You could see it coming. Samantha Murphy began showing signs of the basketball success that was to come way back in her freshman year at Xavier Prep in Phoenix.
The 5’8″ guard, who just wrapped up her junior year at Grand Canyon University on the west side of Phoenix, has been honored in a way most athletes never accomplish.
Murphy was just named the Pacific West Conference Scholar Athlete of the Year. Bentley Nakawasa, a golfer from Yuma who just completed his senior year at GCU, was also named a Scholar Athlete of the Year.
But it’s Murphy that pulled off the coup of the year.
This is the second consecutive year Murphy has been given the honor. But what makes her situation so unique is that she was also named the PacWest Women’s Basketball Player of the Year for her accomplishments on the court.
“She’s unique,” said her coach, Trent May. “To have someone that’s that high of a caliber of player, to win Player of the Year and be the scholar-athlete of the year… that’s rare.”
But you could watch Murphy’s progression and know that it was hard work that got here the Player of the Year award. It began in her freshman year at Xavier when she was named to the All-Defensive Team. That’s the part of the game that too many players sluff off because it’s hard work.
Then, her sophomore year, she got the team’s Most Improved Player award. More hard work. And her junior year, she was picked for the team’s Hustle Award. Yep, more hard work.
And that same dedication to hard work on the basketball court carried over to the classroom.
The academic accolades she just received were also well-earned. The pre-Physical Therapy major put together a 3.96 GPA while juggling school books with the demands of basketball practices and games.
Her work on the court paid off during her high school career, bringing two First Team All-Desert Valley Region awards and the ultimate conference Player of the Year honor. She was also the conference three-point champ.
Once she got to GCU, she picked up where she left off. Last season, she became the all-time leading scorer in school history. She scored a team-high 16 points in the final game of a four-game series against University of Hawaii-Hilo in late February.
By the time the season ended, her 19.2 points/game led the PacWest conference; she was among the leaders in 11 of 13 conference categories.
And she’s still got a year to play.
Natasawa was a business major who was also a key member of the 2009 and 2010 GCU teams that captured the PacWest title those years. He competed in two NCAA D-II Championships and three regionals for the Antelopes.
But it was his 3.71 GPA that nailed down the Scholar Athlete of the Year award.
One thing both competitors share is an ability to get the ball in the hole.
Nakasawa had a hole-in-one during the West/Central Regional and Murphy set a single-season school record of 87 percent accuracy from the free throw line.
(Photo: GCU Athletics)