Originally published in The Weal, March 19, 2018.
Much of the credit for the SAIT Trojans men’s basketball team’s success this season goes to Murphy Beya, who has capped off his college career with his best season yet.
The forward won Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) All-Conference honours this season, and was shortly after was named tournament MVP at the ACAC championships in Lethbridge, Alta.
The highlight of the tournament for Beya was his game-tying three-point shot with 2.9 seconds left in the semi-final game against NAIT.
Beya described the shot as a broken play, where he eventually “thought he had an open shot” and took it.
“As soon as I hit that shot, I knew we had them,” said Beya.
SAIT won the game in overtime, and then won the gold medal game, sending them to the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) national championship in Laval, Que.
Beya said the shot was his favourite basketball memory “for sure”, topping his first game with SAIT, where he scored a triple-double (a double-digit total in three statistical categories during a game.)
It is SAIT’s second straight ACAC title, but Beya said this year’s team has had to overcome more to get there.
He said the Trojans were short key bench players this year. This has meant more of a burden on the team’s stars, such as himself.
However, the fifth-year player was ready, having developed his game significantly since being recruited from Algonquin College in Ottawa.
Beya came to SAIT for both athletic and academic reasons.
At Algonquin, he said, the practices weren’t always competitive, but at SAIT, his teammates “always push me every night.”
His teams at Algonquin were no slouches, however. In 2014, Algonquin had a perfect 20-0 record and went to the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) championship.
Algonquin came agonizingly close to the national championship that year, losing a one-point gold-medal game. They also won OCAA bronze in 2013.
Beya said his time in Ottawa taught him how to get to a championship.
“You’ve got to play with people who are really good, that are willing to push themselves to get better.”
At SAIT, he has improved his defensive game and his shot.
As a power forward, he has “had to defend either the biggest guy or the smallest guy.”
Beya finished the year with 15.8 points per game and 10.6 rebounds per game, which is close to what coaches told him he could potentially hit.
That helped lead to his ACAC All-Conference nod.
In order to reach this level of play, Beya spent the summer rehabbing an ankle injury he battled all through last season.
Beya came to SAIT partially for its New Media and Production Design program. While he says he will likely not graduate until next year, this is his final basketball season.
However, he is not done with basketball yet. He said he hopes to find a good team overseas to play for this summer.
Before that, though, he was simply focusing on the Trojans’ ultimate prize in Laval, Que.