OGLESBY — Michael Murray didn’t like Alec Schwab three years ago. The feeling was mutual.
Murray wore Princeton blue; Schwab St. Bede green. They were rivals and had a different ways of seeing things and life in general.
Then a funny thing happened. They became teammates at IVCC. And they’ve been good friends since.
But it still wasn’t exactly love at first sight.
“Well, when I first met him I still really didn’t like him. When we got to practice and got going and playing with each and joking around, I really got used to him,” Murray said.
When asked if Schwab shared the same feeling, Murray said, “Oh ya, we’ve talked about it.”
“It was like, you’re from Princeton, uuuh ... and you’re from St. Bede, uuuh,” Schwab said.
Murray said he would have never guessed it when they squared off against each other in high school they would become teammates and such good friends.
“It’s been amazing because in high school we didn’t really like each other because we were always facing each other and trying to beat each other,” Murray said. “Being on the same court with Schwabbie and becoming friends like we have, it’s been awesome. I really enjoy playing with him, knowing he’s such a great player and such a great teammate that it’s been an honor watching and seeing and playing along side him on that court.”
Once again, that feeling is mutual.
“It’s been great. I wouldn’t take it back for anything,” Schwab said. “He’s been a great teammate, a good friend. Someone that loves the game of basketball just as much as I do. To play together like that, it’s real fun.”
When IVCC coach Tommy Canale first landed Schwab and then Murray shortly after, he told the BCR it was like having Christmas and Happy New Year all in one package. Two years later, they’ve proven to be the gift that keeps on giving.
“It had been nothing short of one of the best two signees I have ever had, and they are two district kids,” Canale said. “These two will not ever be replaced or forgotten. They have been a joy to coach, know, and be around. They have exceeded my expectations and then some.”
Both earned Arrowhead All-Conference last week with Schwab named to the first team and Murray to the second. Schwab averaged 21.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in conference, and Murray averaged 14.2 points and 9.3 rebounds, while shooting 53 percent from the floor and 78 percent from the free-throw line.
In games down the stretch, Murray had 20 points with 15 rebounds, while Schwab added 19 points in a 82-77 win over Olive-Harvey. They also combined for 48 points at Black Hawk East on Feb. 21 with Murray firing in 28 in an 85-81 win.
What made them such a dynamic duo is they complimented one another’s game so well.
“He was more of a jumper-rebounder person; I was more of a scorer so it balanced out. We both could read each other well,” Schwab said.
“Whatever I couldn’t do, Schwab was there to pick up and when he had a down spot, I was there to pick him up. So I think we worked really well together,” Murray said.
Canale said its proved to be a perfect match, even if it was from Princeton blue and St. Bede green.
“They have gone from not liking each other so much in high school to being one of the better if not the best duo in our region. They know each other’s games. They have high basketball IQ and they play hard,” he said. “It is a nightmare combination for the opponent. I cannot tell you how many coaches have told me this year, ‘I’m sure you will miss them, but I will be glad when they are gone.’ It is a testament to the impact they have had in our conference and region.”
Murray hardly made it through the season in one piece. He was taken off the court on a stretcher in his last game, after banging his head on another player’s knee and opening up a 1-inch gash that required four staples to close.
“It was sad to see him go down. For us not to be able to come back and get a win it was like a double-edged sword. To see him get hurt and us lose, kinda sucked,” Schwab said.
Murray had an even scarier incident earlier this season when a pulled chest muscle caused him severe breathing problems and another trip to the ER. That doesn’t count an ankle injury and a concussion this season, as well as a broken foot at the start of his freshman season.
It’s no understatement when Canale says Murray’s had a rough two years.
The Eagle duo could reunite at the next level. Division II University of Illinois-Springfield is one of a few schools, which has expressed an interest in both as a packaged duo.
“Coach (Canale) has told them if they could get both of us they won’t regret it,” Schwab said.
“That could be cool if we both could play there. I’m not quite sure what he’s thinking and I don’t know what he wants to do yet,” said Murray, who’s also being looked at by ISU, Eastern, SIU-E and St. Ambrose. Murray is considering studying criminal science along with further education in basketball.
“They have had outstanding careers here and I wish them the best of luck. Whoever gets them next is going to inherit two great student-athletes and will understand what I am talking about,” Canale said.
Kevin Hieronymus is the BCR Sports Editor. Contact him at email@example.com