If you’re too loud, you might miss whatever Taylor Murray just said.
The 5-foot-6 freshman point guard is small in stature and even smaller in voice.
“Being vocal is not something I’m used to,” admitted Murray, who not only doesn’t have much to say but also says it in hushed tones. “I just have like this one little voice.”
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It’s a strange position for a point guard, who is charged with being the floor general, for barking orders on offense and on defense.
When he was recruiting the 2015 McDonald’s All-American from Maryland, UK Coach Matthew Mitchell knew right away her reserved nature was going to be a hurdle.
“She’s soft-spoken, there’s no doubt about it, and observes a lot, and I was very honest about those things in the recruiting process,” he said. “So I knew it would be a challenge to get her where we wanted her to be, but we’ve had those challenges before and it’ll help her grow as a person.”
Sometimes I don’t talk as much or as loud as I’m supposed to, so my teammates can’t hear me as much. So that’s one area I need to improve on.
UK’s Taylor Murray
Her biggest challenge as a vocal leader could come on Sunday at Vanderbilt (15-9, 4-7 Southeastern Conference) with its strange floor configuration with benches in the end zones and coaches mostly out of earshot.
“Sometimes I don’t talk as much or as loud as I’m supposed to, so my teammates can’t hear me as much,” Murray admitted. “So that’s one area I need to improve on.”
The freshman, rated as the No. 18 point guard nationally by one recruiting service, averaged 29.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, seven steals and 4.1 assists in her senior season at Annapolis Area Christian School. They won championships behind Murray.
But getting to the college level and having to speak even louder and be more authoritative has been an adjustment.
Mitchell “just tells me that you need to talk louder,” she said. “They need to hear me on the court. It’s just something I’m working on and he’s helping me through it as I continue that journey.”
Murray isn’t alone, Mitchell said.
Playing defense at No. 18 Kentucky (16-6, 5-6) has to be about intensity and communication. All of UK’s players are developing those skills still, the coach said.
“We’re the kind of team, we can’t show up and play individual defense,” he said. “We really have to do a good job playing team defense.”
Talking on defense — even if it’s just using key words like “screen” and “switch” — is something all of Kentucky’s players have to get better at if they want to keep improving.
“That’s just something that’s always a challenge for our team,” he said. “And then if it’s something that you’re unaccustomed to just in your daily life, it adds to the challenge.”
Murray won’t one day wake up and be less shy vocally or have the commanding tones of an international Opera singer, but coaches and teammates said she’s already grown leaps and bounds.
In the first month you could see she was committed to hard work. She’s come a million miles since the first day last June. I’m real proud of her.
UK’s Matthew Mitchell on Taylor Murray’s progress
In her first full workout as a Wildcat this summer, Mitchell worried about her.
“It was a tough day and she was barely hitting the goal in some of our shooting drills and I was thinking, ‘Man, we have a lot of work to do here,’” he recalled earlier this season. “But that dissipated quickly.”
By the end of summer workouts, it was clear that she was going to be something special.
“In the first month you could see she was committed to hard work,” he continued. “She’s come a million miles since the first day last June. I’m real proud of her.”
Every day in practice, Mitchell and the UK assistant coaches are on Murray to say more, to say it with authority, to become a vocal leader.
“All of us need to get out of our comfort zone and improve in areas that will help others,” he said.
She already speaks volumes at a high volume with her play, now UK is trying to get her to be “verbal and demonstrative.”
“And really ignite her team with words, because she plays really hard and she’s dynamic,” Mitchell said of Murray, who leads the team in steals at 1.8 a game to go with her seven points, 2.7 rebounds and two assists.
There are still plenty of challenges ahead for Murray, who has been adjusting to the rigors of the SEC schedule.
The freshman has had just one double-figure scoring game since the Cats got into league play with career highs of 14 points and six steals against Auburn.
Murray is still finding her way.
And her voice.
No. 18 Kentucky at Vanderbilt
When: 4 p.m.
Records: UK 16-6 (5-6 SEC); Vanderbilt 15-9 (4-7 SEC)
Series: Vanderbilt leads 28-22
Last meeting: Vanderbilt won 71-69 in Lexington earlier this season
TV: SEC Network
Radio: WLAP-AM 630