2020 was a strange year for all of us, with the COVID-19 pandemic impacting the daily lives of all of us in new and unexpected ways. One of the most unexpected tales of 2020 is that of Ryan Murphy, the first basketball player in modern history to transfer from Pitt to Duquesne, though Murphy’s seemingly short trip across town actually had a lot of miles in between.
Last season, Murphy played for Pitt but after the end of the season, he decided to look for a better opportunity, which led him to Tulane and coach Ron Hunter. When professional offers came in Murphy evaluated his options with his family, which includes his father George who played collegiately at the University of Bridgeport and professionally overseas in Egypt. Ultimately the decision was made to stay in America due to COVID-related concerns.
Back at home at California, much of the state closed due to the pandemic, Ryan Murphy had to do whatever he could to get shots up and that is where Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday came in.
“I got to work out with him every day which was great,” Murphy said. “I was staying in his house some nights, the gym, Mamba Academy while things were open. It was weird usually there is pickup over the summer and guys are having workouts. I did whatever I could whether it was going on a run, getting shots up as much as I can, sneaking into some gyms, as well.”
Sometimes Murphy had to take matters into his own hands such as when Calabasas High School was closed, which made getting shots up difficult, though at times he would find a friend with a key and sneak into gyms.
At the end of the summer, it came down to picking a college and ultimately Murphy was drawn in by both Duquesne’s coach Keith Dambrot and also the team’s inside-out style of play.
“Last year at Pitt, we had an inside presence but it wasn’t nearly as dominant as Marcus (Weathers), Michael (Huges) and (Austin) Rot(roff), we were more guard oriented,” said Murphy. “Every coach and team is different. It’s learning a new thing all over again but I am getting used to it. You have to come in every day willing to learn.”
Murphy’s coming to Duquesne was made official Dec. 3, the same day Duquesne’s final game in Louisville against Winthrop was cancelled.
It provided another challenge in that Murphy was having to learn another completely new playbook with a lot of practices shut down where he was unsure if one player would be absent, several players would not be present or if it was more one-on-one coaching.
Through it all, Murphy has tried to maintain a level of patience, something which he worked on over the summer and avoid rushing things.
As Murphy spoke on trying to learn how to communicate with his teammates, one of them, Mike Hughes was in the background and was at the ready with a one-liner.
“I don’t like him Zac,” Hughes joked.
After Murphy chirped back, both smiled a sign that Murphy is fitting in, though he knows there is still some adjusting to do.
“Every day I’m still the new guy,” he said. “Over time that won’t be the case but right now I am the new guy that went to Pitt, the rival down the road. You’ve got to learn everyone’s personalities, there are certain ways you can talk to certain guys and explain things to certain guys. It takes time. I still have to get comfortable here being myself and being a good teammate and leader. It’s a bond you have to create.”
Currently Murphy is averaging 8.5 minutes over the three games he has played in, though his minutes have increased as he played 16 Tuesday against Davidson.
“This is probably the lowest amount I’ve played in my life but I am happy to be out there,” Murphy said. “As time goes on I’ll get more shots, more touches and more comfortable but for now I’m just enjoying it.”
Sure Murphy’s path has been unconventional to an extent, but it is one that is uniquely his and is far from over.
“One thing Fred VanVleet says that I love is to bet on yourself,” said Murphy. “That’s something I think I do day in and day out and I have done over my whole career.”
Murphy also spoke about other topics such as his favorite NBA players and how a potential City Game would match up this season, which can be found below.