WHAT ABOUT LUCHO MURILLO?


 

INNATE TALENT HIS GREATEST COINCIDENCE

The Colombian Basketball star player: “Lucho” Murillo as he is known colloquially, was born on April 23, 1961 in Cali, Colombia; in a humble home full of love and principles. He lived in one of the most emblematic neighborhoods of this city with his parents, who despite the possible deficiencies or difficult conditions that could go through there, always provided him with the education and necessary support to motivate him and his siblings to be every day better and better. “We lived in a popular neighborhood called Las Américas, there were all kinds of shortcomings, but it has very warm and friendly people, with many desires to do their best to succeed. It seems to me an excellent neighborhood... a youth in which, from our time, fortunately not many young people were lost, despite the circumstances''.


Although this great player delighted us with his great talent in basketball, ironically this was never an attractive sport for him, because at this time it was said and believed that basketball was a women's sport. Thus he focused on practicing soccer, since that was his favorite sport and from time to time he also played baseball. As his childhood went by, his passion for football and amazing sports skills increased, he wanted to continue learning about this sport and it is there where he manages to enter the fifth division of Deportivo Cali Football club under Mario Desiderio’s management to have a higher level of competitiveness. There he even played with football personalities like Checho Angulo. “First of all, basketball was not attractive to me, as the coaches and other colleagues said at that time and I believed that basketball was for women only, because at that time in schools those who played mostly that sport were women, not men. We were dedicated to play and practice soccer, I even played baseball sometimes, but mostly soccer."

However, that was not for long, right in front of his house in Las Américas neighborhood a court construction began and when it was fully made, in order to use it he could only play basketball, since this was the purpose of Coldeportes who at that time wanted to offer these unique spaces and motivate young people to also get to know this wonderful sport. This is how his first contact with the orange ball was almost by imposition for him and his friends in the neighborhood, who simply wanted to be distracted and play. Nonetheless, as they practiced this sport, they found in basketball a new way of competing and playing funnier, which made their hobby even more interesting. “What prompted me to play basketball was that in front of our house they built a coliseum, and there they only allowed us to play basketball... That was one of the things that forced us to change! The watchman who was paid by Coldeportes at that time did not allow anybody to play soccer there, only basketball, for one reason or another it was as if they had done me a favor or if it was done for me, because they did not allow anything rather than basketball and at the end I had to play that sport. Everyone started to play it and get motivated, all of us in the neighborhood played several “Interbarrios” that were relevant tournaments between neighborhoods and many basketball figures from the Valle team, the Cali team and etc came from there."

Consequently, his love for basketball began to be notorious, he already saw in basketball an opportunity to compete and at the same time have fun with his friends from his neighborhood and classmates from school. This is how, when he was part of the INEM Educational Institution in Cali, he formed the basketball team, which in a very short time made history by becoming champions for the first time in the Intercollegiate tournament in which he participated. “Juan Barrios was the coach, and we had a team of excellent players, Jairo Mosquera, Boris to mention some of them, since I don't recall everybody. That time we had the opportunity to be champions against PÍO XII school... Usually, the southern schools were the ones that were truly champions and that year we took away that hegemony and were the champions. It was one of the most significant sporting achievements for me and it was the beginning of a career full of successes and unforgettable experiences."

At the age of 14 he was part of the U-16 team directed by Hernán Ordoñez Benavides and came to participate in several relevant tournaments at that time where not only Lucho stood out, but also many other sports figures shone and as a result of it, they were part of the Valle and the Cali Basketball team. Being part of the Valle league he managed to further improve his performance, his game style and compete in different national tournaments; Among those he remembers his first junior tournament played in Tunja where he shared with players such as Aldemar Perea, Libardo Córdoba, Alex and Jorge Ardila, Fabio Castillo, Jorge Ada, Rubén Mesa, Emel Mosquera etc. Despite having reached the final, Antioquia won the match, but despite the defeat he was nominated as the best player of the tournament. Although his first national competition has not been a collective success, Murillo took that experience as a lesson learned and committed himself to give his best in his next opportunity, this is how in the U-18 tournament held in Cartagena in 1978 he was undisputed champion and was declared the Most Valuable Player of the tournament of his team due to the excellent performance and conviction for winning it. “I remember the U-18 tournament held in Cartagena in 1978, in which we were undisputed champions, that was almost with the same U-16 team, but we had another conviction and I think what happened to us in Tunja helped us not to repeat it and we swept away everything in the tournament."

His versatility, agility and dexterity on the court made the player win his title with the Colombian Basketball U-23 Team, being the youngest in this category and thus managing to compete in various national and international championships. Consequently, he is called up exclusively by the Colombian Basketball Team again being the youngest player in his category. Some time later he was part of the ”Guerrilla Deportiva”: a Colombian professional basketball team, where only 2 young athletes were accepted on each roster as part of the rules established by the tournament and logically our basketball player occupied one of these spaces as he was a key figure for the team. This professional tournament was held by Coldeportes league in 1980 and had the participation of teams such Cabritos de Bucaramanga, Lotería del Cúcuta, Icollantas de Bogotá, Celeste del Huila, among others. "It was really a very competitive tournament, nothing to do with the level that there is now... I am NOT saying that the players were better previously, but that the level of the tournament was much more competitive ... at that time there were only two North Americans accepted by league, and "International renowned" players came, such as the bird Jame Sparrow, Tony Hall, Basketville, Erick Evans, Tom Collins and the star Sam Shepard, who is possibly the best foreigner that has ever played in our territory. He used to have an average of 40 or 50 points per game and at that time there was no triple line... Sam was several times the best player in South America. There was a very good level, we had tremendous players, it was a completely different level. Also, the way the players were treated was much more professional, they were well paid and it was a serious tournament, well organized and televised every weekend.”

After two years of participating in that tournament, he was part of the Colombian Basketball team again and spent almost two years on competitive tours in North America, Europe and Asia with the national team that was getting on track for the 1982 world male basketball championship. At that moment Lucho was living one of the best experiences of his life with only 19 years old. He was experiencing the pride of seeing how the Colombian fans in other countries clamored for the name of his team in the stadiums they went to and how the emotion ran through his veins knowing that he was going to give his best on the court to leave our flag on top. He remembers with mixed feelings the match against the United States National Basketball Team in that championship, which despite the opulence of his rival, managed to face them in a very tight match (final score 100-83) and even though they were defeated, Lucho Murillo was the best shooter of the match, scoring 29 Points and become the best scorer of the tournament, followed by Guido Mosquera.

“It was a very special moment, a unique experience to be able to play a World Cup in your own land and at such a young age (19 years old). People got excited and the stadium was completely full. We were staying at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture or CIA, located on Palmira. For the displacement of the national team to Cali for training or games, there was a protocol directed by the police authorities where our bus was escorted by them. There was a large caravan that was moving along the south highway to the town's coliseum. It was a unique and unforgettable experience that all the players enjoyed at the time. In the world championship logically we lacked game level and experience in this type of tournaments because it was the first time that Colombia participated in a tournament of such a high magnitude, but despite our short international experience we competed at a high level with the best in the world, did not give up and each one of the players and coaching staff gave all the best for the national team and our people.

Since that experience was so good and I had a very successful presentation during this 1982 world championship, I was internationally recognized as the best player in Colombia. I felt very proud to have shown it to my audience in my city and especially in my country. From that moment my life changed and offers began to arrive from different universities in the United States. I remember that one of the things that filled me the most with pride and emotion was a play that I made to the USA team, where on the double rhythm, I was going to pass the ball behind my back to one of my teammates who was on the opposite side and the defender who was the forward of the USA team and former NBA player (current coach of the NBA team the Philadelphia 76ers) miss the feint and he went the other way and I nailed the ball. Everyone stood up in the bursting coliseum and began to chant the name of the team and my name celebrating this great play, but seconds later the joy turned into a single cry of protest, since one of the referees called the play travel!, I firmly believe that it was a legal play and that it could have been the best play of the World Cup or one of the best top 10 plays of the 1982 world basketball championship.”

As a result of his excellent performance during the World Cup, he received offers from various universities with academic and sports opportunities, some of them such as South Carolina University, North Carolina University, Long Beach University, among others. However, this is where Lucho faced one of the greatest challenges up to that point in his sports career, because not having knowledge or guidance on how to choose the best offer according to his profile, benefits and needs made some of his decisions taken not the most appropriate and that is how he began his way to the United States by joining the basketball team at Indian River Community College in Fort Pierce Florida. "We did not know a platform like this, we did not know well how to choose, simply my dream was to reach the United States, but I did not know which was the best university, we were not advised and the language was a huge impediment, we did not know what were the university achievements, if they have played tournaments or not ... at that time I did not know what the difference was between a Division I, II or III University, or what it was a Junior College... in my case what I wanted was to play, never I got to thinking about it and nobody ever told me anything, I was already so excited to be able to play the best basketball on the planet that I didn't stop to think for a second. I was here and that was what mattered. This is the dream of every basketball player: to arrive in the USA… After my second year in the USA I realized how things were. "

During his stay at Indian River