Photo by Bill Roseberry
De’Antae McMurray drives the lane on Feb. 2, 2015, at Lewis and Clark Community College during his freshman season at Southwestern Illinois College. McMurray recently gave a verbal commitment to continue his basketball career at Drake University in Iowa.
When De’Antae McMurray considered his options to play basketball at a four-year university, the Southwestern Illinois College sophomore had ample options.
There were colleges in multiple states courting the 6-foot-1, 185-pound guard, but he always came back to one place — Drake.
That’s why McMurray gave a verbal commitment to the Missouri Valley Conference school in Des Moines, Iowa.
“It’s more relief than anything else,” he quipped about making the decision.
Nonetheless, it turned out to be an easy one for him.
“It was the best for me,” said McMurray, a 2014 Alton High graduate. He spent his senior season for the Redbirds after playing his first three years at Marquette Catholic High.
McMurray added: “I like Drake; my family can come and see me play there and C.J. Rivers, one of the guys who I played AAU ball with, goes there.”
Rivers is a 6-2 sophomore guard from Cahokia. Springfield Lanphier’s Karl Madison, plus Chicagoland’s Ore Arogundade, also play for the Bulldogs. So third-year coach Ray Giacoletti is familiar with recruiting Illinois players.
And Drake has strong Southwestern Illinois basketball ties, dating to when Alton’s Leon Huff and Ron Caldwell played for the Bulldogs. Glenn Lott and Gale Murphy play football there and Murphy also ran track.
“One of the biggest things that attracted me to Drake was that they needed a point guard to run the team,” McMurray said. “That’s what I’m doing at SWIC.”
SWIC coach Jay Harrington said McMurray has given the surging Blue Storm just what they sought — stability in directing the team’s offense. SWIC of Belleville sported a 12-game winning streak going into this week’s play.
“We won 17 games last year and are 18-4 this season, but if D’Tae didn’t play for us, I think we would have had a losing program both years,” he said.
“He still needs to become more vocal, but he has become a true point guard and has been a steadying influence. He’s an all-conference and all-Region player.”
Harrington figures McMurray is an ideal recruit for the Bulldogs.
“They love him, like we do,” he said. “Drake had only one scholarship left and they gave it to D’Tae. That’s what they think of him.”
AHS coach Eric Smith also thinks highly of McMurray. He served as a key component on a 21-6 Redbirds’ squad two years ago.
“Basketball aside, you can say what you want about D’Tae, but he’s just a quality kid,” Smith said. “He works hard and does things the right way.
“He was our team leader and lot of that came from his credibility.”
McMurray mainly played an off-guard position with the Redbirds. Former prep teammate Michael Williams-Bey, now at Lewis and Clark Community College, mostly served as the Birds’ point guard. McMurray spent some time running the offense, but shooting was his main strength.
“In college, I had to learn how to become a point guard, so going to SWIC has been good for me,” McMurray said. “Honestly, it was a hard transition at first. When you are playing point guard, your main goal is getting the whole team involved in the offense. You aren’t as much concerned about getting open and getting your shots.
“The whole team revolves around the play of the point guard and coach Harrington has turned me into a true point guard.”
He has unlocked the key to SWIC’s success, much like predecessor point guard — and fellow AHS product — JaQuail Townser did. Townser is a senior at Jacksonville, Ala., State of the Ohio Valley Conference.
At last glance, McMurray was averaging more than 12 points, nearly 5 assists and 5 rebounds per game. McMurray scored 28 points Jan. 23 in an 85-70 victory over Wabash Valley and followed that performance with a monster effort Jan. 27 at John Logan in Carterville. McMurray netted a career-best 47 points and collected 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals in a wild 104-100 victory.
“That was the best game of my career,” McMurray said, celebrating his 20th birthday in style. “Everything was clicking.”
He intends to take that do-it-all approach to Drake, which is undergoing a rebuilding season. The Bulldogs will play in the four-day MVC Tournament next month at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
“I hope to do the best I can there,” McMurray said of Drake, where he plans to major in construction management. “After Drake, we will see where life takes me.”
Smith figures McMurray will continue to take the high road when he jumps into the world of Division I basketball at Drake.
“I don’t foresee any problems at all with D’Tae going to the next level,” Smith said.
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