April 21, 2000
By Linda Chalich, WSU Sports Information
Demetrius Murray dreams of soaring. All six-feet two inches of his body flying high in the air. Feet far above terra firma. Hanging in just air. And when he makes contact, there is a thunderous slam.
In his dreams, Murray's slam is a dunk. As in basketball, with the orange sphere leaving his long fingertips and rifling down through the net, onto a hardwood court.
In real life, Murray actually does soar. All six-feet two inches of his body flying high in the air. Feet far above terra firma. Hanging in just air. And when he makes contact, there is a thunderous slam. But it is his body hitting cold and damp sand, usually more than 50-feet from where he started. Measured horizontally. And his take-off is a hop, skip and a jump.
"Dee" Murray is a triple jumper. The fifth best triple jumper in WSU history. A two-time track and field All-American. A senior from Tacoma, majoring in broadcasting. A young man who still dreams about basketball.
These dreams come naturally. Murray was a four-year basketball letter-winner at Foss High. His Falcons hoop team did very well, including an eighth-place finish in the state tournament his senior year. Murray was a small forward on the team who could, and did, dunk.
As a junior, Murray was the state triple jump champion with a leap of 47-feet, 10 inches. While not a great distance, it was enough to get the attention of college track coaches. And enough to have Murray seriously consider the possibility of competing on a field and not on a court, in college.
"I lucked out in having Jerry Blair as my high school coach," Murray said. "He coached all the events - hurdles, sprints, jumps - but he was one of the better triple jump coaches in the state. Coaches are really teachers."
As a high school senior, Murray found himself putting all of his energy into his basketball career and didn't improve much in his track endeavors. He finished a disappointing second in the state triple jump competition.
"I wanted to do both basketball and track in college, and was looked at for basketball by only community colleges," Murray recalls. "But I decided to go D-I, Pac-10, and signed with Washington State track."
Cougar fans are delighted he did as he has been a consistent points-getter throughout his Wazzu career. During his freshman year, Murray finished sixth in the triple jump at the Pac-10 Championships and 12th in the long jump. His wind-aided triple jump of 51-7 1/4 at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo was eighth-best among WSU all-time marks. As a sophomore, Murray finished fifth in the triple and sixth in the long jump at the Pac-10 Championships.
Then came his breakthrough season as a junior. At the Pac-10s, Murray finished second in the long jump with a personal-best of 25-3 1/2w, and third in the triple jump. His 53-5 3/4 triple jump at the Modesto Relays earlier in the year had qualified him for the NCAA Championships competition. Then, on a blustery and cold June day in Boise, Idaho, Murray soared to 54-0w for second place in the national meet. This mark is fifth-best in Cougar all-time records and the best leap by a Coug during the decade of the 1990s.
Ready to rest on his laurels, and looking forward to a summer vacation, Murray instead found himself flying across the Atlantic to compete in the World University Games in Spain. Although he did not place, Murray found the experience very valuable. If only for the fact it will look good on his television broadcasting resume.
Murray imagines future employers as saying, "Hey, he's from WSU, ranked fourth in the nation for communications studies, a two-time All-American who competed in Spain, this guy has to know what he's talking about. Let's hire him!"
"I'm an open guy, loud," Murray says proudly. "I'm not shy in front of the camera. I feel my personality is solid. I felt that was something I could do. And my background in sports has really helped me out. The credibility is huge now. You see more and more athletes converting over to broadcasting and analyzing sports. I feel the two parts of my life will help each other out."
Murray credits the academic program available to all Cougar student-athletes as an important aspect of his success. Because of the nature of the indoor and outdoor track and field seasons spanning the entire spring semester, missing classes due to competitive travel is a major inconvenience. Add conditioning practice all fall, and track student-athletes don't get much of a break during the school year.
"That in itself is a challenge," Murray said. "And we have to accept that challenge before the season starts every year. They (WSU Athletics academic counselors) really guide you along because not being in class is a major problem. You can read the material and do all the stuff, but hearing it from the teacher is what's important. The academic people really fill in that gap for you."
And as if juggling his broadcasting career and his track career aren't enough, Murray is also trying very hard to be a good father. His daughter, Shaya, is 3 1/2 years old and lives with her mother in Olympia. Even though Murray no longer has a personal relationship with her mother, he is proud they are working hard together to do what is best for their daughter.
Murray can spout her statistics like a veteran sportscaster, "She's 41 inches tall and 38 pounds and growing bigger by the minute. During the fall semester I see her nearly every weekend, either going there or her coming here. But during the season, it's a lot of phone calls. Now that she's older and can communicate more, I can know how she's doing."
And he's also helping to support her financially, spending the least amount of money on himself from his scholarship money and paying child support.
"I feel the opportunity to go to college and better myself and my knowledge as well as my athletic ability is really beneficial to my future and hers as well," Murray said. "I'm going to try and build a foundation and try to provide for her as best as I can."
Murray's commitment comes from growing up without a father in his life. "Sports was my father figure. Sports provided the discipline for me early on, kept me out of trouble, kept me working on my grades, and really is guiding my future right now.
"I'm proud of my accomplishments in track and field and I feel fortunate to come as far as I have in the sport of track and field. I'm not taking anything for granted and I want to pursue track as far as it will take me."
Murray still finds himself in campus gyms on occasion, tossing down slam dunks and dabbling in the game, he admits, is his first love.
His pursuit of his personal goals to soar even higher, no matter what the method, may guarantee his success. They come from his heart.