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ESPN Expert Lauds Jordan Murphy

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November 30, 2017


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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 photo courtesy Minnesota Athletic Communications

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.”

Worth Noting

Seen at last night’s Minnesota-Miami game were Vikings players Teddy Bridgewater, Adam Thielen and Jarius Wright, and club executives Bob Hagan and Lester Bagley.

Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen has three sons, including a new-born this month, and he approves of them playing football when they are high school freshmen, but not before because of potential blows to the head.

The price is six-figures but suites are available in U.S. Bank Stadium for the Minneapolis Super Bowl in February. Suite holders receive access four hours before kickoff and perks include food and beverages, and a meet-and-greet with an NFL legend.

Former Maple Grove High School basketball players Brad Davison of Wisconsin and Tywhon Pickford from Northern Iowa were honored this week by the Big Ten and Missouri Valley conferences. Davison, who averaged 15 points and two steals in three games last week, was named Big Ten co-freshman of the week along with Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. The freshman guard from Minnesota shot 50 percent in games last week and had a career high of 19 points against Milwaukee.

Pickford, who averaged 12.7 points and 12.7 rebounds last week, led the Panthers to an upset win over North Carolina State when he had 18 points and 18 rebounds. The freshman guard is the current MVC Newcomer of the Week.

The Badgers have decided not to redshirt former Lakeville North star Nathan Reuvers. The freshman forward has now played in two games for Wisconsin.

American universities have long been involved with sports but that model is different than other countries where clubs and other organizations provide opportunities for athletes. Former Gophers athletics director Joel Maturi has been volunteering his time to consult with Japanese educators interested in the American model.

Tsukuba University in Japan is going to start an athletics program next spring. Maturi was asked to be the interim head of athletics at the school for a year but he declined.

Gophers’ football coach P.J. Fleck turned 37 yesterday. November 29 is also the birthday of Iowa State coach Matt Campbell who is now 38.

Popular Pioneer Press sports columnist Charley Walters on why he doesn’t accept speaking engagements: “I abhor speaking.  I am not very good at it and I got nothing to say—and I’ll probably have a toothache that day.”

If the regular season ended today, the Wild would not be one of the five teams from the Western Conference qualifying for the playoffs. The Blues, coached by former Wild boss Mike Yeo, have the best record in the conference at 17-7-1 and 35 points.

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.

Here are Sports Headliners’ power rankings of Big Ten football teams: Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan State, Northwestern, Michigan, Iowa, Purdue, Indiana, Rutgers, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska and Illinois.

Quarterback has often been a position of frustration for Gophers fans. Minnesota hasn’t had a quarterback drafted by the NFL since Craig Curry in 1972.

The Lynx began a two-day garage sale this morning featuring discounted merchandise, bobbleheads, jerseys and other items. The sale, on the skyway level of Mayo Clinic Square, is from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days, and will also offer some Timberwolves items for purchase.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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