GLENDIVE — Karsen Murphy, a Glendive native who spent the 2020-21 season on the University of Montana women’s basketball team, announced she’s transferring to the University of Tennessee Chattanooga to finish out her playing career on Monday.
But the decision to join the Mocs’ program was about more than just basketball.
“One thing (the coaching staff) told me a lot over the phone is Southern hospitality is a real thing, and I’m excited to experience that,” Murphy said in a phone interview with MTN Sports. “And I hope I come back to Montana with a little bit of a Southern accent.”
Murphy’s charm and good-natured attitude will likely fit right in with the Mocs, but she also anticipates a smooth transition on the basketball floor. A former three-sport athlete at Dawson County High School in Glendive, Murphy said the Chattanooga staff plans to utilize her athleticism and face-up game from the top of the key as a hybrid forward.
She’ll be familiar with the role after starring in a similar capacity at Glendive, where she was an all-state high school basketball player. Eastern Montana has a strong tie to the Lady Griz, and Murphy was set on donning the maroon and silver in college, announcing her commitment to UM in 2019. Since her commitment that summer, Montana is now on to its third women’s basketball coach, with director of athletics Kent Haslam recently hiring Brian Holsinger to fill the position.
As part of the transition from Mike Petrino, who spent one year as the Lady Griz head coach after Shannon Schweyen didn’t return after the 2019-20 season, to Holsinger, Murphy and a handful of teammates have left the program.
“Right after I found out I wasn’t going to be a Lady Griz anymore, I entered the portal right away, and over 25 schools reached out to me, ranging from (NCAA) Division I to NAIA, so that was just pretty cool within itself,” said Murphy, who entered the NCAA’s transfer portal toward the end of April.
“It ended up being, I think, about 10 schools that I ended up responding basically to set up phone conversations,” she added. “That’s just kind of how I spent my week, talking with coaches. The Chattanooga school, the one thing that was really cool was that every single coach on their staff reached out to me, and we had a phone call conversation to be able to build that relationship basically.”
Chattanooga ultimately separated as Murphy’s choice, but she said she was seriously looking at a few NCAA Division II schools because she was considering doing track at her next stop. She won both the high jump and triple jump at the 2019 Class A state track and field meet, setting the class record in the triple jump with a mark of 37 feet, 11.5 inches.
Murphy missed out on her senior track and field season in high school due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and then battled through the tumultuous coronavirus-altered college basketball season with the Lady Griz as a true freshman. She appeared in 12 games at UM, playing a season-high 11 minutes in games at Northern Colorado and at home against College of Idaho. She had four points and four rebounds against Northern Colorado and seven points and two blocks against College of Idaho.
“My game has improved so much because I had such amazing coaches that really pushed me every day to be my best. I had some really awesome teammates that also pushed me, and I think that’s just the one thing I’m going to remember, is being around those guys and being around a culture of girls who wanted the same thing,” Murphy said.
Now, Murphy gets to pursue something else she’s always wanted: a chance to experience life outside the Treasure State.
She’s never been to the South except for Florida — “But I don’t even know if Florida counts really,” she said with a laugh — so she’s beyond excited to immerse herself in the culture and lifestyle of Tennessee.
Chattanooga went 14-10 last season and finished third in the Southern Conference. The Mocs won the league title in 2019-20 and have a long history of success. But the part of the program that attracted Murphy was the coaching staff led by third-year head coach Katie Burrows.
“Every single one of them were super awesome to talk to, and everything they said about their program was just really cool to learn about,” said Murphy, who plans to get settled in Tennessee in June. “And I think that’s just one thing that I really did enjoy about this process, was learning about all the different kinds of programs. I just really enjoyed it. All my life I’ve desired to go out of Montana, so I really took this opportunity to do that.”