ESPN Expert Lauds Jordan Murphy
Gophers junior forward Jordan Murphy is off to one of the most impressive starts in college basketball this season. He entered last night’s game against Miami averaging 22 points and 12.3 rebounds. Although No. 12 ranked Minnesota lost 86-81 to No. 10 Miami at Williams Arena, Murphy had his eighth consecutive season opening double-double in points and rebounds, totaling 17 and 14.
Murphy began this season with career averages of 11.4 points and 8.4 rebounds, and had a low profile nationally, but everything has changed. ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, in Minneapolis for the nationally televised game last night, has been following Murphy since he arrived at Minnesota as only a three-star recruit from San Antonio.
“He is one of the most improved players in the country,” Fraschilla told Sports Headliners prior to the game. “He will be in the running for Big Ten Player of the Year because to this point in the season he has an impact on the game that few have. Even at 6-foot-6, he dominates the game inside. He’s also improved his ability to drive from the top of the key to the basket. He will be a very hard matchup for anybody in the Big Ten.”
Fraschilla described Murphy as a “nightmare” for defenders to stay in front of. The powerful 6-6, 240 athlete has strength, quickness and jumping ability. He can go through, around and over defensive players. He has strong hands, with the timing and athleticism to block shots and make steals.
“He’s a guy you have to talk about as a potential All-American candidate, if not this year, definitely next year,” Fraschilla said.
A former head coach at St. John’s and New Mexico, Fraschilla is friends with Providence coach Ed Cooley who said that in his six years leading the Friars Murphy was the most difficult player he’s had to prepare for. “That’s a heck of a compliment,” Fraschilla said. “Then they game planned for him and he still dominated the game. That tells you something. ”
Murphy had 23 points and 14 rebounds in leading the Gophers to an impressive road win over Providence on November 13. Games like that have resulted in Murphy being named the Big Ten’s Player of the Week for three consecutive weeks. He is the first player since 2009 (Ohio State’s Evan Turner) to earn the award three straight weeks.
Fraschilla said it’s too early to know if Murphy can become an NBA first round draft choice, perhaps as early as next year. Years ago Murphy would have been profiled as too short to play power forward and too lacking in small forward skills to play that spot, but in today’s league there is emphasis on versatile players who can play multiple positions and possess multiple skills. “You know Draymond Green (Warriors) used to be a tweener; now we just call him an All-Star,” Fraschila said.
Fraschilla can see a future where it benefits Murphy to play four seasons with the Gophers. “He is going to be an intriguing prospect for (NBA) teams but there’s still aspects of his game he’s got to work on including his outside shooting,” Fraschilla said. “But I would not experiment (on perimeter shooting) if I were him at the expense of dominating the game inside.”
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Thanks for the emails from readers who enjoyed Tuesday’s column reminiscing about Memorial Stadium. Former Gopher Paul Ramseth (1961-63) wrote that stadium memories brought “tears to my eyes.” Another reader said the Gophers lost their last game ever in the stadium when coaches didn’t realize the defense only had 10 players on the field.
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