Work in Sports
Irish's Murphy ready for senior year
By Seth Davis, Sports Illustrated
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- It's hard to imagine any college campus prettier than Notre Dame in autumn. The leaves had turned and the weather was sunny and crisp. The sense of optimism existed indoors, too, where a talented, veteran basketball team was gearing up to earn the school's first NCAA tournament bid in more than a decade.
Many of Notre Dame's current players are working for their third coach in three years. Junior forward Troy Murphy, a national-player-of-the-year candidate, told me that after first-year coach Matt Doherty left for Chapel Hill this summer, Murphy started to doubt whether he made the right decision to come back to school instead of entering the NBA draft, where he would have been a certain lottery pick. "All hell was breaking loose," he said. "It's the second time [a coaching change] happened. So, yeah, you start to wonder." Murphy, however, is that rare specimen in today's game: He's a college kid. This summer, for example, he was wandering through a pharmacy in South Bend and spotted a stranger who had a goatee and bleached-blond hair. Murphy liked the look, but he can't grow a goatee. So he just dyed his hair. "It didn't work out too well," he says. "It turned orange." When I asked Murphy's friend and teammate David Graves if that type of behavior was par for the course for Murphy, Graves replied, "That was way below par." That was good to hear. Sophistication is overrated.
An NBA coach recently asked me what pro player Murphy most resembles, and I couldn't really come up with an answer. As a player, he's hard to classify. A lot of big guys can step out and hit the three, but the 6-10 Murphy is unusual in that he can mix it up under the boards with the best of them. Look for his numbers to be a little down this season, however, because new coach Mike Brey, the former Delaware head coach and Duke assistant, wants more balance. That should be easier to attain with 6-8 junior transfer Ryan Humphrey on board. Humphrey was an All-America football player in high school who left Oklahoma after two seasons because Kelvin Sampson wouldn't let him roam the perimeter. I was surprised at how good Humphrey's shooting touch was, and the attention Murphy draws will allow for plenty of open looks. Ditto for the sharp-shooting triumvirate of Graves, Matt Carroll and Martin Inglesby, who will replace the graduated Jimmy Dillon at point guard.
The one thing this team lacks is a slasher, but right now the Irish have so many options it shouldn't matter too much. Notre Dame won't be the most formidable defensive team you'll see this season, but considering that conference stalwarts Connecticut and St. John's will be taking a step back, the Irish are well positioned to rise to the top of the Big East.
Several Sports Illustrated writers are touring college campuses and will file occasional Postcards for CNNSI.com.