Connor Murtagh’s offseason was driven by the way the last season ended.
“I was left dissatisfied after we crashed out in the first round of the playoffs,” he said. “Every player competes to win – I’m no different.”
A strong campaign, including five 20-point games and seven as the Spinners leading scorer in 2015-16, revealed that the swingman is a reliable offensive threat and one still with untapped potential.
To continue sending his abilities on an upward trajectory, this offseason he’s spent two to three days a week inside the gym at Carmel College in St. Helens putting up well over 500 reps of standing jump shots mixed with different attacking moves, and of course scrimmages.
“Over the last year, I’ve become such a confident player on and off the ball,” said Murtagh, whose 12.8 points and 6.4 rebounds ranked first and second on the Spinners, respectively.
“I stepped up and made big shots when asked but also helped create for others in situations, which I hadn’t done before.”
Alongside his ability to crash the boards, the 22-year-old led the team in four other statistical categories: 3-pointers made (53), 3-point field goal percentage (.356), free throw percentage (.759) and field goals made (171).
Murtagh also contributed 72 total assists and 1.9 per game – both ranked third on the team and most of anyone in the frontcourt.
“I’ve continued to work on things like making my 3-point shot more consistent and improving my on court awareness to help space the floor,” he said. “Defensively, I’ve improved my on and off the ball technique.”
The forward had 29 steals, slightly less than one a game, but when he did create a turnover it led to easy points on the fast break in the form a punishing slam dunk.
There was never a doubt to Murtagh’s tenacity or longevity having started all 37 games. Though head coach Neal Hopkins never shied away from pushing the former Manchester Giant to coax more out of his game.
“The philosophy promoted by both Neal and the Lancashire Spinners is something I wanted to be part of again,” said the 22-year-old. “Having a larger role than I’d had in previous seasons forced me to play at a high level.”
Now he hopes the personal expectations he has for the team – one that failed to win a trophy for the first time since 2012-13 – extends throughout it.
“Instant chemistry and being able to ride out our momentum in close games will help us to avoid the slumps we had at parts last year,” he admitted.
The Spinners suffered just one three-game losing streak in their inaugural season in Division One, but failed to string together more than three consecutive wins after November. And despite its playoff position never being in doubt, Lancashire missed out on opportunities to break into the top half of the standings.
“I feel we can have another bright start to the season – that just needs to continue through to the end of the season,” the forward said. “We have added some key players whose attributes will bring something new to the squad that we didn’t have before.”