In the closing seconds of a victory last January against Sanger, Murphy Graham made a steal and drove to the basket for a layup. It turned out to be her final shot of the season as she landed wrong on her leg, tearing her anterior cruciate ligament.
“It was probably the worst thing that could’ve happened to me,” Graham said. “I went to the doctor the next day. When I found out, I cried a good whole day. I felt like I had my opportunity to go the playoffs taken from me.”
But as the senior celebrated her 18th birthday Friday, Graham is all smiles again. The Lady Eagles’ sharpshooter is back on the court at full speed and ready to help Decatur on a playoff run.
Graham is averaging 12.8 points for the Lady Eagles, who took on Krum at 8 p.m. Friday for the top seed out of District 9-3A.
“It’s been an amazing season. My teammates have been amazing. Everyone has tried their hardest,” Graham said. “I couldn’t be happier. I feel so blessed that God has given me this opportunity.”
Graham spent her birthday last February in the doctor’s office getting a checkup after her surgery. Then she began the painstaking rehab of her knee.
“It was very painful, and I had to be fully committed to it,” Graham recalled. “I went six days a week for a couple of hours.”
The hard work was worth it, as she returned to the court in less than five months.
“In the summer, I eased myself back into it,” Graham said. “I wanted to do a lot more than I was supposed to. I was just so excited to be back out there.”
Since returning, Graham has had no setbacks.
“She’s come back better and sooner than expected,” said Decatur coach Billy Garner.
Graham is lighting up opponents from the perimeter, shooting 31 percent from beyond the 3-point line. In her final three regular season games, Graham knocked down 12 3-pointers. She was 5-for-7 from beyond the arc in the Jan. 24 win over Krum. In her final game Tuesday at Decatur gym, she hit four of her six attempts.
“She is a shooter and knows when to shoot it,” Garner said. “It helps with the inside game when she hits a few shots.
“She puts in a lot of time and work in the gym to be a good shooter.”
Along with practice, Graham said you have to be a bit fearless to be a good shooter.
“You have to put it up for it to go in,” Graham said. “You can’t be afraid to take the shot and miss. No one is 100 percent. When you miss, you have to just move on and keep going.”
But Graham has developed into far more than just a long-range specialist. She averages 2.4 assists and six rebounds.
“She’s one of our top two players in assists and one of our top rebounders,” Garner said. “I’ve told her, ‘When you rebound, we play better’.”
Watching from the sidelines last season fueled Graham to hone her other skills.
“The injury made me realize that I missed all the aspects of the game – rebounding, giving out assists and getting steals,” Graham said. “You step back and you get a different perspective. Getting hurt left me loving basketball more. When you physically couldn’t help your team, you realize you want to be out there more and those other things are now important.”