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Former Gators forward Erik Murphy is projected as a second-round pick in Thursday's NBA Draft.

Tuesday June 25, 2013Murphy Hopes to Be Next in Growing Line of NBA-Drafted Gators

Former Gators forward Erik Murphy is projected as a second-round pick in Thursday's NBA Draft.

Chris Harry
By Chris Harry
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Asked to reel off the franchises he had visited and worked out for during a dizzying two months of pre-NBA draft evaluation, Erik Murphy mentioned San Antonio, Detroit, Indiana, Orlando, Cleveland and Portland.

The former Florida forward was reminded about a report that put him in a meeting with the Houston Rockets just last week.

"Oh yeah," Murphy said. "Forgot about that one."

Such is life for an NBA prospect. It's a cram-session existence of meeting and greeting -- and a lot of shooting -- in what morphs into an anxious run-up to a night when the next doorway to a player's life opens.

That's where Murphy, the 6-foot-10 stretch forward and 1,000-point scorer for the Gators, finds himself now. The NBA draft is Thursday night. Murphy is projected as a second-rounder, with a chance to slip into the late first round if some general manager or coach is especially intrigued by his ability to knock down 3-pointers and draw post players out of the paint.

It's the draft. It only takes one team to fall in a love with a guy.

CBSSports.com rates Murphy as the No. 51 player in the pool. NBADraftNet.com's mock projects him to the Los Angeles Lakers with the No. 48 overall. DraftExpress.com has Murphy at No. 53. So does HoopsWorld.com.

"They're all about the same," he said.

Murphy doesn't know what's going to happen. He only knows he's loved the process to this point.

"The traveling, obviously, is tough on your body, but that's what it's going to be like at the next level if I'm fortunate enough to get an opportunity," Murphy said. "How many people get a chance to do what I've been doing the last couple months? Not many. I think you should enjoy it and embrace. That's what I've done."

Since the NBA draft went to two rounds in 1989, Florida has had 19 players selected, with all but two of them taken since Coach Billy Donovan took over in 1996. Of those 12, nine were first-round draft picks and six were taken in the top 10, including Bradley Beal to the Washington Wizards with the No. 3 overall pick last summer.

During the 2012-13 NBA season, 10 former Gators played in the league, with three -- Miami's Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem, plus San Antonio's Matt Bonner -- getting minutes in the pulsating seven-game 2013 NBA Finals.

Simply put, Florida has become one of college's basketball's top NBA feeder programs.

"First and foremost, you can point to Billy Donovan and his system," UF assistant coach John Pelphrey said of the Gators' track record (especially recently) in getting players to the NBA. "With what we do with the pick-and-roll, it's basically on-the-job training for the next level."

In April, Murphy signed with agent Andy Miller, whose clients include the likes of Kevin Garnett, Serge Ibaka, Jamal Crawford, Chauncey Billups and Omer Asik. His home base has been Impact Basketball, a training boutique in Las Vegas, where he's worked on all facets of his game, usually in 1-on-1, 2-on-2 or 3-on-3 settings.

Murphy compared the process to Donovan's individual instruction sessions.

"It's definitely been an advantage to play for Coach Donovan and be in that program and get all that individual instruction," he said. "You're constantly getting better and working on your weaknesses and building yourself as a player."

So much of what the Gators do -- both in-season and during the offseason -- is wrapped around individual instruction.

"It's invaluable," said UF assistant coach Rashon Burno, who joined the staff 13 months ago. "The thing that Billy does great, he can really break your game down. Individual instruction is based on, granted, what we need as a program. But it's also based what you, the player, need to improve on. I think he does a really good job of tailoring individual instruction to particular strengths and weaknesses."

And then there's the Florida system and its built-in elements of next-level preparation. It's like getting a "minor-league experience" in NBA style of play, according to Burno.

"For a guy like Murph, he's been playing in it for four years," Burno said. "In our style, you want two [defenders] on the ball. That means the 'pop' guy [in the pick-and-pop] is wide open. With Murphy and his ability to stretch a defense and hit 3-point shots, it puts a defense at a disadvantage when two are on the ball and it's kicked. Now you cause rotation."

In 136 games, Murphy shot 51.4 percent from the floor and 43.5 from 3-point range. He carded career-best numbers as a senior in averaging 12.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 45.3 percent from the arc.

Yes, a team with Murphy may give up rebounding in the frontcourt, but the trade-off is a unique twist that some team is going to find enticing.

"Erik came here and worked really hard to put himself in this position," Pelphrey said. "He got better every year, but along the way Murph developed a relationship with everybody in our program. From a team standpoint and community standpoint, he'll be an asset to any organization."

Murphy has done his part. His body of work at Florida is there. The workout reviews, according to Miller ("And he's a straight-shooter," Murphy said) have been positive.

Now, he just has to wait.

"There's not a lot of mystery with what I do, you know," Murphy said. I've done all I can do. Now it's out of my control, but I'm sure I can deal with just about any situation I'm going to face. It's nerve-racking, yeah, not knowing, but you have no say in it, so why worry.

"Whatever happens happens."

 

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