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An early scouting report on the Spurs’ newest All-Star

Remembering what an unofficial scout thought of rookie Dejounte Murray coming into the league.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at New Orleans Pelicans Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

I have told this story before, but it bears repeating – especially because it leads to a remarkably prescient scouting report from 2016 on Dejounte Murray, the Spurs’ latest NBA All-Star.

Long-time readers know that I spent 8 years coaching NCAA basketball at Claremont McKenna College near Los Angeles. Our primary rival was — and still is — the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens, where some fellow named Gregg Popovich had his first coaching job, from 1977 through 1988. (I lost track of Gregg after he left Pomona-Pitzer. If anyone knows what became of him, please drop it in the comments section.)

One of my favorite moments from coaching occurred near the start of my seventh season. We were coming off an excellent year in which we won the league. Our 6’6’’ post player Henry Albrecht, from Seattle, Washington, had won Player of the Year as a junior, and our 6’7’’ shooting guard Chris Greene was first team All-conference as a sophomore.

With both players returning, along with several other excellent players, we had high hopes for the season. A few days into practice, a remarkable thing happened. Henry came into the coaches’ office. He told us that he recognized that Chris was the most talented player on the team, if not the league. Henry told us he would have no problem if the coaches decided to feature Chris ahead of him. Indeed, he encouraged us to do exactly that.

It was a remarkable recognition and concession from such a talented player, especially one entering his senior season. As a result of that talk, the transition to Chris was seamless. Henry remained a fellow top performer, making first team All-Conference and All-District. Chris wound up Player of the Year that year as a junior, and eventually All-American as a senior. Oh – we repeated as league champion.

Though Henry returned to Seattle after graduation, we stayed in touch. He also stayed in touch with the Seattle high school hoops. This meant Henry was a perfect person to reach out to when the Spurs drafted Dejounte Murray after he played high school ball in Seattle and his freshman year at the University of Washington. In October 2016, Henry sent me the following scouting report, written in the same loose and jangly style that Dejounte handles the ball. (Henry was an English major):

Dejounte Murray is skinny. His jumper is decent, but a little slower and more free flowing than the best (most robotic) shooters. It doesn’t compare to fellow skinny Seattle high-school legend Jamal Crawford’s. Like Crawford, Murray plays leaning forward, like the rim is a drain he is circling like water. On defense he knows how to position himself and use his long skeleton arms. He has a relentless motor and edge, but knows when to pump the brakes and float the shot over bigs. Maybe higher draft picks would just dunk over them — but sometimes the best point guards are most dangerous around 15 feet from the hoop, with dribble-pass-shoot options. Remember that guy Tony Parker? He gets to the rim when he wants to, but if you take it away he’ll eat a steady diet of 17 footers.

Murray is not a pure shooter like CJ Wilcox, Martell Webster, Aaron Brooks or Jason Terry, not even a shooting guard — though his lanky, long-arm D could get him minutes there. He is unselfish on the court. Competitive but not an “I want to kill you” mentality of the best true scorers. (I’ve never met him off the court, but he seems cool). He is also is very young (and did I mention skinny)?

So, to continue comparisons with what I know best — Seattle hoopers — I would say he gets to the rim like fellow UW-one-and-done Tony Wroten did, but with a little less of the abandon and more awareness and length. And should stick in the league from the get go.

He doesn’t bounce like Nate Robinson (Washington), Zach Lavine (from Seattle area) or Terrence Ross (Washington), and isn’t built like Rodney Stuckey (Eastern Washington), but could he average 7 and 6 as a rookie like Gary Payton did? I think so. (He won’t come out of the gate like Brandon Roy).

He can guard both guard positions, but will have trouble with really strong 2s (DeRozan? Jimmy Butler? I don’t think so) and the fastest Point Guards (who can really guard the “non-Seattle” people Kyrie or John Wall or Kemba Walker one on one?)

As I said, a very prescient scouting report for something written almost six years ago.

On a related note, the Claremont – Pomona game is tomorrow. I am meeting a bunch of my ex-players for the game – including Chris Greene and Henry Albrecht. I am really looking forward to getting together with the group!!