Scroll down the New York Knicks roster and Toure’ Murry’s name is toward the bottom of the stats. Minutes: 6.9, points: 2.4, games played: 45, starts: 0. He’s logged a total of 10 minutes this month on a team that is currently out of the playoff standings, yet the 24-year-old rookie has an overwhelmingly optimistic outlook on his first season in the league.
“Everybody’s dream is to get to the NBA,” Murry told Basketball Insiders. “It just makes me feel great to say I play in the NBA and (my family and peers are) basically living their dream through me.”
He plays for those who supported him along the way and continue to each game in the pros. He also takes the court for those who always believed he could make it, but never had the chance to see him realize his goals.
The Long Road from Houston
Murry’s route to the pros was not a straight shot. It involved the roadblocks and detours of going undrafted, competing in Summer Leagues, playing overseas, grinding it out in the NBA Development League and earning a (limited) role on the Knicks. The progression of his basketball career had never moved at a rapid pace, though. His development built up over time, overcoming one hurdle after another.
Undersized for most of his teenage years, Murry often stood at his 5’10 reflection in the mirror wondering when he would hit the growth spurt his older brothers had experienced. College recruiters were beginning to eye their next prospects, and the guard believed his game was bigger than his stature. Murry’s family and friends echoed the same encouragement.
“They always told me it was going to happen and continue with my skills and get better,” he said.
Murry grew over three inches the summer heading into his senior year of high school at Klein Forest in Houston, Texas. He caught the attention of the Wichita State staff and committed in the first signing period. One hurdle down, many more to go.
After a four-year collegiate career Murry entered the 2012 NBA draft. Sixty picks came and went, his name was never called. He quickly joined up the Los Angeles Lakers’ Summer League team, refusing to miss a beat.
“It was just one bump in the road,” he said. “It was early in my career and you can’t get discouraged when one thing doesn’t go your way. Anything can happen when you become a professional in sports.”
A Tribute to Those He Lost
Giving up wasn’t in Murry’s pedigree. For every challenge he encountered, he was met with support to chase his passion.
Murry’s paternal grandmother Blanche always believed her grandson could make it all the way. She admired the way he held his own against his brothers in spite of his smaller frame. She sensed his determination and made sure to inquire about each of his games in middle school and high school.
“She always had a lot of passion,” Murry recalled. “She always enjoyed to watch me because I was so short growing up. I had two older brothers and they didn’t make it to the NBA, but she always knew that I was kind of like ‘the chosen one’ because I used to get beat up, I used to always struggle with my brothers, they treated me like the little kid. She was always just a big fan of me and always told me to continue to work hard and one day I would make it.”
Blanche passed away early into Murry’s high school career. The loss left a lasting impression, one that he thinks about each time he steps on to the court.
“It was pretty traumatic in my family because she was so close to everybody,” he said. “It made a big impact because she believed in me when I was young. When the NBA was 12 years later in my life, she always saw it in me.”
Lori Jones wasn’t technically family, but she might as well have been. Murry’s next door neighbor, she became like a second mother to him over the years. He grew up close friends with her son and she would shuttle them to school, cook them dinner, activities that created a bond over time.
A year-and-a-half ago, Jones passed away from a brain aneurism. The sudden loss rocked Murry’s world again, another person near to his heart who was not there for his NBA debut. He had her name embroidered in his sneakers to take her memory with him each time he plays.
“She would tell me all the time, ‘You’re going to be in the NBA and be successful. I can’t wait to see you in the NBA,’” said Murry. “I do it for her because I always wanted her to see me in the NBA and unfortunately she can’t, but I know she’s watching.”
He channels the emotions of the losses into another driving force. Over time, Murry has been able to transform his sadness into his push to succeed.
“A lot of people don’t have that motivation,” he said. “Any motivation I have, I put it in basketball.”
Hard Work Paying Off
Murry took the mindset that he would play wherever he needed to in order to put himself in the best position to achieve his goals. This included stints in Turkey and Israel, as well as a D-League championship last season with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. He was invited to the Knicks’ Summer League team in July, where he made a positive impression and eventually earned a spot on the regular season roster.
It didn’t take long for both veterans and rookie alike to take notice of his commitment to the pro game.
“He just works hard,” said Tim Hardaway Jr., who played on the Summer League squad with Murry. “He’s always in the gym before everybody, two or two-and-a-half hours before practice, four hours before the game. He just has that mentality to just go out there and not worry about what anybody says. He’s just going out there to get better. … He always takes it personally when he’s out there. That’s what drives him and that’s what’s keeping him here.”
Injuries created an opportunity for playing time at points this season and Murry jumped at the moments. Raymond Felton was impressed by his focus when he was in the game, and even when he wasn’t.
“He’s a kid I feel like has a bright future,” Felton said. “He’s had a chance to play in some big games this year when I was out, Pablo (Prigioni) was out, so he’s going to be alright. I like his game. He’s really starting to pick up on the NBA style. I think he will (stick in the NBA) for sure because he works hard. He comes in every morning, every day, puts in that time. He’s going to be okay, I like him.”
Still Miles to Go
While it was a lifelong dream, Murry refers to playing in the NBA as his job — one that he doesn’t want to lose. He makes it a point to “stay on his Ps and Qs” and set a positive example for others.
Establishing his role in the league will take time and hard work, both of which he is eager to commit. For all the people who believed in the undersized kid from Houston, including those whose memory he plays for, his journey in the NBA is only beginning.
“It’s kind of like a real story when I look back on it,” Murry reflected. “It just shows you never give up, never get sidetracked because there’s a lot of things that can do that, and just know you can do it if you have a strong mental state and always believe in yourself. Even when you’re short, you’re skinny, always believe in yourself.”