Murua sees hard work pay off for Titans this year

At the heart of Calihan Hall stands Irene Murua, a Spanish-native basketball star who has led the  Titans on the court for the past three seasons. But now as a senior student-athlete, she faces uncertainty between careers, countries and crossroads. 

Murua stands at the intersection of her collegiate career, contemplating the path ahead with a blend of determination and contemplation.  

While the NCAA’s eligibility rules grant her the right to return for another year of basketball, Murua is unsure what she will do next given the many paths to pursue.  

“Right now, I have all the options open,” Murua said. “I really don’t know what I want to do.”  

Murua has weighed several options, including ones which see her stay in Detroit to pursue a master’s degree, and ones which see her return back home to Spain to play ball. Despite the confusion, she remains anchored in the present, cherishing every moment of the ongoing basketball season alongside her coaches and teammates.  

“But so far, I’m really happy here with all the coaches, with my teammates, [and] with how the season is going,” Murua said “I just want to be focused on that, and then after everything is done, think about what’s coming next.”  

Arriving from Arrasate/Mondragón, Murua’s journey to the United States was fueled by a search for balance – an opportunity to pursue her athletic ambitions without compromising her academic ones.  

“I wanted to prioritize my education [and] my academics,” Murua said. “So I decided to come here because, [in terms of] everything, it’s easier for student athletes [here]. Back home, academics and sports are not under the same institution, so it’s either you play basketball […] or you go to college, but it’s hard to do both. I thought coming here, everything was going to be easier to get my degree and keep playing basketball.”  

Murua’s United States stint started at Louisiana Tech, where she spent her freshman year playing for the Lady Techsters. Reflecting on her decision to transfer from Louisiana Tech, a team which finished first in their conference the year after Murua’s departure, to Detroit Mercy, a team which barely managed to post a single win all season, Murua spoke of her courage to seek a greater role within a team.  

“I transferred because I wanted to have a bigger role in a team, so I have never regretted the decision I made,” Murua said. “I’m happy that here I have a bigger role and [that] this year we’re doing good.”  

Under the mentorship of the coaching staff, her game evolved with each season.  

“I’m learning a lot with Coach Kate and also coach Juanita,” she said. “I think that all the coaching staff are doing a great job with all of us.”  

Murua spoke highly of her coaching staff, who have helped her develop beyond the court.

“The mental aspect is really important in basketball, and Coach Kate does a great job of being a great leader and motivating us,” Murua said. “I know that if I have any problems, I can go talk to her. She’s going to give me advice, and she always makes sure that she listens to us [and] how our bodies are feeling.” 

But all the while she leads the team in total points, points-per-game, field goals made, and more, as a leader on the court, Murua’s impact extends far beyond statistics.  

“I’m not a person that talks a lot or is really loud, but I prefer to lead by example or [by] always being consistent, working hard,” she said. “And Imani [McNeal], the other captain, I think we both do a good job of just working hard everyday and being consistent.”  

Whether through her work ethic or her unwavering commitment to excellence, she embodies the essence of leadership assets of being selfless, steadfast and grounded in a shared pursuit of success for the team. 

At Detroit Mercy, Murua found not only a basketball program, but a supportive community that nurtured her growth both on and off the court. Amidst the challenges of college life and the distance from family, Irene found solace and sisterhood in the bonds forged with Spanish teammates Lucia Robles and Emma Porta, the latter of which said “having a teammate like Irene means having someone I can trust and lean on at any time.”  

She also reaffirmed Murua’s leadership qualities, hard work and constant encouragement.  

“She is not only my friend but the closest thing I have to family here,” Porta said. 

Beyond basketball, Murua likes to recharge by enjoying and embracing the environment around her.  

“I like the city [of Detroit],” she said. “I really like downtown, and we also like to go to Dearborn to get some food. It’s a different area and it’s nice.”  

Her favorite places include local cafes, such as The Congregation, a coffee shop on Rosa Parks Blvd. 

“We like to go there or to just try different food places,” she said. “That’s what we do.” 

As Murua’s collegiate journey may be reaching its crescendo, her story echoes themes of strength, resilience and purpose. She’s seen the highest of highs and lowest of lows, but what ultimately made her stand out is her courage and ability to dribble through it all.