BY ERIK BADIA, HENRICK KAROLISZYN, ERIN DURKIN and BARRY PADDOCK
A high school basketball star was shot dead inside a Manhattan housing project yesterday in a slaying her family believes was a tragic case of mistaken identity.
Tayshana (Chicken) Murphy, 18, one of the top-rated basketball players in the country, was killed in Harlem’s Grant Houses around 4:10a.m., police said.
She was trying to outrun a gunman in the fourth-floor hallway of her building, witnesses said. “She was pleading for her life,” said friend Teka Taylor, 22. “She was saying, ‘No, please, I don’t have nothing to do with it.’”
Murphy had just started her senior year at Murry Bergtraum High School for Business Careers. Several colleges were actively recruiting her.
“She said, ‘Mom, I’m going to get you out of the projects,’” said Murphy’s mother, Tephanie Holston, whose shirt was stained with blood after she tried to save her daughter before emergency workers arrived.
“She loved basketball, she lived and breathed basketball,” Holston said.
Witnesses believe Murphy, who was partying with friends from the project and was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, was mistaken for a boy from the group who had fought with young men from a nearby housing project.
She died at the scene after being chased into the building by her shooter. Murphy’s mother kissed the body bag as it was loaded into a medical examiner van.
“No, no, no. I can’t believe this,” Murphy’s sister howled as she banged on the van with both her hands.
Murphy had a brush with violence last year, when she left Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School under threat of suspension after an altercation with a 15-year-old girl.
She transferred to St. Michael’s Academy in Manhattan, then started at Murry Bergtraum last September after St. Michael’s shut down.
Murphy was ecstatic to be returning to the court this fall after being sidelined last year with a knee injury. “She wanted in the worst way to play,” said Ed Grezinsky, her coach at Bergtraum.
“She definitely would have been the leader of the team.” She never lost sight of her dream of becoming a WNBA star.
“That’s my goal,” she told the Daily News last year. “I want to be great.”
Police are investigating the killing. No arrests have been made.
With Mitch Abramson