When former 11-year NBA player Lamond Murray began to help his son and daughter research colleges, he came across a company named NCSA that was dedicated to helping young athletes find the right colleges for them. Murray was so impressed, he didn’t just employ their services â€“ he became a part of their organization.
Using his experience from becoming the No. 7 pick in the 1994 NBA Draft out of the University of California, Murray speaks to young athletes and their families about how NCSA can help navigate the tricky landscape of college recruiting, finding the best fit to set them up for success.
“They provide a highlight reel, they provide a platform for these kids to be seen,” says Murray. “They connect all the college coaches with the student athletes who are associated with them, so they can e-mail back and forth. And also, they have all the rule changes that may have been instituted for the new year â€“ basically, everything you need as a parent or a student-athlete.”
Besides his work with NCSA, Murray â€“ who hopes to try his hand at commentary at some point â€“ stays busy watching his children’s games and running his own company, Real Run Academy, which provides PE and fine arts classes for home-schooled kids.
I caught up with Murray on the phone from his home in California to discuss his endeavors with NCSA, his thoughts on the recently completed NBA lockout and some of his views on the current NBA.
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Dime: What kind of risks do you think families might take by not utilizing NCSA going into the college selection process?
Lamond Murray: Well, they’re going to make a lot of mistakes. First of all, they’re going to look at their kids with the “love glasses” and automatically think that they’re Division I athletes because they got a few letters in the mail. Not to take anything away from them, but those letters are now standard to everybody they feel has any potential.
So people look at those letters and say, “My kid got recruited by such-and-such because he got 10 letters last month.” They’re not really taking into account how much contact they’re having with the coach, how many people are showing up to the games, to where you can see how you’re really being evaluated and recruited. So from that standpoint alone, people get lost in the shuffle of thinking their kids are better than what they really are, and only look at the Division I option instead of D-II, D-III and the NAIA as options for their kids.
Dime: One of the talked about potential provisions of the new CBA is an alteration to the age rule to enter the NBA Draft. What do you think would benefit recruits the most: the current one-and-done rule, no rule, or something similar to baseball where you either go straight out of high school or have to stay in college a few years?
LM: You always want to give a person after the age of 18 the right to earn a living at whatever they decide they want to do. But in terms of some of the kids I’ve seen come out underdeveloped, I’d always recommend they do two or three years of college to catch up socially and emotionally, then explore the NBA as an option. I think it would be a good thing if they were to move that age limit back.
Dime: If you had been the sort of player where you were in position to be drafted high right out of high school, would you have still gone to college for a couple years?
LM: Yeah, I think I definitely would have. Even when I went pro after my junior year at 21, I could see the difference in the game in terms of development, power and strength. I felt like I needed to put more weight on and wasn’t able to compete at that level for a few months before becoming confident I could compete with guys in their 30s, grown men.
Dime: What differences do you see with the lockout that just concluded and the one while you were a player in 1998-99?
LM: Obviously, the basketball-related income is different. This new amnesty rule, where you can waive guys and not have it count against the cap – there are a lot of intricacies. When we did ours in 1998, you saw the increase from the mid-level all the way to the biggest names. We got some incentives in terms of our licensing agreement, and we got retired players looked after, as well. The agreement we had was very good for the growth of the game and the players, and we’ll see where they’re at with this one five years from now.
Dime: This lockout resulted in a shorter 66-game season compared to the usual 82. What are your thoughts on that?
LM: Well, that money from the lost games will never be recouped. Obviously, that million dollars from 1998, I never got that back. (Laughs) That’s never a good thing, but in terms of the players, hopefully everyone gets back in shape to where there’s not going to be a lot of injuries. Back in 1998, we saw the veteran teams are always the ones that do best in the shortened season, because they’re better equipped, they stayed ready, they know each other’s games. So it’s an easier adjustment for them than for teams that are rebuilding.
Dime: Do you feel there was maybe a lack of unity among the players, particularly between the upper crust of players and the role player types?
LM: Yeah… you could see the gap of guys who were really concerned about what was going on â€“ the mid-level guys and lower-income guys more so than the guys who are on top. I think it would have closed the deal a lot faster if the top guys had been more involved, maybe the season would have started a little bit sooner so as to keep those guys happy.
Dime: How do you feel the players get perceived coming out of the lockout?
LM: Just like any other situation like this, it’s going to be: “Oh, these millionaires fighting over billions.” (Laughs) With the times the way they are, I wouldn’t be surprised if some people are like, “We’re out here struggling and these guys are sitting here fighting over millions of dollars.” In terms of a form of entertainment that helps the average American forget about the daily grind and come out to yell, scream and get rid of some stress, I do think people will eventually get back to business and get back to watching games.
Dime: Chris Paul just reportedly requested a trade to a big-market team to play with other stars, sort of a common theme lately. Do you think that sort of thing is good for the game?
LM: No, I think that’s just the atmosphere of the players who play the game right now. They’re not used to having to take on the grind of being the go-to guy, having the responsibility laid on them. Everyone wants to join with two or three other guys to try to get the job done, and I think it’s just the culture of those young guys playing the game right now, something these guys grew up doing with the AAU circuit.
Dime: What differences do you see in today’s NBA in terms of style of play?
LM: I think the style of play is a lot different. When I first came in the league, there was no such thing as zone; you either man up, or it’s an illegal defense if you pack in the paint. Now they allow guys who aren’t good defenders to get help. There’s more free movement; when a player has the ball, if you do anything physical with him, you’ll automatically have a foul called. There are a lot of rule changes I feel handicap some of the guys, while helping certain guys who are average players look above average.
Dime: Having played in Cleveland and gotten to know that fan base, do you think they’ll ever forgive LeBron James? If so, what would it take to make that happen?
LM: No, I don’t think that’s an option at this point. (Laughs) Like if he gets to the end of his career and says, “I want to come home and play!” … Yeah, I don’t think that can happen.
Dime: Who are your favorite players to watch now?
LM: I like high flyers like Blake Griffin. Watching guys get up for crazy dunks always excited me as a player, and as a fan. In terms of style of play, I loved the past few Boston Celtics teams. They were grinding it out defensively, moving the ball well offensively â€“ guys were getting lots of touches, they worked well as a team.
Dime: What would you say was your favorite moment from your playing career?
LM: (Cal’s) upset of Duke (in the 1993 NCAA Tournament) – no matter where I played, I always had somebody talking about that game. That was definitely one of those games that put me on the map, as well as Cal and Jason Kidd. Another highlight was being on the New Jersey Nets in 2005-06. We won our division, but lost to the eventual NBA champs, the Heat, in the playoffs.
Dime: What did you feel like the day you were drafted?
LM: Scared! (Laughs) Not knowing where I was going to end up, what part of the country â€“ I’d been in California my whole life and didn’t know what snow was! I’d been on the East Coast on some trips in college, but I’d never really gone on my own. So I was nervous and scared to find out where I would be, and I ended up getting taken by the Clippers back in L.A., and you know the rest.
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