Melanie Murphy: Taking Stock

Melanie Murphy's point guard skills are a hot commodity for Stanford heading into Pac-10 conference play in January.

Redshirt sophomore guard Melanie Murphy lights things up for the Cardinal in more ways than one. Murphy is quick with the quips and smart with the passes. The Cardinal will need both the humor and the assists as they work toward building a guard rotation that can carry them back to the Final Four. We spoke with Murphy in mid-December before the team departed for their East Coast road trip.

It's been almost a year since Murphy had ACL surgery on her left knee. Is she completely recovered?

"I feel fine. Sometimes my knee gets sore during practice or afterwards but for the most part I feel 100% when I'm playing. I feel like I'm right where I left off."

Stanford defeated Purdue, Iowa State, and Hawaii at a Thanksgiving tournament in Oahu. Did Murphy enjoy the trip?

"Hawaii was good. It was fun. I've never been to Hawaii before so it was definitely a new experience for me with the nice weather. It was great. I'm not a beach person really so I didn't go at all. Everyone else went. I saw the pictures. It looked like they had a great time. I kind of just laid back and hung out with my family. It was good to have them out."

Her family came all the way from New York to Hawaii?

"Yes, just for the games. They don't go to the beach either."

The Murphy family isn't really into the beach experience?

"Not really. I've been on the beach. Water, sand – you've seen them in one place…"

What is Murphy's assessment of her team after the first seven games?

"I think we're pretty good. I think we have a lot of potential, especially with all that the new freshmen can do. They're getting some major minutes and I think they're helping our team a lot. We have a good outlook for our future this year."

Does she have any personal goals this season?

"I just want to be a contributor, help the team out, help us get as far as we can go, especially with JJ (Hones) out right now. I feel like it's something that we've been through before and had to overcome before so we're trying to do better than we did my freshmen season (when the Cardinal lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to Florida State) and hopefully take it to the next level and win a championship this year."

What is she working on the most in her game this season?

"I'm always working on my shooting and making sure my ball handling is up to where it needs to be."

Murphy need not work on her sense of humor; she is often called the funniest person on the team. But is there pressure to keep the mood light and the one-liners popping?

"It can be a lot of pressure sometimes. Now everyone is expecting it. It's not like I can just come out and make people laugh if they're already expecting me to make them happier. If I don't it's kind of like, what's going on? But I enjoy being the funniest person on the team."

Who is the easiest teammate to make laugh?

"Michelle (Harrison) is probably one of the easiest people. She laughs at anything."

Who is the most difficult to amuse?

"Everyone is pretty much… They laugh. Everyone laughs. No one is hard."

Murphy is also quick to acknowledge other contributors to the Card's comedy quotient.

"Jayne (Appel) has the most pranks. I'm not really a prank person. I remember one time Jayne switched around everyone's shoes in the locker room. Sometimes we have our shoes outside our lockers. So she switched sizes and everything. I just like to joke at all times."

How long did it take to figure out whose shoes were whose?

"Well I was fine because I had my shoes on my feet. It was before a track workout so I was coming straight from my dorm. But they were struggling. I know she switched Michelle's and Nneka's (Ogwumike). They wear the same size. Luckily we have our own orthotics in our shoes."

Murphy has spent over two years in Palo Alto now. Being a New Yorker, is anything still strange to her in California?

"Actually the other day [some of my teammates and I] were in the car and while we were driving they were like oh man, there's so much traffic. It was just so weird to me. I was like this isn't traffic; this is a normal road. You don't know what traffic is. This is nothing!"

If she could take over for Head Coach Tara VanDerveer for a while, what would Murphy do?

"I'd probably start me!

I don't know. I feel Tara is doing a really good job. It's hard for her because there are so many people – we have so many good players on the team. It must be hard for her to figure out who is starting. We're doing a different type of thing this year. She likes to call it "tag team." They're just trying to play all these people and we've never really done that before. I think it would be tough. I'm not really sure what I would do."

So Murphy feels getting the rotation right is the hardest job for the coaches right now?

"Yes, we're tying to play a lot of people so figuring out how to play so many people, how to spread the minutes out. If you see Arizona State, they kind of do a 5 in, 5 out type of system. I feel like that would be tough too. The coaches have to figure out a way to make sure everyone stays comfortable and gets a lot of minutes and still spread the minutes out. I feel that's a tough job to have."

As a player trying to fit into the system and earn minutes, how does this affect Murphy?

"I think my freshman year was the hardest because I wasn't used to not playing that much but now I'm kind of used to ok, I come in the game right now and I either make something happen or I don't. I'm either going to have a lot of passes and get people a lot of looks or I just might not have it that day and maybe somebody else can."

Murphy has had some games where she piled up the assists including the Iowa State and Hawaii games, when she notched 11 assists and only 2 turnovers in the 30 minutes she played over the course of those two games. Her career high is 10 assists against USC in February 2007. Can she feel those big assist days coming?

"Sometimes I feel more productive than other times, like even the other day in practice, I was kind of off. I could just feel my passing was a little off. A lot of time if I get to play with a lot of people on the team, especially because I jump back and forth between the scout teams and the starting teams, it helps. Getting to play with everyone helps a lot. People are getting used to what I do and I'm getting used to how they like the ball. I try to implement that in the games."

When Murphy arrived at Stanford she had a stock portfolio she had built up during high school. How is it doing now? Any tips for shell-shocked investors?

"I still own it. It's terrible right now! I have zero tips. I haven't been able to keep up with it because of all the time that basketball takes and school takes. Doing the stock market takes a lot of time, keeping up with the news, what's going on, and then obviously with this little recession that we're having, it's kind of killing a lot of people, me included."

Murphy has been described as one who enjoys the attention she receives from fans. Does she enjoy sitting for this interview?

"I do! I do like the attention. I feel like what if I'm not going to another level [in basketball]? I feel you have to take in every opportunity, all the experiences that you have now, because one day you could be somebody and the next day, nobody. It's kind of interesting having people enjoy who you are, just wanting to be around you, just wanting to say hello, especially the little kids when I come out to give them my sneakers and sign things for them. I just love doing it because tomorrow it may go away. It's good to enjoy the opportunities that you have."

The team does some work with kids in the local community?

"We do. I didn't get a chance to do that many things last year because of my knee. I wasn't able to get around. But before I got hurt I believe I did two things last year. Normally we do two or three during fall/winter and then we'll have something in the spring. The kids may come in and we'll help them learn basketball skills. It's a little community service – doesn't hurt anybody."

Murphy's point guard play of late isn't hurting anybody either – her playing time is on the upswing. In Murphy's Cardinal career so far she has overcome the Bear Market period of her November 2007 ACL tear, and if our leading indicators are correct she may be entering a Bull Market phase of heightened productivity and soaring investor confidence. We don't have much faith in the stock market right now, but with demand high and supply limited, we'd bank on Murphy's point guard output reaching new and impressive heights.

To view a slide show of Don Anderson's photos taken during this interview with Melanie Murphy, click HERE.

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