MURRAY, KY (WAVE) - In a matter of months, Murray State sophomore Ja Morant has gone from a relatively unknown guard at a mid-major to a fixture on SportsCenter, and an internet sensation. The 6-foot-3 guard had a stellar freshman season, but still flew under the radar nationally ... until now.
“I’m having a lot of fun," said Morant, who added he doesn’t mind the attention, but is quick to recognize his teammates. “We’re having a great season. We’re a great basketball team.”
The question that is commonly asked is how did a player of this caliber, who played AAU basketball in his home state of South Carolina, with the most popular basketball player in the country, Zion Williamson, go mostly unnoticed in high school?
Murray State head coach Matt McMahon can’t speak for everyone else. He just knows a former assistant saw Morant play, and instantly knew he would be a star.
“He ended up getting recruited," McMahon said. “Had a power-five offer. I think he knew the rich tradition of point guards that have come through Murray State.”
Since arriving on Murray State’s campus, Morant has been a star.
“He’s been a great ambassador for Murray State University,” McMahon said.
While he turns heads with his highlight-reel dunks, Morant is the most prolific passer in school history. His 10.2 assists per game lead the nation by more than two a game. He has already set the single-season assist record at Murray State, and shattered the Ohio Valley Conference single-season record with three games left in the regular season.
“My teammates are great dudes,” Morant said. “We’ve all gelled as one, as brothers. There’s just nothing more you can ask for.”
As you would imagine, when the most popular player in school history is a great passer, it makes him even more popular with his teammates.
“The thing that just us helps us together is that he doesn’t get too big time," junior teammate Darnell Cowart said. “He’s always humble. He’s always with the team.”
Lindy Suiter has been running the Racer Insider newspaper for more than 20 years, and said Morant is as good as anybody he has seen play at Murray State. He’s seen all of the greats who have donned the Racer uniform, from Popeye Jones to Marcus Brown to Isaiah Canaan, and he said Morant is as good as advertised.
“(I like) his ability to make guys around him better," Suiter said. “He’s really a talented, talented kid, and he’s only 19 years old.”
In Murray, the added attention Morant gets from the fans isn’t too bad, but it’s when the Racers go on the road where they have to actually bring in added security for the star.
“When you see some of the highlight plays like that dunk at Martin, I look up and there are people running up and down in the stands going crazy,” McMahon said.
Added Suiter: “I mean, I’ve got people in restaurants before the game, (saying), ‘I drove 100 miles to see Ja Morant.’"
Now considered to be the No. 3 prospect in this summer’s NBA Draft, and already drawing attention from current NBA stars like Kevin Durant, Morant is a legitimate superstar, but he’s taking it all in stride.