When you ask a point guard what they think their number one responsibility on the court is, you can get several different answers - setting up your teammates for easy scoring opportunities, making sure the offense runs smoothly, heading the top of the defense.
A good point guard does all of this and more. They orchestrate all the action on both ends of the court.
“They need to have total control of the game and the team,” Belmont head coach Casey Alexander said. “Along with that just goes a heavy dose of mental awareness and mental toughness.”
Alexander should know; he was a star point guard at Brentwood Academy and for the Bruins under legendary head coach Rick Byrd.
Grayson Murphy, Belmont’s current point guard who rewrote the record books at Independence, fits his coach’s definition of the position to a T.
“It's crazy to think about what he does within a single game,” Alexander said. “Offensive rebounds. He always gets huge steals, and he seems to always get the layup at the rim when we need a basket the most. He’s just a remarkable player. A freak, I call him.”
Under Alexander’s tutelage, Murphy is thriving. The junior is not only among the OVC’s leaders in a number of categories, but according to Sports Reference he’s the only player in the entire country averaging at least 10 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals per game. If you drop the rebounds down to six, he’s still the only player to meet the threshold. He’s a true floor general.
“He's really pushed me to be a leader on this team,” Murphy said of Alexander. “Just pretty much to be a coach on the floor. I've tried my best to do that. He's one of the best in the business right now. So it's always good to hear what he has to say and try to follow his commands and his confidence in me.”
Murphy, Alexander and company have the Bruins rolling, once again. Belmont is 22-1. They have set a new record for consecutive wins in OVC regular season play. They’re receiving votes in the AP Top-25 Poll. An early season loss to Samford is the only thing separating the Bruins from an unbeaten season through mid-February.
Most recently, they dismissed their toughest competition in the OVC with ease. On Thursday, they beat third-place Eastern Kentucky 92-74 at the Curb Event Center. On Saturday, the Bruins took care of second-place Morehead State with a 73-58 win. Murphy led the way with a triple-double (13 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists), the first in program history in the NCAA era. The last OVC player to post a triple-double? Ja Morant.
“It speaks to his versatility for sure.” Alexander said. “His points are rarely ever what puts us over the top, but he has such influence on every game we play by making plays. He handles our team and controls our team, but he just finds a way to make a play or multiple plays that really are the difference makers in games, especially close games.”
Murphy echoes the sentiment that, as a point guard, he doesn’t necessarily feel the pressure to score every time down the floor. He has the freedom, and the ability, the do whatever is needed on a given play.
“I'm not the one that's going to go and try to score 20 a night, especially at the point guard position and playing under Coach Byrd and Coach Casey,” Murphy said.
“Just trying to get everybody involved and put them in position to be the best players they can be. As far as defensive and rebounding, whether it's getting deflections, making steals or going to clean up a rebound once their bigs are boxing out at the point guard position.”
Like clockwork, the Bruins are about to enter March as a mid-major to watch. An at-large bid, like the historic one they received in 2019, is more than likely out of reach. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, nonconference schedules were thrust into a state of disarray, so Belmont wasn’t able to schedule as many marquee matchups as they usually would in the early season.
But if the Bruins continue to dominate the OVC like they have all season, they’ll earn a bid by winning the conference tournament. And if this explosive crew, led by a pair of former WillCo point guards, gets into the Big Dance, they can play with anyone.