In this undated photo, Priscilla Robinson Murray goes for a layup during a Lady Raider basketball game in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Murray will be inducted Sept. 14, 2013, into the Blue Raider Sports Hall of Fame. (Photo courtesy of MTSU Athletics)
Looking inside Diane Turnham’s office on campus, you will find a plethora of MTSU women’s basketball and volleyball memorabilia from her days as coach.
One of those hanging on the wall is an old media guide cover of Priscilla Robinson Murray, who is captured welcoming everyone to her neighborhood. This weekend, her neighborhood will grow to include a place in the Blue Raider Sports Hall of Fame.
“I was shocked, but I am beginning to understand and appreciate it,” Murray said. “It was definitely an honor.”
Murray may be soft spoken off the court, but she was a force to be reckoned with during her time on campus from 1989 until 1994.
At the time, female athletes were able to play two sports, and she took full advantage of it.
While in high school in Chattanooga, Murray caught the eye of Turnham, who served as the head volleyball head coach and assistant basketball coach at MTSU.
“(Coach Leroy Higgins) called and said he had a great player we needed to see, so I went to Chattanooga to see her play volleyball,” said Turnham, who now serves as the senior women’s administrator for MTSU Athletics.
“The team was not very good, but they set the ball to her every time,” Turnham said, referring to Murray. “No matter where she was they set the ball to her, and she found a way to hit it.”
During that visit, Turnham recalled how Murray was able to impress her with one particular play.
“Once, (Murray) was in the middle hitting, and she went up and hit a ball straight down on the floor,” Turnham said. “It bounced one time and hit a table that was leaning up against the wall and knocked the table to the floor with the force of the ball. We signed her to play both basketball and volleyball.”
During her time with the Lady Raiders, Murray became one of the program’s best players ever.
On the basketball court, Murray led the team in scoring and rebounding for all four years, while helping MTSU to a 75-37 overall record, and 42-16 in the Ohio Valley Conference.
She was named freshman of the year in 1991, player of the year in 1992, a three-time all-tournament team member and a four-time all-conference selection.
By the time her work on the floor ended, she ranked in top five in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, field goal made, free throws made, games started and double-figure scoring games.
Murray’s hard work carried over to the volleyball net as she jump-served her way to several career records that still stand today, including aces (206) and solo blocks (173).
Those stats are even more impressive when you consider that Murray took a leave of absence from school to have a child. But when she returned, Murray was better than ever.
“She was determined to succeed for herself and for her son, and succeed she did,” Turnham said. “She was amazing. One night against Tennessee State she jump-served 14 straight points against them. The jump-serve was not seen that much and TSU could not return her serve. It was amazing to watch.”
And in basketball, Turnham said, Murray did not let up either.
“She led our team on and off the floor,” Turnham said. “She was fun to watch on the floor. She reminded me of another Lady Raider great hall of famer Kim Webb. She played for us about the same time David Robinson became so popular.
“The big slogan was ‘Welcome to Mrs. Robinson’s neighborhood,’ which was the paint. It was her neighborhood. She owned it.”
Today, Murray works for the Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation Department in conjunction with the Murfreesboro Housing Authority, a career she started while she was still on campus in 1992. Two decades later, Murray remains devoted to her work.
“My program deals with these kids who stay within the housing development,” she said. “I enjoy working with these kids. We help those kids that want the opportunity, and if we impact their life that is the fun part.”
Some of those children will be special guests at the Blue Raider Hall of Fame ceremony Saturday. It is something Murray said she is looking forward to, even though she admits she is a little nervousness heading into the event.
As for today’s success of the Lady Raider programs, she is proud with the way that it has improved on the court.
“Diane (Turnham) is wonderful. She will always be ‘Coach C’ to me,” Murray said in reference to Turnham, who was not yet married when the two crossed paths. That “C” stood for Cunningham, Turnham’s maiden name.
“I do not make it to all of the games because of work, and my kids play sports,” Murray said. “I have had the chance of taking some of the kids to watch the games. To see the way the game has evolved and how athletic the girls are today, it’s just a joy to watch.”
Although her time with MTSU ended years ago, for many longtime fans, Murray will always be in charge of the neighborhood.