Sophomore guard Ja Morant is having a sensational season for the Murray State Racers (21-4) and he’s poised to become the first college player to average 20 points and 10 assists over a full season.
Morant leads Murray State in scoring with 24.3 points and 10.2 assists per game. NBA scouts have been drooling over his highlight reel. He’s been getting comparisons to John Stockton, Russell Westbrook, and Chris Paul. Many updated mock drafts now have Morant as a bona fide lottery pick. A few mock drafts have Morant as high as second overall behind Duke’s dunk-machine Zion Williamson.
Murray State, located in Murray, Kentucky, is a member of the Ohio Valley Conference. Morant might become the first player from a mid-major school to get drafted in the NBA lottery since the turn of the century. In the modern era of one-and-done basketball, top-five lottery picks are from the power conferences such as the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, and Big East.
The Gem from Small Town, South Carolina
If Ja Morant seems like he came out of nowhere, well, you are correct. He did not garner many scholarship offers, but after Murray State head coach Matt McMahon saw him, he knew he had a potential superstar.
After an up and down first year with Murray State, Morant averaged 12.7 points and 6.3 assists per game. Morant was not even considered one of the best freshman from the OVC last season. Right now, he’s easily the best player from the OVC and probably the best player you’ve never heard about. Murray is posting sensational stats with 23.3 points and 10.2 assists. Since the NCAA began recording assists in 1983, no one has passed the 20-10 threshold until Morant came around.
Avery Johnson, former NBA player and head coach at Alabama had glowing things to say about Morant.
“He has the craftiness and cleverness of old Isaiah Thomas, the passing ability of John Stockton, and the athletic ability of Russell Westbrook,” said Johnson.
Morant scored 20-plus in 20 out of 25 games this season. He’s posted a double-double 16 times and a triple-double once. Against Missouri State, he dropped 29 points and added 13 rebounds and 12 assists.
He’s hitting nearly half of his shots with a 49.9 field goal percentage. He’s only shooting 32.8 percent of his three-pointers, but hitting 60.8 percent inside the arc.
Cinderella Watch for Murray State
Murray State is trying to secure back-to-back appearances in March Madness. They are tied with Belmont with a 12-2 conference record in the OVC. Both teams are 21-4 overall.
Two of Murray State’s four losses happened against SEC teams. The Racers lost to Alabama by six points and lost to #7 Auburn by five.
The tournament will be a bonus for Morant. Only one Murray State game appeared on cable (and it was on ESPN2) this season. Morant will get the exposure he deserves, and against high-profile teams. Fans from all over the world can watch his sensational passing in real-time.
Murray State won five straight with two big conference games this week. They host Tennessee-Martin and Southeast Missouri State this week. The winner of the OVC tournament wins an automatic bid. Murray State does not have a strong enough of a schedule to garner an at-large bid if they lose in the OVC tourney.
If they advance to March Madness, Murray State will be fun to watch, especially if Morant goes off. The most fun aspect about March Madness is watching a sensational player like Morant get hot during the tournament and carry a small school on his back to the Final Four.
We’re in the final stretch of the regular season in college hoops. Other mid-majors to keep an eye at this point include the Nevada Wolfpack and the Houston Cougars. There’s also the trio of Duncan brothers playing for Vermont hoping to make a run in March Madness, plus Yale has been crushing the Ivy League.