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MSU Profiles

Basketball beyond borders

Coach Matt Murken believes basketball is a universal language.

Murken has traveled to various countries and territories including Puerto Rico, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda and Kazakhstan to teach basketball clinics in underserved areas.

Born and raised in Iowa, Murken attended Concordia College in Nebraska where he lived his dream of playing college basketball, but unexpectedly discovered another passion—traveling.

“Our coaches made it a point to travel to tournaments in other regions around the country,” said Murken, “I started to enjoy getting out of my comfort zone.”

After college, Murken became a teacher and coached basketball but ultimately decided to go to grad school so he could try to coach at the college level.

“I really enjoy being on a college campus in any capacity,” said Murken.

Murken was head coach at the University of Jamestown before he took the head job at Minot State in 2012. Now in his fifth season with the Beavers, Murken has established an approach to coaching that emphasizes comprehensive character building through basketball and college life.

“It’s something I have a lot of fun with,” said Murken, “We recognize that basketball at this level is competitive, but also stress with our players the importance of enjoying the college experience. I expect the players to put in the time and passion, while also enjoying the process of getting better.”

Murken has found a way to incorporate his love of travel into his busy schedule. Athletes in Action is a faith based organization that Murken works with when he participates in international clinics. Murken sees it as spreading good will through the sport of basketball.

“It’s inspiring to see all these people from all different backgrounds be united by the game of basketball,” said Murken.

While the difficulty of communicating in a foreign language can be daunting for some, Murken delights in the struggle.

“[At a clinic in Puerto Rico] I had a station that was questions and answers, and I had no translator. I’m thinking back to my four years of high school Spanish to try to talk with a bunch of junior high kids. We laughed a lot, and they laughed at me a lot, but we found out a way to communicate,” recounted Murken with a laugh.   

While there is a considerable emphasis on winning and losing in college athletics, Murken’s travels underscore the power of basketball to transcend boundaries and unite people of different cultures. This is reflected in Murken’s Minot State team which is comprised of players from all over the world including Brazil, Macedonia, Serbia, New Zealand, and England in addition to the United States.

Murken is quick to detail the valuable lessons he has taken away from his travels abroad and his experience as a coach, but most importantly he has learned that no matter what language a player may speak, everyone shares the same language on the basketball court.