SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida practices got a lot more interesting last week with the addition of freshman forward Chris Walker, who the Gators hope will help the team later this season.
They’ll get even more interesting -- and competitive -- next week with the arrival of Duke transfer Alex Murphy, who will help the team next season.
The transfer of Murphy, the 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward and younger brother of former UF standout Erik Murphy, became official late Thursday afternoon. He’ll join the team when the Gators return from Christmas break and start practicing Dec. 27.
Murphy will be eligible to play for UF next December, once the 2014 fall semester ends.
“I’m anxious to see him here,” Florida coach Billy Donovan told GatorZone. “He’s probably a different player than when we recruited him coming of high school. He’s had two years of college to grow and mature. Obviously, he didn’t get to play a lot [at Duke], but he’s been around a great program and great players for two years.”
Murphy was a top-20 national prospect when he signed with Duke out of South Kingstown (R.I.) High, where he averaged 21 points, 7.2 rebounds and four assists per game.
After red-shirting for the 2011-12 season, Murphy played very little for the Blue Devils the last two seasons. He averaged 2.1 points and one rebound a game during ’12-13. He appeared in five of Duke’s 11 games this season and averaged one point and one rebound in 33 minutes.
He’s looking forward to fresh start.
“At the end of the day, it was just my comfort level with the program and the coaches,” Murphy told The Gainesville Sun. “It was a gut feeling. It was where I wanted to be.”
Though his experience at Duke was not what Murphy hoped it would be, Donovan believes the player’s time in Durham -- and in the Mike Krzyzewski culture -- prepared him for what awaits in Gainesville.
“At Duke, like us, they’re competing for championships, so he’s been in that kind of environment and he’s not going to walk in here and say, ‘Wow, this is foreign to me,’ ” Donovan said. “I don’t know why he didn’t play there, but what I admire about Alex is that he’s never said a negative thing about Duke or Coach Krzyzewski or the players there. I think in a lot of ways he put it on himself.”
So when Murphy went looking for a change in scenery, he found one he was already somewhat familiar with.
Obviously, Murphy’s older brother was an advocate for the Gators after Donovan and his UF staff developed Erik Murphy, now with with the Chicago Bulls, into one of the nation’s best “stretch-4” forwards.
Alex Murphy, though, has a different skill set than Erik. He’s more of a face-up small forward and power forward who can drive and finish at the basket; much more athletic off the bounce. He’s a decent perimeter shooter, but nothing like the 3-point marksman Erik became.
“That’s something he’s going to have to work on when he gets here,” Donovan said.
Murphy hopes to join the growing list of players who have transferred to UF and enjoyed success, ala Vernon Macklin, Mike Rosario and Dorian Finney-Smith.
“I don't expect anything to be handed to me,” Murphy told The Sun. “I want to earn what I get. That's why I wanted to come to a big-time program like Florida. I want to come in, play my role and show the coaches what I'm capable of doing and how I can contribute to the team.”