the Midas Classic, MacMurray used his stifling defense to hold Clemson signee Austin Ajukwa to just 12 points on 3-of-10 shooting. The three-star prospect, according to Yahoo! Sports, netted four of his 12 points late at the free-throw line as Cardinal Newman sealed a 61-47 win.

MacMurray followed up his season debut by helping Hilton Head High hold Westminster to 34 points in a close victory. He next played a part in delivering a 35-28 win over Heathwood Hall after keeping Bradley Singleton to just eight points, 11 points under his season average, on just 2-of-6 shooting.

He did it all after missing the first 10 games of the year with a high ankle sprain.

"Personally, that was a big test for me," MacMurray said of facing Ajukwa. "Coaches had been telling me, 'You're a great defensive player,' but I had never played a player of that level before."

So how does he do it? It's a combination of both technique and intelligence, Updike said, with some skills taken from MacMurray's time on the soccer field thrown in for good measure.

"He's got really good footwork," Updike said. "He plays with his feet first, so he's able to not get himself into foul trouble and still be able to deny guys the ball."

"In soccer, you've got to read the game," added MacMurray, who will play the sport for Georgia Southern. "There's no plays or anything. So mentally, I think that helps a lot."

MacMurray's defensive prowess doesn't end there, though. His ability to read the floor and learn from mistakes also has helped the Seahawks improve of late, too.

"It takes him a handful of possessions to figure out how the guy he's guarding is trying to get open and what the team is trying to do to get him open," Updike said. "If he gets backscreened once, he now knows where the backscreen came from and what led to the backscreen. That way he can get himself around it."

That much was certain in the loss to Cardinal Newman. MacMurray's man-to-man defense helped keep the ball out of Ajukwa's hands entirely or forced the future ACC player to give up the ball without getting it back.

"I guess I outsmart them by forcing them into their weaknesses," MacMurray said. "If it's a shooter I make them put it on the floor, if they can't shoot I'll lay off and take away the drive. It's about outsmarting them."

The Seahawks are reaping the benefits from his return to the hardwood. They've won three straight games to get back over .500 and have seen their points allowed per game dip to 41.25 with MacMurray after surrendering 50.5 per contest in the 10 games without him.

"Obviously he hasn't been on the floor a whole lot (this year), but in the past he's been more of a lead by example kind of guy," Updike said. "This year, sitting on the bench, he has been able to be an extra set of eyes. He's able to see things and relay some of the stuff to the younger and less-experienced guys, what they're doing defensively."

That was enjoyable early on, MacMurray said. But it got tiresome rather quickly, as the defender grew anxious to once again prove his worth.

"At first it was kind of fun just to have a break," he said. "But after the first week, watching the team play, it was killing me. I just wanted to get back out there."

He's back now, though. And it's paying off for the Seahawks.

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