After missing the entire season last year, senior Roosevelt Murray has returned to Pine Bluff to become not only one of the team’s top scorers but also one of its captains.
“I’m a leader,” Murray said. “Coach (Carl) Smith said he wanted to establish that at the beginning of the season.
“He wanted me and Marcus (Thomas) to lead by example and that’s what I try to do.
“… I just try to be the best captain I can.”
Murray said his leadership was tested in Pine Bluff’s game against Little Rock Fair.
“That’s when it really stood out the most,” Murray said. “Coach was upset about a call and I had to calm him down and talk to the referee a little bit.
“That made coach happy.”
Smith said he is glad to have Murray back on the team and he could definitely see the improvements he had made over the year.
“He’s more focused after missing a year,” Smith said. “He came back with an attitude that he can play basketball.”
Murray, who averages about 20 points a game for the Zebras (11-7, 6-3 7A/6A South), was on the team as a sophomore but did not play last year because of his grades.
“He had some eligibility issues with his grades and he didn’t do what he’s suppose to,” Smith said. “He took care of that.”
Smith has improved not only on the court but in the classroom as well.
“I think he scored well on the ACT as well,” Smith said. “He will be a good one for a college.
“He is a good ball player and outstanding student as well.”
Murray has received interest from Southeast Missouri State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
“All they got to do is come and watch,” Smith said. “He is a nice player and he has done things right.
“He has been a leader for us this year.”
Smith said he coached Murray when he was a sophomore.
“We are glad to have him back on the team,” Smith said. “… For him to come back and play like he’s been playing is outstanding.”
Murray said coming back to play this year has meant a lot to him.
“We are all real close,” Murray said. “We bond together like family. We say it every day.”
One area that Smith would like Murray to improve on before this season is over is his defense.
“He told me I need to play harder on defense so the others will start to play harder as well,” Murray said. “He says my eyes light up on offense, but then I tend to take a break on defense and I need to work on that.”
“I get onto him about his defense,” Smith said. “But each game he has brought more intensity and has focused on it.
“… He knows what he has to do. He is the leader of the team. He has to go out and initiate this stuff.”
Pine Bluff is currently in second place in the conference and will host El Dorado tonight at McFadden Gymnasium.
“(Murray) is a scorer by nature,” Smith said. “He is playing defense a lot better. He can shoot the three and take it to the goal.
“He is an aggressive scorer, and with such a young team that is something we need.”