Whether it was the recreational basketball league his uncle placed him in as a child, AAU games or the past four years at Rainier Beach High School, there’s a section in the stands at every game filled with immediate family members, uncles, aunts and cousins to support Dejounte Murray.
These are most of the same people he lived with until the sixth grade, when his mother finished a seven-year prison sentence for something Murray requested not be mentioned. He said his father was never around.
But these days, he can’t help but smile.
Murray is chasing an unprecedented fourth 3A title at the Tacoma Dome this weekend. He’s earned a scholarship to the University of Washington to play basketball next year, and he’s been named The News Tribune’s 2014-15 boys basketball state player of the year.
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“My lifestyle is different from a lot of kids around here,” said Murray, who moved back in with his mother in the sixth grade and said he has developed a better relationship with his father. “It was tough for me, not having a mom and dad. I was moving from house to house, living with my grandma who was raising 12 of us.
“It just puts a smile on my face because I came a long way.”
Murray said he gets his game — the unselfishness, the understanding of when to take over games and his work ethic — from his uncles, especially former Ingraham standout Terry Thompson. That’s why he wears No. 5, just like Thompson wore.
His grandmother is the one who gave him his nickname — Baby Boy.
“I just liked it,” Murray said. “Even when I’m 50 years old, I’ll still go by Baby Boy. I tell my grandma that I won’t change it.”
He can go by whatever he wants if he’s going to average 24.2 points, 13.6 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. He set a school record for points when he dropped 52 the second game of the season against Franklin. He also had 20 rebounds.
Of all the great players to come through Rainier Beach — not Jamal Crawford (for whom the school’s court is named after), Nate Robinson nor Doug Christie — will have left the legacy Murray hopes to leave with leading Beach to its fourth consecutive state championship.
No school in WIAA history from a school 1A or higher has done that. Northwest Christian of Colbert won four straight 2B titles from 2006-09.
“Winner. Just winner,” Bethea said. “It just sums up everything about him. He’s the most talented player on the court, but he’s also the best teammate on the court. And he has that type of work ethic you wish all your kids had.
“You take all of that, throw it in a pot and cook it up, it comes out winner. And that’s him. He’s a winner.”
And that goes beyond the basketball court.
“If I make it or if I don’t make it, I’m going to come back regardless,” Murray said. “I’ve bled orange and blue ever since I was young, so I’m going to come back and tell people my story, how many titles I won here, and how I’ve got to where I’ve gotten. I’m looking forward to it.”
TNT ALL-STATE BOYS BASKETBALL TEAM
G Steven Beo
Richland, 6-3, junior
Had 49 points against Wenatchee and 45 against Davis - in back-to-back games. 27.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists.
G Isiah Brown
Lakeside, 6-3, junior
Always been a scorer but more consistent this season and affecting game even when he wasn't. 28.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists.
G Viont'e Daniels
Federal Way, 6-3, senior
Had the skills last year, but mentality change took game to next level. 21.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists
G Ty Gibson
Issaquah, 6-3, senior
Great scorer, but ability on the boards has been just as big of a lift. 23.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists
F Dejounte Murray
Rainier Beach, 6-5, senior
Could be first from non-B school to end career to play for school that wins four consecutive state championship. 24.2 points, 13.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists. College: Washington
Player of the year: Dejounte Murray, Rainier Beach
Coach of the year: Mike Bethea, Rainier Beach
F Matisse Thybulle, Eastside Catholic, 6-6, senior
20.4 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists
F Dom Green, Hazen, 6-7, senior
23.4 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.6 blocks
G David Jenkins Jr., Wilson, 6-0, junior
22.0 points, 3.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds
G JaQuori McLaughlin, Peninsula, 6-3, junior
23 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds
Jaylen Nowell, Garfield, 6-5, sophomore
23.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists