Murray State suddenly became a threat to top contenders in the NCAA championship in 2019 with Ja Morant leading them from the front.
Ja Morant is now officially an established superstar in the NBA and a franchise player for the Memphis Grizzlies, who behind his MVP caliber season are one of the best teams in the league in 2021-22.
As great as he has been since he came into the league in 2019, Morant and Co were not expected to be half as good as they have become in such a short period of time. But the man is used to being underrated since his high school days and has a habit of leaving his doubters in disbelief.
A zero-star or unranked player from Crestwood, South Carolina, Morant made an immediate impact in his freshman year with Murray State University, earning first-team all-conference honors in the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC).
His sophomore year was even more successful, it saw him win OVC Player of the Year as well as lead the NCAA in assists. Furthermore, he became the first player in NCAA history to average 20-plus points and 10-plus assists per game for a single season. The 12th ranked Murray State had a chance to win it all with Morant leading their charge.
Murray State surprised Marquette behind Ja Morant’s triple-double performance
On March 21, in an 83-64 win over fifth-seeded Marquette in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament, Morant posted 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 16 assists. It pulled all the attention of the National Media towards the 19-year-old point guard, who led the NCAA in assists that season.
Ja Morant was the story of Day 1. @NicoleAuerbach on Murray State’s superstar going global with a triple-double that left his father’s voice cracking and Marquette shaking their heads.
— The Athletic CBB (@TheAthleticCBB) March 22, 2019
He became the eighth player to officially record a triple-double in the history of the tournament, and the first player since Draymond Green in 2012. In the second round, he chipped in 28 points in a season-ending 90-62 loss to fourth-seeded Florida State. During the game, Morant set college records for career assists and single-season points.
Doing all that in two years meant an early call from the NBA, and he after getting rumors to get selected ahead of Zion Williamson got selected second overall by the Grizzlies. He did earn the Rookie of the Year award that season and now is heading towards the Playoffs to make a deeper run this time.