Alissa Murphy Richardson: Hard Work Prepared Versatile BC Basketball Hall of Famer to Step in and Lead Team to Its First NCAA Tournament

AlissaHeadandShoulderswThe first big year, that breakthrough season, of the Cathy Inglese era of Boston College basketball was 1998-99, Cathy’s sixth as head coach. The team went 22-8, made it the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever, and knocked off both second-ranked UConn and tenth-ranked Notre Dame along the way. The reasons for the surge were many. But none was so important as the emergence of junior guard/forward Alissa Murphy.

As Inglese puts it, “If Alissa didn’t step up to the plate, it would have been a much different season. The freshman class stepped up too, but we had a leader in Alissa and everybody looked up to her.”

Murphy had been a solid contributor to the team for her first two seasons. She had averaged about 24 minutes and seven points per game. In mid-season of her junior year, Alissa’s roommate, co-captain, and future Hall of Famer Cal Bouchard went down with a torn ACL. She was gone for the year.

The team needed to replace both Bouchard’s scoring and her leadership. Inglese called on Alissa Murphy and showed why the judgment call she’d made in recruiting the San Diego native three years before was spot-on.

Alissa was more than ready for the challenge. She led the team in scoring with 16 points per game. She scored in double figures in all 30 contests. She led the team in three-point shots. She led the big East and was third in the nation in free throw percentage. She bagged a career-high 32 points in a monumental 78-66 win over Connecticut. The Big East named her its Most Improved Player.

“Alissa wasn’t a prize recruit, but I liked when she came out East to go to a camp. She had a scorer’s mentality, and you can’t teach that,“ said Inglese. “I could see that she loved the game and she brought the intangibles. She wasn’t overly athletic, but she had that mindset and a nose for the basket.

Alissa Murphy for Women's Basketball ad“She heeded our advice and made her shot release quicker. And she went above and beyond with what she did in the weight room and watching what she ate. She transformed herself from a medium build to someone who was strong and aggressive.”

Murphy had always been a diligent worker. But the summer between her sophomore and junior years was when she molded herself into a scoring machine. Every day she worked on her shooting technique with assistant coach Kelly Cole.

“She overhauled my shooting motion. I started at three feet away, then four, then five. She’d rebound for me and I’d shoot until I got the form. I locked it into muscle memory, shooting the same was every time, until it was as smooth and as quick as it could be. It wasn’t until the end of the summer that I made out to the three-point line,” said Alissa.

Becky Gottstein Holden, another who’s already made the BC Hall of Fame, was in that year’s freshman class that also included Nicole Conway, Brianne Stepherson and Kim Mackie. She gravitated toward Murphy, remarking,

“You have to re-learn how to work hard when you get to college. And with Alissa, it was what she did outside of the game, in practice, taking extra shots, making sure she was in great shape. There was always that extra piece to be sure that she was a strong competitor.”

Wherever the Eagles needed her, Murphy would play. She could be the point guard, the shooting guard, or the small forward. She was also aggressive under the boards and a rugged rebounder, a trait she’d developed back in California when she played mostly on boys’ teams until she got to high school.

Alissa is from a family of athletes. Her brother Michael played rugby in college and for a U.S. national team. Her brother Sean played college soccer. She was into every sport as a kid, but she especially loved basketball. There were no girls’ leagues, so she’d go to the next town, Mira Mesa, and hang out at the recreation center with the guys.

By the time she got to Scripps Ranch High School in San Diego, Alissa was almost college material already. She started for the varsity as a freshman. She led the state of California in scoring as a sophomore, but she’d always wanted to travel east for school. One of the summer development camps she attended just happened to be at Boston College. Mutual interest quickly blossomed, and Alissa became an Eagle.

“I don’t think BC had great aspirations for me,” Alissa said. “I wasn’t a heralded recruit, and San Diego is not really known for basketball. Coach Inglese was always on me. I didn’t like it at the time, but she’s the reason I was successful She was always asking me for more.”

Her senior year was almost as successful as junior year, for both her and the team. She averaged 13.5 points, was second in team scoring, and led the big East in free throw percentage. The Eagles finished 26-9 and again made it to the second round of the NCAAs.

Alissa finished her career ranked fifth all-time on BC’s scoring list with 1,361 points. She became the 12th BC player to score 1,000 points and the sixth to have 1,000 points and 500 rebounds. At the time of her graduation she ranked in among BC’s top six in rebounds, three-pointers, free throws made and attempted, and steals. She also holds the Boston College record for most points in an NCAA Tournament game with 26.

After graduating, Alissa hit the road and played basketball in five countries over five years – Israel, Sweden, France, the UK, and New Zealand. While in Christchurch, New Zealand, she got engaged. Her now-husband Adam, whom she’d met at a barbecue, flew all the way down there to pop the question.

Adam and Alissa live in Poway, California with son Adam, 7, and daughter, Mia, 5. Alissa teaches physical education at Adam and Mia’s elementary school.

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