MANHATTAN, Kan. (K-State release) Legendary men’s basketball player Willie Murrell, the only Wildcat to be named to an All-Final Four team, recently passed away at the age of 78 in Denver, Colorado.
One of just 11 players to earn first team All-America honors, Murrell was a two-year letterman for head coach Fred “Tex” Winter from 1962-64 after transferring from Eastern Oklahoma A&M. He guided the Wildcats to a 38-16 overall record, including a pair of Big Eight Conference titles and a Final Four appearance in 1964.
His No. 44 jersey was honored with retirement and raised to the rafters of Bramlage Coliseum in 2009.
“The staff and I share in mourning the passing of such a legendary player in Willie Murrell,” said current head coach Bruce Weber. “Obviously, he left a tremendous mark during his playing career at K-State, earning All-America honors and becoming the only player to earn recognition to an All-Final Four team. We send our thoughts and prayers to his family during this difficult time.”
Murrell is one of just six players in school history to average a double-double for his career and one of just two (along with Bob Boozer) to average 20 points and 10 rebounds, averaging 20.6 points and 10.7 rebounds in 54 career games. His career averages in both scoring and rebounding still rank among the top-5 in school history, including third in rebounding (10.7 rpg.) and fifth in scoring (20.7 ppg.).
Murrell was twice named an All-American during his record-setting senior season in 1964, including earning first team honors from the Helms Foundation and second team accolades from Converse Yearbook. He averaged 22.3 points and 11.1 rebounds per game as a senior in guiding the Wildcats to a 22-7 overall record, the Big Eight regular-season and Holiday championships and the 1964 Final Four.
Murrell earned 25.3 points during the run to the Final Four, including a 29-point, 13-rebound effort in the semifinals against UCLA en route to earning recognition to the All-Midwest Regional Tournament team and the All-Final Four squad. He is the only player to ever record a double-double in a Final Four game and the only one selected to an All-Final Four team. His 29 points against the Bruins are the most by a Wildcat in a Final Four game.
In addition to his All-America honors, Murrell was twice named first team All-Big Eight (1963, 1964). He still rankes among the top 10 in 20 single-game, season and/or career statistical categories in school history. He is one of just five players to average 20 points in a career, while he is one of 14 players to score 1,000 points and collect 500 rebounds in a career. He ranks 19th on the all-time scoring list with 1,112 points, including second among transfers.
Following his K-State career, Murrelll was selected in the fourth round of the 1964 NBA Draft by the St. Louis Bombers. He played three professional seasons, including stints with the ABA’s Denver Nuggets (1967-68) and the Miami Floridians (1968-70).
Fans can pay tribute to Murrell by posting on his tribute wall, which can be found on the Caldwell-Kirk Mortuary’s website at www.caldwellkirk.com.