No. 44 a nice fit for Terps’ Mur­ray

Friend Sch­midt wore num­ber first

The Washington Times Daily - - Sports - BY PA­TRICK STEVENS

Mary­land de­fense­man Go­ran Mur­ray dons No. 44, sort of like an­other east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia prod­uct who ar­rived in Col­lege Park as a long pole and wound up en­trenched as a close de­fense­man for the bulk of his ca­reer.

It’s no co­in­ci­dence Mur­ray is wear­ing the old num­ber of Brett Sch­midt, a sec­ond-team All-amer­ica pick last year.

Coach John Till­man planned it that way, an at­tempt to tie the Ter­rap­ins’ past to the present.

“Go­ran’s been ter­rific so far, and I think he is prob­a­bly ahead of where Brett was, at least at this point,” Till­man said. “Then we’ll see what hap­pens. He’s got a long way to go to get in Brett’s cat­e­gory, be­cause I think the way Brett fin­ished was so im­pres­sive.”

Mur­ray, mean­while, is off to a fine start for the No. 9 Terps (5-2, 1-1 ACC), who face No. 2 Virginia (8-1, 0-0) at Byrd Sta­dium on Satur­day. He’s started ev­ery game and re­ceived some help from Sch­midt along the way.

They got to know each other last year, when Sch­midt still was play­ing at Mary­land for an even­tual na­tional run­ner-up and Mur­ray was at the Haver­ford School.

Their shared Philadel­phia-area roots pro­vided a com­mon bond be­yond lacrosse.

Mur­ray al­ready was ea­ger to ar­rive at Mary­land, which he knew would be far dif­fer­ent than what he was ac­cus­tomed to in high school. The Terps were the only ACC pro­gram to re­cruit him, and the pos­si­bil­ity of play­ing in the peren­ni­ally tough league ap­pealed to him.

“I go from know­ing the whole school at a small pri­vate school to know­ing a hand­ful of peo­ple at a huge school,” Mur­ray said. “I wanted that ex­pe­ri­ence to ven­ture through. At first it was tough, but set­tling in af­ter the first se­mes­ter was awe­some.”

The ad­just­ment wasn’t en­tirely easy for Mur­ray, who didn’t even pick up the sport un­til high school. He played both pole and close de­fense at Haver­ford, and ini­tially pro­jected as a long stick mid­fielder. But the loss of three start­ing close de­fense­men (in­clud­ing Sch­midt) to grad­u­a­tion led Mary­land to change its plans.

Through­out the fall, Sch­midt pro­vided Mur­ray coun­sel, just to help make sure the fresh­man was com­fort­able.

“I know it is hard for peo­ple mak­ing that tran­si­tion from high school to col­lege, so I re­ally tried to help him out and give him some ad­vice and give him some heads-ups on things I strug­gled with my first six months in col­lege,” Sch­midt said.

Mur­ray didn’t hes­i­tate to seek out in­for­ma­tion from the Terps’ coach­ing staff, ei­ther.

“We called him the Rid­dler be­cause he asked so many ques­tions,” de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Kevin Warne said. “It’s paid off, and he cer­tainly has done a good job of try­ing to un­der­stand what we do and ev­ery­thing like that.”

The first se­mes­ter was ev­ery bit the chal­lenge Mur­ray ex­pected. Once home for win­ter break, he re­flected on how much harder he needed to work to thrive in his first year.

That’s led to even greater ad­vances. Mur­ray scored his first ca­reer goal in Satur­day’s loss at North Carolina, and his ath­leti­cism has helped the Terps solve some is­sues on the de­fen­sive end.

“He’s been thrust into a big po­si­tion for the team,” Sch­midt said. “I’ve been watch­ing some of their games, and you can tell he’s very ath­letic, pretty smart and play­ing smart. That’s all go­ing to come with time. He’s been do­ing very well with the sys­tem we play at Mary­land.”

Not to men­tion liv­ing up to the his­tory of his jer­sey num­ber.

“Be­tween me and him and if there’s an­other [Penn­syl­va­nia] guy com­ing, get this 44 [thing] go­ing,” Mur­ray said. “I’m go­ing to keep the num­ber for the rest of my four years. I just think it’s a great thing that he helped me in sub­tle ways to tran­si­tion.”

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