|WSU alum Toure Murry is benefiting from the Shockers' 2013 NCAA Tournament success. (Thomas Boyd/Oregonian)|
Anyone catching a Dallas Mavericks game will get the chance to see Gal Mekel, a 6'3" point guard, play as a reserve. Mekel, who played at Wichita State from 2006-08, was signed with the intention of competing against newly-drafted rookie Shane Larkin as the first point guard off the bench, but he should expect a boost in minutes until Larkin returns from a broken ankle suffered in summer league play. After Omri Casspi, Mekel is the second Israeli player in NBA history. As a pro in Israel, Mekel helped lead his team, Maccabi Haifa, to a league title in 2013, which helped secure his current three-year deal with $2.3 million guaranteed. Before inking a contract with Dallas, the Milwaukee Bucks were rumored to have an interest in adding Mekel to their summer league roster.
Though important to the Mavericks' upcoming season, Mekel is just the second-most hyped former Shocker on the cusp of NBA playing time. After showing improvement during a stint in the D-League, Toure Murry was added to the New York Knicks' summer league roster and proceeded to put on a show, throwing outlet passes and highlight-reel dribbles to the content of relatively sparse crowds and NBA social media specialists. Most notable is this series:
It ends with his teammate, Jeremy Tyler, throwing down a major slam that earned Dunk of the Night honors, but look at what Murry does. First, there's the steal as the opposing point guard attempts to go through traffic toward the hoop, then Murry dribbles between a defender's legs as he nears mid-court and finishes with a perfectly placed behind-the-back pass. Given, most summer leaguers are not up to par with the competition faced during the NBA's regular season — usually for obvious reasons — but Murry's combination of athleticism and instincts on this single play is a microcosm for what he did for the Knicks' prospects as a team. Murry comes from the Shockers' defensive-minded culture and, while dribbling between an opponent's legs is more of a streetball move than NBA de rigueur (hey, Jamal Crawford!), Murry's precision aim at the end of the play is indicative of his creativity with the ball — something he is still developing as he transitions to playing point guard from his natural shooting guard position.
At 6'5", Murry would have great height for a one-guard on the NBA level and the Knicks are not only reportedly planning to invite him to training camp, but are also said to be in contract discussions with Murry for the 2013-14 season, according to ESPN's Ian Begley. The move would culminate Murry's transition from WSU, where he played from 2008-12, to the professional level after he spent a productive year with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the Houston Rockets' D-League affiliate. Through the course of 30 regular season and six playoff games, Murry averaged 8.3 points, 2.8 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game. Between sharing a backcourt with the likes of Andrew Goudelock and Patrick Beverly, however, Murry was not always permitted the space to show his full skill set. Still, he worked to refine his three-point shooting (36.9 percent) and execution of pick-and-roll sets, around which most NBA offenses are built.
Though Murry would likely have made it onto an NBA roster based on his own merits, the Shockers' success in a single tournament could have hurried the alum's expected entry into the Association. It almost certainly did that for Mekel, whose name was largely off the NBA radar until after the NCAA and Israeli seasons were over. Wichita State was not necessarily an unknown program before this year's NCAA Tournament, but their postseason success came as a surprise to most. With the opportunities now in front of them, Shocker alums like Murry and Mekel may find their own success past the collegiate level.
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