Murphy's Persistence Pays Off

Though not recruited, Murphy paved her own way as a walk on

Katie Murphy saw 16 minutes of time in Jadwin Gymnasium last Feb. 22, scoring four points and notching a steal. It was just as she had pictured: a crowd of 544 people watching her play at Princeton.

Only Murphy was in a Harvard uniform—and she had to work to get it.

The junior guard from Hamilton, N.Y., had once been set on attending Princeton, where she was guaranteed a spot on the team. Murphy had offers from other schools, but when she came on an unofficial visit to Harvard the summer before her senior year of high school, Crimson coach Kathy Delaney-Smith was not encouraging.

“We basically were very honest with her,” Delaney-Smith said. “I was carrying 14 [players] at the time, and I didn’t want 15. I didn’t want 14. I said, ‘As much as I love your game, as much as I think you can have a career here, your first year, I’m not going to carry 15 players on varsity. I just don’t want to coach 15.’”

So Murphy scratched Harvard off her list since she wanted to play college basketball. Aside from her personal desire, she comes from a long-standing family tradition of athletics—on both sides of the family tree.


Katie’s father, Mark H. Murphy, is currently the Director of Athletics and Recreation at Northwestern. A former safety for the Washington Redskins, he moved to the Wildcats after 11 years as Athletic Director at Colgate. He had graduated from Colgate in 1977 after captaining both the football and baseball teams and also playing basketball. His father played football at St. Bonaventure.

Katie’s mother, Laurie, was a diver at Colgate, and Katie’s maternal grandmother played softball at Drexel. Her maternal grandfather was an All-American lacrosse player for the Dragons.

“I wouldn’t say that I felt any pressure to play basketball in college, but I definitely had my family’s support,” Murphy said. “I have been surrounded by athletics for my entire life, so I think if I had not played basketball in college, I would have missed it very much.”

Even without Delaney-Smith’s endorsement, Harvard admitted her as a student. She came back to Cambridge to check out the school even though basketball wasn’t a sure thing.

“I came back on an official visit and stayed with a player, fell in love with the school, the team and the program and decided that I would come here even though I wasn’t guaranteed a spot,” Murphy said.

Her freshman fall, Murphy played through preseason, with Delaney-Smith maintaining that she would be on junior varsity for the year. Although Delaney-Smith did not want her to try out for varsity, Murphy did anyway.

“First day of practice, I show up in no Harvard gear, while everyone else had numbers, names on the lockers—I stand out like a sore thumb,” Murphy said.

Her lack of a uniform wasn’t the only thing that stood out. Murphy needed only one tryout to convince Delaney-Smith to take another guard onto her loaded team.

“She came and blew me away,” Delaney-Smith said. “She absolutely blew me away, and there was no way I could have her on JV. So I took her on varsity and she has steadily improved the entire time.

“She’s a role model for people achieving.”

And after two years on an Ivy championship team, Murphy was the first off the bench in the Crimson’s 90-53 exhibition win over Herzogenburg last Wednesday.

“Katie Murphy has improved enormously,” Delaney-Smith said after the exhibition. “Katie is running the floor—like she always has—but even better this year. Her defense is getting better and better.”

This year, she’ll get to step on the Tigers home court in her Harvard uniform twice more.

—Staff writer Jessica T. Lee can be reached at


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