Being named to the University of Utah Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2023 was clearly a big deal for Sudbury native Shauna (Brouillard) Murphy – though perhaps not quite for the reasons that most might assume.
The specialness of the occasion had little or nothing to do with any sense of validation, on either an individual or team level, of the incredible accomplishments that Murphy and her 2005-2006 women’s basketball teammates recorded during their run to the NCAA Elite Eight that year.
This celebration was much more about family – in more ways than one.
“This trip, it was important to me that we brought the kids (Seamus and Jacks) along; that was really important to me,” said the graduate of Lasalle Secondary School not all that long after the family’s return from the induction ceremony in late September in Salt Lake City (Utah).
“I wanted them to see what is out there.”
The irony, in a sense, is that it was somewhat that same emotion that landed the 6’1” talent at the home of the Utes in the first place.
“During my OAC year, I had told Jen (coach Jen Bourget – then Leahey) that I wanted to stay home in Canada,” Murphy recalled. “But I wanted to go on a few official (NCAA) visits. In Sudbury, you’re in a smaller pond and you’re not really quite sure what is on the horizon.”
To this day, she remains captivated by that same sense of awe as she flew into the mountainous beauty of the western U.S. for the very first time, the blown away by it all sentiments that would see her pivot from being ever so close to committing to the University of Winnipeg Wesmen.
“We were flying in and seeing the mountains and the city and the “U” up on the hill and the campus – my jaw just dropped,” said Murphy. “I had never seen anything like that before. I knew right away that I had to go this school.”
Some twenty years later, she was reminded of yet another feeling of family, one that found her looking back with so much fondness on a four year career (and five years of schooling), and a period in which she would meet and marry her husband, Arthur, a varsity wrestler.
“It amazes me how you can have a team and everyone gets together years later and the dynamics haven’t changed,” she noted with a smile. “The people are still the same.”
As is almost always the case, it is those people that make the university experience so special – and for all of its uniqueness, Utah was no different for Murphy. “The staff that is available for academic support there is outrageous – and by the way, they care,” she said.
It took but a few minutes for a former Director of Academics to make a bee-line to one of three Canadians on that special team, embracing and reminiscing and asking all of those questions that time apart will raise.
The fact that family should be central to the Hall of Fame is only fitting for the introspective young woman, introduced to the sport of basketball in grade six by her uncle, Francis. Prior to that, she was a dancer. “I hated every minute of it,” laughed Murphy on her time in the studio.
“I’m a tomboy. I didn’t like the outfits. I never bought into the make-up and the hair – and I never had the body for it. But mom insisted it was good for you, the girl thing to do.”
Begrudgingly, Murphy might concede that her footwork on the court ultimately benefitted from her dance background. Or she might not.
Either way, it didn’t take long for a love of basketball to develop. She was already in youth league and the school team at St Thomas as she prepared for high-school and the move to more competitive ball.
Twist of fate: Shauna was registered to attend St Charles College, but with a school strike carrying into her grade nine year, the decision was made in September to make the switch to Lasalle, a perennial powerhouse in the girls’ high-school basketball scene.
“My mom and I talked to Jen Bourget and she said she “might” be able to find a spot of the team for me,” said Murphy, acknowledging the tongue-in-cheek nature of the comment that was a foregone conclusion when a six foot grade nine female athlete with this kind of potential suddenly arrives on your doorstep.
From that point on, the pathway was set.
“It was always fun; basketball was always fun for me,” said Murphy. “It just seemed that there was always something for me to work on. My mom would have to rip me out of the gym. I just kind of had that constant guilt that I was not doing enough to get better – and that never came from anyone else except from me.”
Murphy might highlight the relationships and the life lessons and so much more that she welcomed during her time in Utah – but make no mistake: the teams for which she played were really, really good.
Twice they made the NCAA tournament and in her final year, they were tapped for the WNIT year-end showcase.
The 2005-2006 team that was inducted into the Hall of Fame lost in the national quarter-final to the Maryland Terrapins squad that would claim the NCAA championship banner that year. There were many a special moment, to be sure, during her basketball days at the Mountain West Conference institution.
But for Shauna (Brouillard) Murphy, it is all about family – and she is quite good with that.