When training camps open in the fall, South Kingstown native Erik Murphy will be looking to pull off a feat very few Rhode Islanders have; become just the seventh player from the Union’s smallest state – and first from South County – to play in the NBA.
Murphy – along with Providence native Ricky Ledo, the 40th overall pick – will be looking to join the likes of Marvin Barnes, Ernie Calverly, Ernie DiGregorio, Tom Garrick, Joe Hassett and Owen Wells after being selected by the Chicago Bulls in the second round, 49th overall, in last Thursday’s NBA Draft.
“It’s amazing,” Murphy said. “It didn’t really hit me until I landed in Chicago. The last couple days have been a blur. I don’t know how to describe it, just crazy.
“It was unreal to hear my name called, especially to end up with an organization like the Bulls. It’s an honor. It’s a great place and I think, hopefully, it’s going to be a great fit.”
After a standout career at St. Mark’s School in Southborough, Mass. Murphy went on to play four years for the University of Florida.
During his time in time in Gainsville, the 6-foot, 10-inch, 238-pound forward became the 49th player in team history to break the 1,000 point barrier (1,052).
He was named to the 2013 All-SEC team – the only Gator to garner all-conference honors – and was twice named to the All-SEC tournament team as a junior and a senior.
This past winter, Murphy led the SEC in 3-point percentage (.473), while averaging 12.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists over 36 games (34 starts).
For his four-year career with the Gators, Murphy averaged 7.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 0.7 rebounds per game over 136 games (67 starts).
Not only will Murphy be looking to add to the list of Rhode Islanders who have played in the NBA, but looking to continue both a family tradition and a tradition of big men coming out of Florida.
Erik’s father Jay is a former Boston College great who was drafted 31st overall in 1984 by the Golden State Warriors and played four years in the NBA with the Los Angeles Clippers and Washington Bullets.
The younger Murphy has also become the 11th player from the University of Florida standing 6’9” or taller to be drafted in the past decade, joining the likes of NBA All-Stars Joakim Noah, Al Horford and David Lee.
“All credit to the coaching staff and Coach Donovan,” Murphy said of the Florida program and how it help shape him into an NBA hopeful. “They do a great job of developing their guys. They’re always working to improve whatever your weaknesses are. We do a lot of individual instruction which big. We also play an NBA-style offense, so the way we play translates to the NBA and we’ve become a really good defensive team the last couple of years.
“That’s why you see a lot of guys from Florida having success now. Also, I think, the mindset [Donovan] instills in you. Having that mindset of coming in ready to work and staying focused all the time.”
Under Gator coach and former Providence College star Billy Donovan, Murphy has shaped his game to become an agile, low-post player with strong mental toughness and understanding of the game.
Murphy’s ability to stretch defenses with his outside shooting should give him a good chance at sticking in the NBA, particularly with a team like the Bulls.
“I feel it’s a good fit with the way I play with them right now not necessarily having someone to stretch the floor,” Murphy said, “but it’s an honor just to even get the opportunity. I still have a lot of work to do and we’ll see how it turns out.”
Later this month Murphy will head out to Las Vegas to take part in the NBA’s Summer League, an annual proving ground for young players and league hopefuls.
“It’s definitely hitting me a little more and it’s exciting,” Murphy said. “[Chicago is] a great organization with a great history. It’s also a great sports city with great fans. I’m excited to have the opportunity to play for them and hopefully make the team.”