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The Ole Miss Hoops Handbook: Matthew Murrell

The Ole Miss Hoops Handbook: Matthew Murrell

OXFORD, Miss. — Year one of the Chris Beard era is set to begin here soon. The first opportunity to see this new-look Ole Miss roster is October 30th when the team hosts Tusculum in an exhibition. Shortly after that, the regular season tips-off as Ole Miss hosts Alabama State on Nov. 6th in Oxford.

With the arrival of Coach Beard, there has been a lot of buzz around the direction of the men’s program. In his short time in Oxford, Beard and his staff have had to make quick work to re-tool this Ole Miss roster. The group features a heavy dose of new talent from both the high school and transfer ranks.

This “Ole Miss Hoops Handbook” series is set to help the Ole Miss community get familiar with these players and to help build excitement for the upcoming season. Every day, The Rebel Walk will highlight an individual player to breakdown his game and describe what you can look forward to and where we can look for more growth this season.

In order to make this easier to understand, I wanted to break down the process for how we got to this point. Each player’s breakdown consists of notes from both the summer scouting and some re-watch of film this fall. On top of game film, an analysis was then formed alongside a statistical breakdown from several different sources. I have watched multiple games for each player to help give an accurate picture of their game. In an effort to give a better view, I tried to watch one game where a player had larger success statistically and one where his impact may have been overlooked by the box score.

With that being said, let’s take a look at a familiar name for Ole Miss fans: Matthew Murrell.

Last year and the off-season

At one point the highest rated recruit in Ole Miss history, Matthew Murrell returns for another year in what is poised to be his most productive yet. Last year as a junior, Murrell was the unquestioned leader of the men’s basketball program. He was called upon as a two-way leader who led the Rebels in both volume scoring and assists. As a junior, Murrell saw an increase in every statistical category in his new role.

On the year, Murrell averaged 14.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.1 steals per contest. He started a career-high 29 games while playing 34.4 minutes per game, a mark that was second best for the SEC. Some of the notable performances for Murrell were contests against UCF (12/14) and Texas A&M (2/28).

UCF (12/14): 21 PTS | 4 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 7-13 FG |4-8 3PT

Texas A&M (2/28): 26 PTS | 3 REB | 1 AST | 9-15 FG | 8-11 3PT

While the statistical volume increased for Murrell, his efficiency dipped a bit. This can be attributed to many things, notably added pressure due to team injuries, an increased workload, and two-way responsibilities which will be discussed later.

In the offseason, Murrell contemplated a potential departure to become a professional. He possesses many NBA traits and by some accounts, Murrell could’ve been a second-round pick. He was invited to the G-League Combine where he impressed with his explosive vertical leaping and shooting ability.

At the Combine, Murrell measured a height of 6’2.5″ without shoes (6’4″ with shoes) with a wingspan of 6’8″. He recorded a vertical jump of 41.5 inches. That number was the top overall from the G-League Combine and would’ve been third overall in the class had he decided to stay in. The standing vertical was similar as he reached 33.5 inches, which was second at the G-League Combine and would’ve been tied for 6th overall.

The Breakdown

The driving force for the Ole Miss basketball team last year, Murrell is a two-way, off-ball guard. He was put into a situation where he may have had to do a bit more than what should’ve been asked of him. The Ole Miss roster dealt with lingering injuries that kept the rotation thin at times. Murrell, himself, did suffer a minor injury in January to his knee in a game against Arkansas.

Murrell possesses legit NBA potential and thrives as a movement shooter on the offensive end. With the consistent movement off the ball in a Chris Beard offense, Murrell should find success in this constant motion. Despite an overall down year last year, Murrell thrived as a sophomore on 3-point shots off movement where he was one of the best in college basketball. He made 41.9% of his attempts in this category.

Breaking this down a bit more, Murrell excels at off-ball movement, setting up his cuts whatever direction he may plan to go. Once the pass is on the way he knows how to get his hips aligned to shoot, making an easy transition to his shot on the catch. He even excels at this when moving away from the basket. Once he receives it, we see one of the purest looking jumpers in college basketball with a smooth release and nice arcing shot.

Murrell also impresses as a cutter, another area I think we can see his success under Beard. Plenty of times Murrell’s threat from deep left opposing defenses over-committing where a well-timed cut can leave him wide open for a backdoor cut slashing to the basket. Despite this, we only saw 17 cut opportunities last year, a number that will likely increase. With the ball in his hands, Murrell can attack the basket but mostly operates at his best with a straight line to the basket. He can rise up for a mid-range jumper off the dribble but could stand to add some more craft in that area. Murrell could also look to try and finish more plays above the rim as he only saw 23 dunking opportunities in 30 games last year.

An area offensively where Murrell can really help himself out is similar to something we will discuss with Jaylen Murray. Murrell could really help himself by being more than a shooter and finding ways to get the ball to the paint. An area Ole Miss struggled with last year, the offense got stagnant being stuck on the outside. He needs to be smart with the ball, as NBA teams will want to see a jump from his 1.36 assist-to-turnover ratio.

It was on the defensive side that Murrell largely shined last season. Many who know him will point to his offensive ability and his shooting; however, we have to start mentioning the defensive output. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Murrell ranked in the 93rd percentile for all defenders in college basketball last season. On spot-up defensive possessions, that number went all the way up to the 99th percentile where he held shooters to 15.5% shooting. On plays where he was guarding the shooter out of a pick-n-roll where he had to react, navigate the screen and recover, he held opponents to a 28.3% shooting clip.

What makes these numbers even more impressive was some of the competition that Murrell was matched up with last year. Here’s a list of some of the guys that Murrell was tasked with guarding:

  • Kendric Davis (Memphis – 21.9 PPG)
  • Harrison Ingram (Stanford – 10.5 PPG)
  • D’Moi Hoge (Missouri – 14.7 PPG)
  • Grant Sherfield (Oklahoma – 15.9 PPG)
  • Davonte Davis (Arkansas – 10.9 PPG)
  • Santiago Vescovi (Tennessee – 12.5 PPG)

Murrell guarded a variety of players including playmaking lead guards, physical wings, isolation scorers, movement shooters, and skilled shot creators. The reason he can have this success is that he is such a smart defender. His high IQ is on display, and he possesses solid lateral agility and a physical frame that can stonewall attacking players right in their tracks. Off the ball, Murrell shines as well as he understands defensive spacing and excels at help side defense. Murrell routinely makes the right decisions and is rarely caught out of position.  Opponents shot an overall 29.1% from the field and 18.1% from deep with him guarding the ball.

Earlier in an exclusive interview with coach Chris Beard, I asked him to describe each player in a few short words. Here’s what he said regarding Matthew Murrell: “Tough. Skilled. High IQ”

We’ll be back with another player analysis tomorrow. Hotty Toddy!

TJ Oxley

TJ Oxley

TJ Oxley is the Vice President of Operations and the Director of Community Relations for The Rebel Walk. He is also the Director of Basketball Content and Senior Basketball Writer. He has over five years of experience providing in-depth analysis of college basketball through multiple platforms. A former MBA graduate of Ole Miss, TJ started with The Rebel Walk in 2019.

About The Author

TJ Oxley

TJ Oxley is the Vice President of Operations and the Director of Community Relations for The Rebel Walk. He is also the Director of Basketball Content and Senior Basketball Writer. He has over five years of experience providing in-depth analysis of college basketball through multiple platforms. A former MBA graduate of Ole Miss, TJ started with The Rebel Walk in 2019.

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