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U's Murphy sees impact on his family in Virgin Islands after hurricanes

College basketball practices start Friday, but Gophers forward Jordan Murphy’s thoughts have been divided between his family’s safety through a major hurricane and getting ready for this season.

Murphy, a 6-foot-6 returning All-Big Ten performer, intensely followed the news of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico last week.

His mother, Celia, is from St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. Murphy’s uncle, aunt and their family still live there and had leave their home for shelters to keep safe from the category 5 storm. The eye of the hurricane reportedly passed just 10 miles from St. Croix late Tuesday last week before eventually making landfall in Puerto Rico last Wednesday morning. 

“Tuesday was really hard for my family because of Hurricane Maria, which just rolled in (near) St. Croix, where my mom is from,” Murphy said. “My family is going through a lot currently just dealing with the damage and assessing what they have left, what of their lives they have left from their home. What they have in storage and stuff from their homes. It’s important for them to stay positive.”

Puerto Rico was the worst hit and millions of people remain desperate for aid. Power will be lost for months from what CNN reported as the “worst storm in modern history” of the island. St. Croix is in need of major assistance as well. One report stated 70 percent of the homes in St. Croix are damaged. News images reveal trees scattered across roads, buildings heavily scarred by debris and neighborhoods wrecked or destroyed.   

Reuters photo

Reuters photo

“It was still devastating seeing the photos that my mom showed me,” Murphy said.  “It’s just of lost and devastation. There were a lot of homes wrecked and a lot of lives altered due to that storm. My mom was just sending information to where my uncle and aunt were. They evacuated. When I first heard that was going to hit I asked my mom if they needed anything, if they needed us to send anything. The whole process was just trying to make sure they were in a safe place in a timely manner. Not doing it last minute because those (shelters) get packed. So they were able to get to a secure area.”

As of late last week, Murphy said he didn’t know if his aunt and uncle were able to return to their home to see what was left undamaged. His mother and father still live in San Antonio, where Murphy grew up and became a star basketball player at Brennan High School.

Murphy has visited his family in the Virgin Islands, and even played for their junior national team leading a FIBA tournament in rebounding in 2013. He's one of the most well known college basketball players with USVI roots.

Murphy has always been a big fan of the San Antonio Spurs and former All-Star big man Tim Duncan.  His mother and Duncan are also both from St. Croix. Duncan, now retired, has been raising money and awareness for helping victims of both Hurricane Maria in St. Croix and Hurricane Irma on the islands of St. John and St. Thomas.

“My mom was very high on that,” Murphy said, “just letting me know to raise awareness for the funding places that need support to raise money. It’s really good to see people like Tim Duncan raising money for his homeland and where he comes from. It’s very important to remind people that it’s not just those two states (Texas and Florida). We have United States territories that were also altered by the storms. It’s really important to raise awareness for that, too.”

People who want to help support hurricane relief efforts in the Virgin Islands can go to USVIRecovery.org and Tim Duncan’s fundraising site. There are several campaigns to help Puerto Rico that can be found here.

Four-star basketball recruit Hunter cancels Gophers visit

Four-star Tindley High School (Ind.) guard Eric Hunter Jr., who was one of Minnesota’s top remaining targets, cancelled his upcoming visit with the Gophers this weekend and committed to Purdue on Monday.

Hunter tweeted a video of his commitment to the Boilermakers on Monday night. His decision to not make his scheduled official trip to Minnesota was first reported by GopherIllustrated.com earlier in the afternoon.

Indy Star Photo

Indy Star Photo

The 6-foot-3 Indianapolis combo guard had already taken official visits to Purdue and Ohio State. They were reportedly his top two schools, but the Buckeyes landed two 2018 guards last week. Recruiting projections already had Hunter picking Purdue.

The Gophers’ two main targets remaining for their last scholarship are four-star Oak Hill Academy (Va.) wing Keyontae Johnson and three-star South Kent School (N.Y.) point guard Anthony Nelson. But neither player has scheduled an official visit with Minnesota yet.

The 6-5 Johnson, who has a 41-inch vertical, officially visited Wichita State on Sept. 15 and is expected to make a trip to Georgia Tech on Oct. 6. Nelson visited Dayton last week and will reportedly make official trips to Seton Hall this weekend and Clemson on Oct. 6.

There's speculation that point guards being recruited in 2018, including Hunter were worried about playing time with current freshman Isaiah Washington likely to be Gophers floor leader for years to come. Washington tweeted a photo of himself, senior guard Nate Mason and junior guard Jarvis Johnson. Mason will be gone next season. Johnson is still not medically cleared to play because of a heart condition (and is not likely to in his career as of now). 

So the Gophers are still looking to add more ball-handling depth either in the 2018 or 2019 classes to join Washington and fellow freshman Jamir Harris. 

Regardless of what happens next with Richard Pitino’s 2018 recruiting, the three-member class of Cretin-Derham Hall center Daniel Oturu, DeLaSalle shooting guard Gabe Kalscheur and Orono forward Jarvis Thomas is already the highest ranked under Pitino. It’s also the most Minnesotans in one Gophers recruiting class since 2009.

247Sports.com's ranks the U’s class No. 12 in the nation and No. 6 in the Big Ten.  Previously, the Gophers’ best class under Pitino was 33rd nationally when Amir Coffey, Eric Curry and Michael Hurt signed in 2016.