Gophers senior Jordan Murphy’s used to being overlooked by preseason lists and national player rankings.
So he didn’t know how to respond to being included on the Naismith Award watch list a day before the Gophers season starts Tuesday. It’s not his goal just to be nominated, but the 6-foot-7 two-time All-Big Ten forward appreciated the mention among the top 50 players nationally right now.
“I think it’s pretty cool just being able to be recognized like that on a national scale,” Murphy said at Monday's news conference. “I just want to win it. It’s cool for now until we get to that point.”
To be considered a Naismith finalist and an All-American in the end, Murphy needs to have a big season on a winning team. His national-leading 24 double-doubles and averages of 16.8 points and 11.3 rebounds as a junior were downplayed a bit with U's disappointing finish last season.
Murphy understands that the ultimate goal for his senior year is to reach the NCAA tournament again, but the Gophers are starting with small steps coming off a 15-17 season.
“In my opinion, we just have to stay healthy and stay engaged with the season,” Murphy said. “It’s a really long season. It’s one of the longest sport seasons in the country. You have to stay engaged every month.”
With a new strength and conditioning coach Steve Felde, Murphy said he’s gone from 250 pounds entering last year down to around 240. He wants to run and jump without carrying too much weight his final collegiate season.
The biggest difference isn’t his size, though, it’s his leadership role. Murphy and fellow senior Dupree McBrayer were named captains and are expected to be vocal leaders to replace point guard Nate Mason's presence.
“It’s a work in progress,” McBrayer said. “Neither of us like to talk, so we have to step out of our comfort zone to try to get guys acclimated with how we do things around here. It’s hard for us, but if we want to be good we have to get out of our comfort zones.”
No update on Carr waiver
Gophers coach Richard Pitino said Monday afternoon there was no update from the NCAA on granting the waiver for Pittsburgh transfer Marcus Carr to play this season.
The U is preparing to play Tuesday against Nebraska Omaha with junior Amir Coffey and sophomore Isaiah Washington handling point guard duties.
“Nothing new,” Pitino said. “Still waiting, anxiously waiting. Hopefully, we’ll hear something soon.”
Freshmen to start, play
Pitino’s excited about his freshman class making its debut Tuesday night, especially since they’re Minnesotans.
Cretin-Derham Hall's Daniel Oturu and DeLaSalle's Gabe Kalscheur are projected starters after being in the lineup in the exhibition win against Duluth. Orono's Jarvis Omersa is also expected to play some quality minutes against Omaha. All three were AAU teammates with Howard Pulley last summer.
“They chose this school all for similar reasons,” Pitino said. “They just wanted to play for the name on the front of the jerseys.”