MARCH 25, 2009

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EOSC’s Willie Murrell Makes NJCAA Basketball Hall of Fame

Photo of Willie Murrell in 1990 at EOSC.
Willie Murrell is pictured during the 1990 halftime ceremony at Eastern Oklahoma State College homecoming when his jersey, number 53, was retired.

When the NJCAA Men’s Basketball Coaches Association announced the 2009 Hall of Fame class, a former Eastern Oklahoma State College player whose nickname was “Scoring Artist” while at the Wilburton College in the early ’60s, was listed along with three longtime coaches.

Eastern’s 1962 First-Team All-American William Murrell and coaches Mike Leatherwood and Lewis Orr were inducted into the NJCAA Hall of Fame at the 2009 NJCAA Division I Men’s Tournament in Hutchinson, Kan., March 17. The third coach, William Finn was inducted March 18 at the 2009 NJCAA Division II Men’s Tournament in Danville, Ill.

Since the Hall of Fame began in 1984, 118 coaches, players and special contributors have been inducted. Murrell was added to the Hall of Fame 48 years after he started making basketball history in 1961 as an Eastern freshman.

Murrell, who led with all the statistics during the 1961 season, was on the Mountaineer team that placed first in the Oklahoma Junior Collegiate Conference and ranked third in the nation coached by Mark Winters, who later went to the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond.

Murrell’s Eastern jersey, number 53, was retired during a homecoming halftime ceremony in 1990, commemorating his accomplishments. The jersey, a plaque and team picture were put on permanent display in the field house. He was the first Eastern player to go on to be in the National Basketball Association.

While at Eastern, Murrell was the unanimous choice for the OJCC All-Star First Team and the All-Regional II First Team and led the team with 270 field goals, 167 free throws, 315 rebounds and an average of 24.4 points a game. He finished his college career at Kansas State University, where he received additional honors.

While at Kansas State, Murrell averaged 20.6 points per game with 10.7 rebounds in his two seasons with the Wildcats. Murrell is one of just 20 players to score 1,000 points and one of just three players to do it in just two seasons. His 648 points and 22.3 points per game average in 1964 ranks an all-time fifth at Kansas State.

He later played with the Harlem Globetrotters and the American Basketball Association and the NBA. Murrell was selected by the St. Louis Hawks in the fourth round of the 1964 NBA draft and later played in the ABA from 1967-70 for the Kentucky Colonels, Miami Floridians and the Denver Rockets.

Murrell is now retired and lives in Colorado.