Former Northeastern Forward Ready to Run it Back in Burlington
Moving forward with our series of new faces set to join the Catamounts for the upcoming 2020/21 season, we shine the spotlight on Vermont’s next big man transfer, Tomas Murphy. Murphy comes to Cats after playing the previous two years in Boston for the Northeastern Huskies and was Vermonts second transfer commit this year, following Justin Mazzulla’s earlier enrollment. This is the second straight year that John Becker and his coaching staff have sought out a starting caliber big man from the transfer market, after bringing in Daniel Giddens as a graduate transfer from Alabama/Ohio State last year.
Vermont has been increasingly more active and aggressive in the transfer market these past few years. The coaching staff’s strategy of late has been to patch any holes on the roster via the transfer market, indicating that UVM views themselves as America East contenders and wants to emphasize finding experienced players for retooling, rather than unproven freshman youth for rebuilding.
Tomas Murphy enrolled in Northeastern despite receiving offers from other high-end majors such as Maryland, Florida and Georgia. The Warick, RI native had been able to carve out a nice role off the bench for Northeastern during his first two years and started every game (4) of his junior campaign before succumbing to an ankle injury that would eventually sideline him for the rest of the year.
Murphy’s stat line isn’t going to jump off the books at you, but his steady development from his time in Boston saw his points-per-game production increase every year from 6.1 to 8.3 and finally 9.1 during his abbreviated junior season. The NCAA granted Murphy a medical redshirt waiver for the 2019/20 season, meaning that he’ll have two years remaining of eligibility when he suits up in the green and gold come winter. With an exodus of talent saying farewell to Burlington this year, including bigs Daniel Giddens and NBA prospect Anthony Lamb, there is a massive hole to fill in UVMs frontcourt. Is Tomas Murphy the man for the job?
How Can Murphy Make an Impact?
As previously mentioned, Vermont is set to lose their starting frontcourt duo, as Giddens and Lamb have both just exhausted their final year of eligibility, meaning there’s going to be a plethora of minutes up for grabs for the next wave of Catamount bigs. After winning America East Sixth Man of Year award last year, it seems safe to pencil in Ryan Davis as one half of UVMs starting frontcourt. Murphy, along with Duncan Demuth, Isaiah Powell and incoming freshman Georges Lefebvre will all be battling for the chance to start alongside Davis in Vermont’s new look frontcourt. While nothing is set in stone as of yet, it’s assumed that the starting role is Murphys to lose at this point.
Could Demuth, Powell or even Lefebvre show enough to Coach Becker and the coaching staff to overtake Murphy’s starting spot? Absolutely, but for players who have previously underwhelmed (Demuth, Powell) or are still unproven (Lefebvre), it’s going to take significant improvement or that special something to leapfrog Murphy or even Davis for a starting position.
With Murphy in tow, he joins a growing list of Vermont recent transfer bigs such as Giddens, Sam Dingba and Payton Henson. Giddens and Dingba, while limited offensively, we’re both extremely hard-working guys, who were able to counteract their offensive limitations with physical and punishing defense. Henson was an integral part of the Cats team that went undefeated in conference play back in 2016/17 and ultimately became one of the best transfers in Catamount history. If Murphy can find a middle ground between these two results, Vermont should be feeling pretty ecstatic and will likely be looking at adding another America East Conference Championship berth to their resume.
Since Murphy’s junior season was cut short, let’s examine some tape from his sophomore campaign. Officially listed at 6’8, 230lbs, Murphy’s skillset is best utilized in a post-up PF role. What you’ll notice right off the bat is that Murphy lives in the paint. He’s developed a wide variety of post moves that look as refined and polished as you’ll ever see. Even with opposing defenses knowing he’s going to attack the post, his footwork and placement around the rim drive even the best defenders insane.
The Cats have a great big man on their roster already in Ryan Davis – nonetheless Murphy’s technique and soft touch around the basket rivals, even not exceeds that of Davis. The one-two punch of Davis and Murphy (sounds like an 80’s buddy cop flick) should be able to form quite the duo in Burlington for the next two years.
What really should excite you about Murphy is his basketball pedigree. His father, Jay, played professionally at the NBA level and overseas. His mother, Paivi, played professionally in Sweden, and his brothers Erik and Alex both played for high-major D1 basketball programs (Florida and Duke). With that type of basketball lineage, Murphy is a true student of the game. Big men typically have had trouble adjusting to Coach Becker’s system straight out of the gate, but Murphy’s basketball IQ and court awareness should give him a tremendous advantage against the curve as he adjusts to the Catamount way.
Any Red Flags or Injuries?
We already know that Murphy dealt with an ankle injury that sidelined him after only four games into his junior campaign. Just how serious is that ankle injury? Has Murphy done enough through rehab that it’s fully healed or will it continue to nag at him, potentially costing him playing time down the line? There have been no reports against Murphy and assuming the Vermont staff have done their due diligence regarding Murphy’s medical background, it appears the ankle shouldn’t be of much concern moving forward.
The Catamounts have dealt with their fair share of pestering injuries over the last few seasons. In fact, the overwhelming majority of UVM big men have managed to pick up their fair share of injuries – Giddens, Demuth, Davis, Lamb, Powell, Dingba, hell even Ra Kpedi have all missed time due to injuries over the past few years. Why has this been the case for UVM? While some could be deemed as just unlucky breaks (Lamb), it could be argued that Coach Becker’s style of play puts too much physical stress on big men or even that the training staff at Vermont is underperforming. If history is any indication of what we can expect, then we may be looking at a few DNPs in Murphy’s future.
Overall, Murphy should be an excellent fit with the Catamounts. He’ll be arriving to Burlington as a graduate transfer with two years eligibility and should flourish in Coach Becker’s system. Vermont deserves a solid A- for this transfer grade, as Murphy not only fills a hole on the roster, but his experience and proven record of success at Northeastern should make him a top contributor from day one.
UVM fans might have been too quick to jump the gun on Giddens, projecting that the former ESPN Top 100 recruit would instantly become a star in the AE. While that didn’t quite happen, Giddens was able to carve a nice role for himself and really started to find his footing towards the tail end of the year. Murphy’s expectations should be viewed in similar fashion. Don’t go looking for a unicorn when you only need a horse.
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