In the Richard Pitino era, no player has had the impact on the floor comparable to Jordan Murphy. In his four years sporting the maroon and gold, Murphy ranks 5th in program history in points (1774), and remarkably, at a generous 6’7, Murphy sits second in Big Ten history with 1292 rebounds. These stat-sheet stuffing numbers have led to three All-Big Ten selections for the San Antonio, Texas native, and he is now being recognized as one of the hardest working players in the nation. Furthermore, after Murphy’s great career, his jersey deserves to hang in the rafters in Williams Arena forever. While all fans recognize Murphy’s great play on the floor, his legacy goes beyond racking up double-doubles. In his tenure at Minnesota, Murphy has become a staple for how every college athlete should act on and off the court.
Murphy’s success is mainly credited to his unique style of play. At only 6’7, Murphy is as a throwback of a big-man as they come. With not much of a perimeter game, Murphy relies on his athleticism and astounding secondary leaping ability to soar over defenders for offensive rebounds and buckets. At 250 pounds, the senior captain wears down opposing frontcourt players, using his strong body to bully foes in the block. When Murphy isn’t using his strength to power through defenders, he counters with his patented spin move, dribbling to the left and somehow managing to twist back to his strong hand for the finish. Nicknamed “High-Motor Murph”, Murphy has not missed a game (or a practice) at Minnesota, providing the Gophers with consistent play on a nightly basis.
Also, Murphy has lived above the rim, electrifying the Barn for countless jaw-dropping dunks. Whether it be on alley-oops, dump downs, or just an isolation finish, if the ball gets into the block, Murphy will finish without regard for human life.
During Murphy’s tenure, the University of Minnesota basketball team has encountered numerous distractions. In Murphy’s freshman year, the team plummeted to the bottom of the Big Ten, winning only two games in the conference. The 2015 Gophers finished with an 8-23. To make matters worse, three Gopher players were suspended for the season after a controversial video incident. Even during this trying season, Murphy’s motor never stopped. In Minnesota’s win against Clemson, Murphy scored a season-high 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds Throughout the year, Murphy defined heart over height, as in his freshman year, Murphy averaged 11.6 points and eight rebounds, posting nine double-doubles, and earning a spot on the Big Ten’s all-freshman team.
The Gophers improved drastically in Murphy’s sophomore season. In a distraction-free season, Minnesota won 24 games; an astonishing 16 game turnaround from the year prior. Murphy continued his tenacity on the boards, posting 12 double-doubles and earning All-Big Ten 3rd team honors. In fact, Murphy nearly averaged a double-double, posting 11.3 points and 8.3 rebounds. In a conference game against Michigan State, Murphy grabbed a mind-boggling 21 rebounds. In addition, Murphy played his best game of the year against arch-rival Iowa, punishing the Hawkeyes for 25 points and 19 rebounds. In the 2016-2017 season, Minnesota won eight straight Big Ten games and earned a #5 seed in the NCAA tournament. Ultimately, the Gophers lost in the first round to an underseeded Middle Tennessee State team. In the loss, Murphy scored 15 points and 9 rebounds, and even though the Gophers season ended on a sour note, Minnesota returned all five starters as expectations for 2017-2018 were through the roof.
Minnesota entered the 2017-2018 season ranked 15th in the polls, but the season turned out to be the most disappointing in Richard Pitino’s tenure. While Minnesota returned five starters (Murphy, Nate Mason, Amir Coffey, Dupree McBrayer, Reggie Lynch) and added highly talented recruit, and New York’s Mr. Basketball, Isaiah Washington, Minnesota only won 15 games. The 2017 season made any casual fan want to tear their hair out in frustration as Coffey dealt with injuries throughout the year, Washington did not live up to the hype, and Lynch was dismissed from the team following a sexual misconduct case.
While the 2017 season was filled with countless distractions, they did not affect Murphy. Starting every game, the stud from San Antonio averaged a career-high 16.8 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. In a game against USC Upstate Murphy posted a career-high 35 points and 15 rebounds. Furthermore, Murphy started the season with an astonishing 17 consecutive double-doubles, tying his idol Tim Duncan who set the record during the 1996-97 season. Despite the team’s lack of success, Murphy still was an All-Big Ten second team selection and was the lone bright spot in the Gophers disappointing season. Even with all of the ongoing injuries and distractions, Murphy kept his name out of trouble and focused on what mattered most: basketball.
This season, Murphy has continued his great play. Alongside fellow senior, Dupree McBrayer, Murphy was named captain for a second consecutive year. Murphy has led by example, averaging 14.9 points and 11.6 rebounds. On December 21st, Murphy scored a career-high 30 points and hauled down 16 rebounds in Minnesota’s win over North Carolina AT&T. The big man has led Minnesota to a bounceback 21-12 record with wins against arch-rival, Wisconsin and at home on senior night against #11 ranked Purdue. Last night, the Gophers knocked out the Boilermakers again as Murphy was the heartbeat of the team, scoring 27 and advancing Minnesota to only their second Big Ten semifinal appearance since 2009-2010. As of right now, Minnesota sits safely in Joe Lunardi’s projected tournament field of 68 as it looks like Murphy’s illustrious career will continue with an NCAA tournament berth.
Over the years, there have not been many players in Gopher history, let alone college basketball, as consistent as Jordan Murphy. Remarkably, Murphy has been able to set aside frustration and avoid distractions, en route to becoming an all-time gopher great. Going forward, it will be a pleasure to see Murphy’s number 3 rightfully hanging in Williams Arena alongside Gopher legends.