NEPA Sports Nation

Murray lands PSU scholarship

By Tom Robinson,

Like she has done before so many 3-point baskets, Moriah Murray first took a step back.

Now, Murray is taking a step up.

After walking away from Drexel University before beginning her college career, Murray has reset her plans with a commitment to a full National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I scholarship from Penn State University.

The four-time, first-team, all-state selection from Dunmore gave her verbal commitment to the Lady Lions Tuesday morning, setting tentative plans to report to the school for the next semester in January  to begin preparations for playing in the 2023-24 season.

Murray left Drexel in September to deal with health concerns and will use the time between now and the start of next season to continue her road back from knee troubles that, at first, had created concern over the possibility of even bigger issues. Wearing a brace to protect her knee, Murray has been ramping up workouts at Riverfront Sports with Kevin Clark, her AAU coach.

The Hoop Group Showcase League all-star from the two-time HGSL champion NEPA Elite Clark 17U team out of Riverfront Sports in Scranton moves into the Power Five with her decision to play for the Big Ten program.

“Growing up, I’ve always wanted to,” Murray said of playing in one of the NCAA’s Power Five Conferences. “Just the time I’ve put into the sport that I love and all the AAU traveling and all the workouts with Kevin, this is just what I was meant for. I’m super exciting to be playing the top competition.

“It feels, honestly, like something special. Not everybody has a chance to do this.”

Murray will remain home with her family for the holidays. She is likely to then get started with her academics at Penn State in January and can be with the team except for travel to away games.

When she first left Drexel and returned home to deal with what originally had been a cancer diagnosis, Murray did not address inquiries from interested college coaches.

Once she became confident in her ability to play again, Murray considered what some saw at the obvious, joining her high school coach, Ben O’Brien, who is in his first season leading a national power on the Division III level at the University of Scranton.

“It was a really hard decision, but I think I made the right one,” she said. “I would love to play with coach O’Brien, my high school coach, and be home, but I think that just getting away and playing at the Division I level is something that I need and I think is just the best fit for me right now.”

Murray was all set to begin at the Division I level this season when a knee injury suffered in softball season in the spring led to those plans unraveling.

An MRI of her knee revealed a spot on her femur, which led to a series of evaluations and a biopsy and a doctor telling her she had a type of lymphoma.

That has since been ruled out, but doctors have not been able to determine exactly what the spot is, meaning Murray will continue to undergo periodic monitoring to be safe.

Unable to work with the basketball team for much of the trimester that started in the summer, Murray worked out with the team lightly for the last week. She went back to campus Sept. 6 with more doctors appointments ahead and ultimately made the decision to leave the Philadelphia school to come home.

“It was really hard for me still knowing I had an appointment coming up and not having my family down there,” Murray said. “Mentally, I was struggling, not knowing if I had cancer.

“I just thought it was better to go home. That’s when I decided to leave Drexel to go home and be with my family.”

Murray is now cleared to do full workouts.

While she works her way back from the inactivity and uncertainty, Murray has watched online Kylie Lavelle, her AAU teammate and Drexel roommate thrive as the Colonial Athletic Association Rookie of the Week for the first two weeks. She has seen in person at times as O’Brien has won the first five games of his college coaching career.

Murray has watched NBA and college women’s games on TV. What are now her future teammates are off to a 7-0 start at Penn State.

She witnessed it all with mixed emotions.

“Just watching them play, it makes me anxious to get back on the court,” Murray said. “It’s definitely hard to watch.

“I definitely think that was something that encouraged me to finally make a decision.”

Murray is in the process of building back toward being the player that mixed it up, with consistently positive results, with some of the best young college women’s players in the country during her AAU and high school games.

At Dunmore, Murray helped the Lady Bucks go 95-5 in her four-year career while scoring 1,595 points and hitting a school-record, 279 3-pointers.

Despite seeing little more than half the available playing time as Dunmore routinely pummeled opponents, Murray averaged 17.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 3.1 steals as a senior.

“In the beginning because of everything I was going through, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to play basketball any more. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to play at the Division I level,” Murray said. “But after watching the high school teams get together, NBA games, women’s games, I know, basketball is for me. It’s what my life is all about.”

That step back helped confirm for Murray that she is ready to move forward.

“I don’t think I’m ready to give it up yet,” she said.

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