The Taylor Murray off the court is not the Taylor Murray on the court.
“She’s a fascinating kid,” Kentucky assistant coach Kyra Elzy said of the Cats’ point guard. “She’s so mild and meek. … Off the court, she’s really slow moving, go with the flow, very mild and meek voice.”
But “mild” and “meek” are not words teammates — nor Cats coaches — would use to describe the speedy sophomore who has become a key leader this season for UK.
They’d probably opt for words like fearless.
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“If you’re in the wrong, Tay Tay will let you know that you’re in the wrong,” said backup point guard Jaida Roper, who admitted she was a little bit scared of the seemingly silent sophomore when she got to Kentucky. “If you mess up, you’ll hear from Tay.”
At first, Roper thought Murray was standoffish and a little bit mean.
“I didn’t know how to read her,” Roper continued. “Turns out, she’s not mean at all. She’s about her business.”
On the floor, the 5-foot-6 guard is all business for Kentucky, which plays at Georgia (12-11, 4-6 Southeastern Conference) on Thursday night.
Murray has nearly doubled her scoring and rebounding production from last season when she averaged 6.8 points and 2.5 boards off the bench. This season, she’s putting up 12.5 points, 5.4 rebounds (second best on the team), 3.4 assists and two steals.
In league play this season, she has 50 assists to 17 turnovers, the second best ratio in the SEC.
The guard followed up her lowest scoring game of the season against South Carolina with one of her most complete games on Sunday with 18 points, seven assists, five rebounds and five steals.
“Taylor is just doing such a good job in so many areas,” Coach Matthew Mitchell said after the win Sunday. “That stat line is just filled with effort plays in there.
She’s just playing at a real high level and has to be one of the top guards in our league and one of the top guards in the nation. She’s playing really well.
“She’s just playing at a real high level and has to be one of the top guards in our league and one of the top guards in the nation. She’s playing really well.”
It’s not just the stat lines that impress Murray’s coaches and teammates.
Despite the whole meek and mild thing, she’s a vocal leader because she doesn’t mince words.
“One thing I like best about Taylor is she’ll tell you straight up how it is,” roommate and fellow sophomore guard Maci Morris said. “She doesn’t care to tell you anything. … She’ll tell you straight up. She has no filter sometimes, and I like that.”
Roper gets a little quieter as she describes Murray’s demeanor on the floor.
“She brings you in close and then she’ll say exactly what’s on her mind,” the freshman said. “No filter. None.”
It’s just easier to get straight to the point. I don’t like to sugar coat it. If it’s something you need to hear, or if I see something, I’m going to let you know just like I’d want you to let me know. I just speak it how I see it.
And while the first few words might be a shot to the gut, Murray always offers an encouraging word right afterward. That’s helped Roper a lot, she said.
“She gets me in order,” Roper said. “She’s an encourager, too. So after she says what’s on her mind, she’ll say, ‘Well, you’re doing this part good, now go do that other thing good.’”
Murray is just as matter-of-fact when asked about her filter-free interactions with teammates.
“It’s just easier to get straight to the point,” said Murray, who has had 14 double-digit scoring games this season for Kentucky (16-8, 7-4).
“I don’t like to sugar coat it. If it’s something you need to hear, or if I see something, I’m going to let you know just like I’d want you to let me know. I just speak it how I see it.”
83.5 Taylor Murray’s free-throw shooting percentage this season, third-best in the SEC. She’s made 71 of 85 attempts.
Speaking up and out is how Murray shows her love, she said.
“I don’t want to come off in a disrespectful way, but you want to say things in a way that your teammates trust that you’re telling them the truth,” she said. “Not coming off harsh, but being there for my teammates.”
The point guard, who is hitting 49 percent from the field and 83.5 percent from the free throw line, doesn’t just dish it out.
She takes criticism and coaching well. She takes it to heart, Elzy said.
Murray will go in to watch film with her assistant coach and leave a better player. If Elzy points out a gap that Murray should have driven into, the next game, Murray is doing exactly as instructed.
The sophomore is among the most coachable players that Elzy has ever encountered. And now Murray has found her own way of coaching those around her.
“She will die trying to do whatever any coach asks her,” Elzy said. “She wants to win; she wants her teammates to be successful. She’s really been pushed into a role that she didn’t think she’d have to do right now, but she’s exploded in it. She’s embraced it.”
Kentucky at Georgia
When: 7 p.m.
Live video broadcast: SEC Network Plus (online only)
Radio: WLAP-AM 630
Records: Kentucky 16-8 (7-4 SEC), Georgia 12-11 (4-6)
Series: Georgia leads 36-17
Last meeting: Kentucky won 82-61 on Jan. 15 in Lexington.