Two-Sport Star? EKU Softball All-American Turns To Hoops
Paige Murphy believed her career as an NCAA Division I athlete ended when Eastern Kentucky was eliminated from the National Invitation Softball Championship in May.
After batting .443 and slugging .903 her senior year with 82 hits, 22 home runs 17 doubles, one triple and 67 runs scored, she was named a third-team All-American by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, Player of the Year and Female Athlete of the Year by the Ohio Valley Conference.
All of the accolades were flattering but they didn't fill the void softball left when she graduated.
“EKU didn’t have a graduate assistant position for softball,” said Murphy. “But there was an opening for women’s basketball so I quickly hopped on that and immediately got the position.”
Murphy, EKU softball's first All-American, was a multi-sport athlete at Pleasure Ridge Park High School in Louisville and excelled in softball and basketball and even played soccer one year. She’s on the school's all-time scoring list with 1,228 points and holds the school record in three-pointers made with 153.
As a grad assistant at EKU, it was her job to attend workouts and conditioning sessions, email coaches and do whatever coach Chrissy Roberts asked of her. It wasn’t until the head coach of the university’s newly formed beach volleyball team asked her to consider trying out for them that the thought of continuing her athletic career popped into her mind.
“I was laughing when I walked into the office and told coach Roberts what happened,” she said. “Coach then asked me if I even had eligibility left because if beach wants me then she wanted me.”
That conversation led to Roberts getting her answer from compliance. Murphy had one year of eligibility remaining but in order to be on the roster, she had to pass a physical.
“The doctor laughed at me when I walked in with a stack of papers for her to fill out,” Murphy giggled. “She actually advised me not to play but I didn’t listen.”
She started with a running progression and for September and October, she wasn’t medically cleared. She missed the first two games of the season and was finally cleared for full contact in mid-November while the team was competing in the Bahamas.
Murphy started against Florida State on Nov. 23. She played a few more minutes against West Virginia on Nov. 24 and saw her minutes start to increase against Western Michigan and Akron. She scored her first four points against Akron.
“It was definitely weird,” she laughed. “I went back and watched the game against Western Michigan, the commentators talked about me playing softball the whole first quarter. I didn’t even see the court in those minutes.”
Murphy admits that it’s been quite the adjustment going from softball to basketball but her teammates have been patient with her and helped when she’s asked.
“We had a team retreat and everyone talked about how the team and coaches could help us individually this season. I just asked everyone to stick by me and be there for me if I have questions,” she said. “They have done just that and more.”
Her addition to the team has also brought in more fans.
“I feel like every time I look up, I see Coach (Jane) Worthington or some of the softball kids I’ve coached and that’s awesome to see,” she said.
Murphy knows that what she is accomplishing isn’t done often. She says she knows there are people out there who think there is no way that someone can play high-level competition in a sport she hasn’t played in almost five years.
“I see coaches look at me like who is this girl but it also teaches me that uncomfortable situations are an accomplishment,” she said. “It’s also proof that you shouldn’t specialize in a single sport because you never now when opportunities like this will come up.”