On a journey on which he says there are no regrets, Alex Murphy is finally heading to a place that in his heart he knows is home. The memories of Duke University will always have a fond place in his heart, but that’s in the past. The present and the future will be at the University of Florida where he will have at least one and a half years of eligibility to play for the Gators and Billy Donovan.
“Being down there and being home … that’s the best way to describe it,” Murphy said about his decision to be a Gator Wednesday afternoon from his family’s home in South Kingston, Rhode Island.
That was important for the 6-9, 230-pound Murphy, who took a redshirt his freshman year at Duke, then played sparingly as a second-year freshman last year. He played in five games for the Blue Devils in November before deciding that it was time for a fresh start.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to leave Duke but I had to do what was in my own best interests,” Murphy said. “I thought that for me to do what was best for me was the most important thing I could do and ultimately, it led me to where I am.”
Gainesville. The University of Florida. The place where older brother Erik Murphy spent four productive seasons playing for the Gators, where he made first team All-SEC (both AP and Coaches) in 2012-13. Alex always had good feelings about the Gators and he loved watching them play as they advanced to three consecutive Elight Eights. But it was more than just the basketball.
A conversation with Erik, now a rookie with the Chicago Bulls in the NBA, that had more to do with things other than basketball helped seal the deal for Florida.
“He (Erik) obviously loved it there,” Alex said. “He said it was the best four years of his life. That played into my decision a lot. I could feel in my heart and my gut that this was the best place for me to be.”
Familiarity with Billy Donovan also weighed into the decision. It’s a relationship that began when Donovan was recruiting Erik, who was a prep All-American at St. Mark’s School in Southborough, Massachusetts and a standout on the summer circuit with the New England Playaz. Donovan also recruited Alex very hard, but Duke came calling and won that recruiting battle.
It led to two years and one semester in Durham and while he didn’t spend as much time on the playing floor as he envisioned back when he signed, it is time that Murphy says wasn’t wasted.
“There are no regrets,” he said. “I grew a lot as a player and as a person while I was there and I made some great friends. Leaving wasn’t easy, but that’s the past.”
Now he wants to concentrate on the future. When Murphy called Donovan to tell him that he was going to be a Gator, the reaction he got helped him know that he had made the right decision.
“Coach Donovan was excited,” Murphy said. “I have had a good relationship with him all the way back to when I was in high school when I was being recruited. The staff was excited, too. The guys I know on the team have reached out and let me know they’re really happy I’m coming here. I feel this is going to be win-win for everybody.”
Murphy won’t be able to play immediately and that’s not going to be easy, but he knows that he can be a vital contributor for a Florida team that is capable of making a very deep run into the NCAA Tournament in March. With his size, defensive skills and willingness to bang with the big guys, he will be a very valuable practice player for a team that is one big body short with Damontre Harris gone AWOL.
Having watched the Gators several times already this season, Murphy knows the Gators have what it takes to play and advance once March arrives and it’s win or go home time.
“I’ve been watching and I know a bunch of the guys,” Murphy said. “I’m rally excited to be a part of this team. I really believe this is a team with the potential to be really good in March and I’m excited that I’ll be able to help them.”
Although he won’t be able to play in the spring semester, Murphy plans to use the time to learn the Florida schemes at both ends of the floor which will better prepare him for the 2014-15 season. Because he’s a midyear transfer, he won’t be eligible to play until the second semester next season, but that will be appealed.
Since Murphy took a redshirt as a freshman and then played less than 35 minutes in five games in November of this year, there is the possibility that the NCAA will give him a waiver that could allow him to play when the 2014-15 season begins instead of waiting until the second semester.
“There is the chance that I can potentially get a waiver that will let me play,” he said. “I’m not sure what has to be done but that will all be taken care of and handled in the future. Right now, I’m just excited that I’m going to be there.”
Due to the NCAA rules about transfers, Murphy can’t join the team until the new semester begins. Until then he’s spending the time with the family in Rhode Island. Dad Jay is a former Big East Player of the Year at Boston College while mom Paivi is a former professional basketball player who played on the Finnish Olympic team. Younger brother Tomas is a freshman at The Prout School, already 6-7 and drawing comparisons to his two older brothers and dad.
The four of them will spend Christmas Eve in New York where they will be reunited with Erik.
“Erik and the Bulls play the Nets in Brooklyn on Christmas Day,” Alex said. “We’ll spend the night Christmas Eve and then be at the game on Christmas Day. This is going to be a Christmas I will remember.”