Good Start

West Virginia University's Aaric Murray is off to what he believes is a good start in his effort to make the USA Men's World University Games team. spoke with Murray after his first day at training camp to get his insight on the selection process.

Following the first day of practice and tryouts in Colorado Springs, Murray was upbeat about the entire experience, but did note that the altitude at the U.S. Olympic Training Center was a factor in the opening drills.

"It was a great session, but the altitude was different, and it did have an effect on all of us," the forthright center said. "It was tough to get off the plane and then come in and play right away. After about three minutes, I was breathing hard, and everyone else was too. We did kick it into second gear, but it was still a little sluggish overall.

"All of the coaches here were part of previous teams, and some of the people here played in the 1991 team tryouts, and they told us to expect it, and that they knew what it was like."

The was the only small negative in what was a busy day for Murray and the 20 others gathered for the tryouts, of which 12 will make the final roster.

"We watched some tape of past Olympic teams, and the coaches talked to us about how much of an honor it is just to be here. They said it was important for us to represent our country well, and that we aren't going to be hanging on the rim or acting disrespectfully. We want to represent the U.S. the right way, and don't want guys showing off or being negative. We want to be positive and proud and do everything right."

Once the indoctrination sessions concluded, Murray and his teammates hit the court for their first basketball action of the camp.

"We stretched out and got loose, and then we went through a lot of station drills," he said. "Those were about trying to teach us some things about the international aspects of the game, and to show us things we can do in college that you can't do overseas, like the right way to jump stop. After that we went through regular scrimmages, and that work was all out. The coaches want us to get up and down, and play fast, smart and aggressively."

Murray is part of a group of eight "bigs" on the team, including some names familiar to WVU fans. Cincinnati's Yancy Gates, Notre Dame's Tim Abromaitis and Minnesota's Trevor Mbakwe (via Marquette) are three of the players with which Murray will have to contend to earn a roster spot.

"We don't really have an indication yet on how many bigs are going to be on the team, or how many players at each position, but with eight bigger guys here, I know they won't keep all of them," Murray said. "I think I did well in the first session. I hit some shots, but I got a couple blocked too, so I have to get better with reading the defense and pump faking. But all in all, I thought I did well."

While others on the team have games to look forward to when they return to the U.S., Murray's exertions will be confined to the practice floor and weight room as he sits out his transfer year after moving to WVU from LaSalle. Will that help motivate him in his quest to make the World Games roster? And how will he contribute to a rebuilding West Virginia team later this year?

"I do look forward to making this team and representing the U.S," he reflected. "I do have a long year to sit out, so maybe this will be good for me. I can leave a good feeling and let people know I am still on the map. I did get to practice [at WVU] before I left to come here, and I think I can help the team by bringing effort and energy to practice, even though I can't play in games. They can feed off that. I'll work, and if they can guard me and get by me, they will know they are guarding or getting by a good player, and that will help them get better. And going up against them will help me get better too."

Those following Murray on Twitter may have noticed several tweets since his arrival in Colorado in which he appears to be looking for someone to hang out with. In reality, however, he's been anything but lonely.

"Actually, I know most of the players that are here in camp," Murray said with a laugh. "On Twitter, that's just me having a good time, sending out when I have a few minutes of free time."

* * *

According to USA Basketball, finalists for the team are expected to be announced on July 31. Practice will then continue through Aug. 7, with the official roster for the team set before departure for China the next day. The team will have two practice sessions per day.

Mountaineers Daily Top Stories