Developing the 'Total Package'

Craig Murray is on a personal quest.

His mission is far from simple — to raise the skill level of kids on the basketball court in an area where hoops often take a back seat to soccer balls and softball gloves. And he’s trying to do it here in Kitsap County through his 5-year-old Total Package basketball program.

“What I saw was just the need for this to be a more competitive area after just seeing teams go over and get beat up on by teams from Seattle,” said Murray, a member of the state-winning Garfield team in 1987 before going to play collegiately at the University of Hawaii and Idaho State University.

He picked up his coaching technique from eight seasons as an assistant to former Olympic College mens basketball coach Barry Janusch. “How could I help the community and the players get better? So I wanted to instill what I’ve learned. I really love being out on the floor teaching this game.

“I can work with a kid, help them develop a skill or what they need and see them grow as a player. It’s not immediate but it’s a pretty good return for what you’re doing.”

The results have been slow in coming to the burgeoning program which gets assistance on the court from King’s West boys coach Rick Walker, OC womens basketball coach Megan Buchmann, new OC mens coach Billy Landram and consulting help from Janusch.

“I really got into it about three years ago when I told myself ‘this is what I want to do.’ And it has grown since,” Murray said. “It’s been a slow progression. But you see (the basketball talent) getting better and I don’t think it’s just my kids. But eventually we’re making headway here.”

Going slowly, he’s developed a group of young 13-to-15-year-old boys over the past 18 months who may not be household names, but they could be a big noise at the high school level.

“The first couple of times we got beat pretty good. We were inconsistent and around the .500 mark,” Murray said.

The team of Eric Alston, Evan Atwater, Joe Beitinger, Tippy Burk, Jeff Civilla, Tyrone Curry, Conner Gehring, Chris Maclaren, LP Neloms, Joe Pisa and Justin Turner won the JV league at Gig Harbor playing against older teams and took second in the expanded pool of the Gig Harbor JV Summer Tournament in sudden death against Curtis.

“There’s expectations now. They don’t get intimidated by playing against the big name teams. Now when they walk in the gym they’re know they are looked at as the team to beat,” he said. “And I want that to filter through not to just that team, but I’ll have a high school group in the spring, a JV team, so it’s going to be an exciting time.

“They know what it takes. They come in and they work hard. It’s about fundamentals, understanding the whole game and not just part of the game. That’s the biggest thing and that’s why we call it ‘Total Package’ because you’re understanding the whole game. I want my guards to know what my posts are thinking and my posts to know what my guards are thinking.

“If you add that with some athletic ability you get a pretty good ballplayer. Lately there’s been too much stress on athleticism without a lot of skill. I don’t want to develop skills for individual success. You develop skills for team success. The bottom line is this is a team sport and that’s what I try to instill in them.”

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