The Murray State men’s basketball team gathered with family and friends Thursday to remember the 2017-18 season that saw the Racers put together an extraordinary season of 26 victories, a pair of Ohio Valley Conference championships and the program’s 16th NCAA appearance.
When the best was needed from this team, they responded with their best and then some.
2017-18 Team Awards
Popeye Jones Mr. MSU Award
This award was given to one of the most dynamic big men since the great Popeye Jones by assistants Cody Cohen and Blake Wetherington. Terrell Miller, Jr., was named All-OVC First Team in 2017 & 2018. His 27 points vs West Virfinia in the NCAA Tournament was his season-high. His 17 rebounds against WVU set the MSU record for the NCAA Tournament. He joins Jarvis is Williams (2013-15) as the only two-year players in MSU history to score 1,000 points and grab 500 rebounds. He was the fifth MSU two-year player to reach 1,000 points and finished with 1,012.
The award named after MSU’s all-time rebounder Popeye Jones and goes to the student-athlete who displayed excellence in all areas, on and off the court. Jones has enjoyed a long career in the NBA as a player and current assistant coach with the Indianapolis Pacers.
Jeff Martin Class & Character Award
The Racers’ OVC Player of the Year winner Jonathan Stark was presented this award by assistant coach Shane Nichols. Stark simply has recorded the best two-year run of any player in Murray State history. In 2017-18 he accomplished the rare feat of OVC Preseason Player of the Year, OVC Player of the Year and OVC Tournament MVP. Among his numerous post-season awards, Stark was named Associated Press All-America Honorable Mention. He was the only active player in the nation with 2,100 points and 500 assists when combining his stats from Tulane and Murray State. Now the all-time two-year scorer at Murray State with 1,408 points, Stark led the OVC in scoring in both of his seasons at MSU. He also broke the MSU consecutive made free throws record with 39 in a row.
Named after MSU’s all-time scorer Jeff Martin, Sr., The Martin Class & Character Award is earned from great play and leadership. Martin resides in Houston, Texas and is still a big part of the Racers and attends several games each season.
Isaiah Canaan Impact Award
Ja Morant was the first recipient of this award as assistant coach Casey Long had the honor of presenting it. Morant burst on the scene as a freshman much like Canaan did in 2009. An electric talent that complemented the senior duo of Miller and Stark, Morant did plenty on his own too. He recorded MSU’s second triple-double in records that date to 1984 with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists at home vs Eastern Illinois. He was also honored as an All-OVC First Team selection and was named to the All-OVC Newcomer Team.
The award is in honor of the Racer great Isaiah Canaan (2009-13) who last February had his jersey No. 3 retired and was inducted into the MSU Hall of Fame. Canaan is one of only six MSU players and one of only 17 in the OVC to reach 2,000 career points.
Garrett Beshear Defensive Award
The award was given to Shaq Buchanan by assistant coach Tim Kaine. Known as a “glue guy” Buchanan was a constant effective player for the Racers who made 30 starts and averaged 27.4 minutes per game. He led the team and was ranked third in the OVC with 50 steals and was nominated for OVC Defensive Player of the Year. Buchanan will be a senior with the Racers in the 2018-19 season.
The Garrett Beshear Defensive Award is named after one of the greatest defenders in MSU history. Beshear played for the Racers from 1950-53 and his jersey No. 16 is one of 10 retired and hanging in the rafters of the CFSB Center.
McMahon building an excellent legacy
Coach Matt McMahon was named the National Basketball Coaches Association (NABC) District 19 Coach of the Year. He was also a finalist for the CollegeInsider.com Coach Skip Prosser Award and Coach Hugh Durham Award. McMahon guided the Racers to a 26-6 overall mark and to the OVC regular season title at 16-2. McMahon is the ninth coach in MSU history to record a season of 25 or more wins and the eight-straight coach to take them to the NCAA Tournament. His overall mark in three seasons at Murray State reads 59-37 (.614) which means MSU has 12 coaches with a winning percentage of 60 percent or better out of the 16 that have been with the team. McMahon is also winning OVC games at a .680 clip with a mark of 34-16.
2017-18 Season Notes
MSU’s 26 wins marked the ninth time in 93 seasons that a Racer team posted 25 or more victories. The Racers were regular season OVC champions for the 25th time and when they won a pair of games in Evansville, they won the OVC Tournament title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament, each for the 16th time. MSU had the second-longest win streak in the nation when the season ended in San Diego at the NCAA’s against West Virginia.
•26-6 overall record. 16-2 OVC champions, 16th in program history.
•Ninth season of 25+ wins 93 seasons.
•16th OVC Tournament championship after wins over Jacksonville State & Belmont.
•16th NCAA Tournament appearance. The Racers had third-highest seed of No. 12 and faced No. 5 West Virginia in San Diego.
•13 game winning streak was second-longest in the nation entering the NCAAs.
•MSU was 14-2 at home (9-0 OVC) and 10-3 in away games.
•MSU had a final NCAA RPI of No. 48 and KenPom.com had MSU as the No. 62 team in the nation.
Additionally, KenPom.com also had the Racers well represented in their picks for All-OVC
KenPom.com All-Ohio Valley Conference
1, Jonathan Stark, Murray State (Sr)
2, Dylan Windler, Belmont (Jr)
3, Ja Morant, Murray State (Fr)
4, Terrell Miller, Murray State (Sr)
5, Amanze Egekeze, Belmont (Sr)
Student managers make a big difference
Senior student manager Kyle Morris was also recognized for his dedication to the Racer program over the last four seasons.
Dave Winder – Department of Athletics – Murray State State University
Associate AD – Media Relations