Sophomore guard T.J. Sapp has only been in Murray for about three weeks, but he is already excited to be a Racer.
“I can honestly say it feels great to be a part of Murray State,” Sapp said. “It’s a great environment. The people embrace the basketball program and it feels great to be a part of a school that’s a basketball school.”
Sapp decided to transfer from Clemson in South Carolina last semester after averaging 15.1 minutes and 3.6 points through the Tigers’ first seven games.
He was recruited out of high school by Head Coach Steve Prohm and assistant coach James Kane, giving him some familiarity with Murray State as he began looking for his new home in December. Sapp also considered the University of Wyoming, but made the decision to become a Racer.
Coming from a school normally known for its perennial top 25 football team, Sapp is excited to play for a school where basketball is the main focus.
“Where I’m coming from, it was more known as a football school,” Sapp said, “but the basketball team still got some love and was still embraced by some people. It feels good here to feel like you’re really important to the whole city and to the whole school.”
Sapp, who arrived just in time to enroll in spring classes, has already adjusted to life in Murray.
“I feel like I’m adjusting quite well,” Sapp said. “The first week was rough, you know, trying to learn campus and everything, but it’s not too big, I feel like so far I’m pretty comfortable. It’s a quiet town and I’m not looking to do much. I’m just looking to play ball and do school.”
The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native struggled through his first year and a half at Clemson, shooting just 31 percent from the field in 37 games. Sapp did show signs of promise, however, posting several productive performances against top-notch teams.
He scored a career-high 13 points against the University of Iowa in November of 2011, playing 22 minutes and sinking three deep balls. Sapp also tied his career-high, against 18th ranked ACC rival University of Virginia in January of last year.
Sapp wowed college coaches in high school, averaging 21.6 points his senior year and leading his Northeast High School team to the No. 2 ranking in Florida. Ranked as the No. 7 prospect in the state, Sapp drew interest from the University of Nebraska, Old Dominion, the University of Georgia and Murray State before finally choosing Clemson.
According to NCAA transfer rules, Sapp must now sit out for two consecutive semesters, meaning he will not be eligible to play until the day after finals end in December.
“I’ve got a whole year to sit out and perfect my game and get better for next year to help out this team,” Sapp said. “I just want to focus on trying to come in and bring big-time play making skills and big-time help for this team for next year. I look at it like that. I have other things to look forward to now.”
While Sapp won’t be on the floor during games, he still believes he can play a role in improving this year’s team by pushing his teammates in practice.
“I feel like the practice I’m able to do right now with them will still be able to help them as the year goes on. And as I further grasp how they do everything and learn the plays more,” Sapp said. “I’ll be able to help the team even more as the season goes on.”
Sapp has been practicing with the team since the beginning of the semester and will continue working out with teammates and coaches throughout the spring and summer.
With those few weeks of practice already under his belt, Sapp said he has enjoyed the team’s dynamic and style.
“I love the competitive nature of this team,” Sapp said. “Here, if somebody is doing something wrong, people are getting uptight with each other or really getting into it, like arguing and stuff. You can see that they really get into it when somebody is messing up with a certain assignment.”
As Sapp continues to transition into the Murray State system, he could provide a mid-season spark next year in a back court likely to feature suspended sophomore Zay Jackson and freshman Jeffery Moss.
Story by Jonathan Ferris, Staff writer.