RaRedding Murray has coached long enough to know that what you learn in December and January will only help your basketball team in February and March. And that the road to the Breslin Center begins in December playing against elite teams that will hopefully make the Gators battle tested for March and a run at the Division 3 state title.
“One of the first things I did when I took over was look at the schedule from last year,” said Murray, who was the Detroit News Coach of the Year in 2003 after leading Detroit Crockett to the 2003 state semifinals. “I felt like we needed to load up with stronger competition at the beginning of the season but also throughout the season. We play Benton Harbor later in the season and we have Ann Arbor Huron and Hanover-Horton on the schedule too so we will be battled tested by the time March comes around.”
Arbor Prep (3-2 overall) opened up with Division 1 power Pioneer and lost in a game played at EMU. “They are really good and it was our first time playing on a college floor,” Murray said. “But we have a young team (two freshman) so it’s going to take some time.”
Arbor Prep then lost to Detroit Pershing in overtime before beating Father Gabriel Richard 55-44 on Tuesday for their third win of the young season.
“They (FGR) are good,” Murray said. “They are a solid team, very well coached and ran their offense well. I like how we finished the game against them because we took care of the ball and played good defense. That was a nice win for us.”
Murray coached Crockett to a Class B state championship in 2001 and later guided the team to the semifinals in 2003. He coached Detroit Mumford to six straight playoff appearances and coached three years at Macomb Community College. Murray also has served as a scout for the Detroit Pistons and Oklahoma City Thunder.
He’s excited about his new opportunity at Arbor Prep. “The kids have really bought into what we are trying to do, especially on defense,” Murray said. “The girls’ program at Arbor Prep has had some incredible success over the past three years and that’s where we want to be with the boys’ program.”
The Gators have some firepower on offense but where they really crank up the heat on opponents is on the defensive end. Their athleticism on defense, especially when they pressure the ball like they did against FGR on Tuesday night, will create plenty of turnovers and in turn easy baskets.
“We got it going on defense and that caused some turnovers,” Murray said of Tuesday night’s win over the Irish. “We started off a little slow but our defense really stepped up.”