SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Former Tennessee Tech men’s basketball standout Kevin Murphy has continued to impress the Utah Jazz coaching staff since signing his first career NBA contract with the team just over a month ago.
“It feels great to make the final roster,” Murphy said Monday. “It’s a like a weight off my shoulders. When you go through training camp and summer league and put the work in, it really is special. Even though I had signed a contract already, it still isn’t a guarantee until you make that final roster. And now I can say I did it.”
Murphy, who set the Tech single-game scoring record last season with 50 points against SIU Edwardsville, had a very busy preseason. Before he was even able to begin preseason training camp, he flew home to Atlanta, Ga. for the birth of his son. Despite missing four practices over the two days at home, Murphy worked hard and took every advantage he could to ensure a place among the final 15 players on the roster.
In preseason play, the former All-OVC first-teamer continued to make every chance he had count, averaging four points per game in just 7.5 minutes per contest. He also averaged 0.3 rebounds and 0.3 assists for the preseason while earning a +3.00 efficiency rating. Murphy’s preseason was highlighted by an eight-point performance at the Staples Center against the Los Angeles Lakers. Along with winning the game by an impressive 34 points and picking up 12 minutes on the floor, Murphy got the chance to guard his childhood idol, Kobe Bryant.
“It was amazing,” remarked Murphy. “I’ve been watching Kobe play since I was a child. Every time I played basketball when I was younger, I’d pretend I was Kobe, so guarding against him was like a dream come true. Just getting to watch him from the sidelines was surreal. I almost cheered for him, before I remembered we were playing against him. I had to remember that he’s a basketball player, just like me.”
The Jazz showed much success in the preseason, particularly when Murphy made it onto the floor. Utah finished their preseason schedule with a 5-3 record, including a 5-1 mark when the Tech all-time leader in games played made it into the game.
But Murphy doesn’t concentrate on the statistics or the records or any of the hype. His biggest concern and goals for the season lie within the team and what he can do for it.
“I want to be great teammate and a supportive teammate,” said Murphy. “I want to work towards getting more minutes. I know I’m down towards the end of the bench for right now. I just need to keep working hard and practicing and earn my spot on the floor and the minutes that come with that.”
Golden Eagle fans can only hope that those minutes spike when Murphy comes back to Tennessee on April 17, 2013 to face the Memphis Grizzlies. Fans will have already gotten a chance to see him play the Grizzlies in December when the team travels to Salt Lake City to take on the Jazz on the Dec. 15, the same day his former team will match-up against the Auburn Tigers in Auburn, Ala.
Fans may get a second opportunity to view Murphy in the flesh when the Jazz make a trip to Indiana in a tilt against the Pacers on December 19. Perhaps the most meaningful game of the season, however, for the 2,000+ point scorer will be when he returns to his hometown on January 11, 2013 to take on the Atlanta Hawks. The game will provide a chance for No. 55 to not only play in front of family, friends, and perhaps even some Golden Eagle fans, but also to visit his family and his baby boy.
All in all, Murphy knows he has a long road ahead of him. But he also knows that he can compete at this level and that he has a chance to make some noise much earlier than his critics thought.
“I think I’ll have some good chances and opportunities to show what I can do this year,” responded Murphy when asked about his expectations for the year. “In the preseason I felt that every time I got out there I did something productive, so I think that I’ll be able to carry that into the regular season.”
And whether he does continue his success or stumbles a bit out of the gate, he can feel reassured that there are many people in Cookeville who are watching, cheering, and encouraging his every move and can’t wait to see what he’s got in store for them next.