ASU's Murphy breaks through - East Valley Tribune: Sports

ASU's Murphy breaks through

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Posted: Saturday, February 2, 2008 12:39 am | Updated: 11:43 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

It took a little more than a season and a half, but another local player has made it into the Arizona State women's basketball starting lineup.

Post player Kayli Murphy was the other big Phoenix St. Mary's recruit - along with point guard Dymond Simon in the Sun Devils' 2006 signing class.

A dominating inside player on the best high school team in Arizona - the Knights won two 5A state titles and were upset in another championship game - Murphy finished second on St. Mary's career list in rebounds and blocked shots and fourth in scoring. So there were plenty of expectations when she arrived in Tempe.

Slowly, she is realizing those expectations.

"She's doing what we all really expected her to do this year and it's fun to watch," ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne said.

Murphy came to ASU as a versatile post player with a shooting range of around 15 feet, but was also expected to play a key role inside, particularly after the graduation last year of stars Aubree Johnson and Emily Westerberg.

After playing in every game last season and this season, the sophomore has steadily improved this year and had a breakout game against powerhouse Stanford on Jan. 20, grabbing 10 rebounds in the first half. She was rewarded with the first two starts of her career last weekend at Washington and Washington State.

She responded with a career-best 11 points against the Huskies, scoring the first seven points of the second half for the Sun Devils and then getting a pair of key baskets late to help secure a win. She had six rebounds and two steals in each game.

"It was just a really great opportunity Charli gave me to start," Murphy said. "I was a little nervous the first game but (I) kind of got my cool at halftime and just really focused on the little things that I can control, like rebounding and defense and trying to just deny the ball and ball pressure - everything that Charli asks of us and I tried to focus on that."

Murphy's improvement comes in a year where the inside game has taken on even a more prominent role with a backcourt that until a couple of weeks ago had been fighting the injury bug and is still trying to forge consistency.

"Kayli is playing great basketball right now," Turner Thorne said. "Mainly, she is giving us a lot of energy, a lot of energy on defense, she's rebounding every shot, she's looking a lot like a young Aubree Johnson in terms of her athleticism, going up and going after every ball."

She's averaged 7.5 rebounds in the four games against the Bay Area schools and the Washington schools, playing at least 20 minutes in three games.

"It's definitely a mind-set, rebounding," Murphy said. "I love being kind of on the outside and being able to crash and just follow the ball, it's kind of exciting to do it, over the bigger players because I am not the biggest post player out there."

But Murphy said this was just a step on a much longer road.

"I'm learning every day still and I'm really trying to work on the little things that Charli is asking of all of us, and just being the aggressor, being the tempo setter, watching Bri (January) work so hard on every possession, really just trying to follow that."

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