Florida Gators basketball player Erik Murphy is the wild card. The 6’10″ power forward from South Kingston, RI is a player that will be counted on to not only step up his game this season, but also to expand it.
An afterthought his first two seasons in Gainesville, he was mostly a skinny bench player who had a decent outside shot and only received limited minutes in game action. Last season, as a junior he stepped out and stepped up gaining considerable minutes and providing valuable offense from the perimeter.
He has developed his outside shot well particularly from outside the arc averaging over 41 percent from three and is a huge weapon for them. However, through his first three seasons, he’s been a good shooter, a decent defender, and little else.
A good shot blocker due to his length, he’s been an inconsistent rebounder especially on defense. He’s great on the pic and roll with a soft touch around the rim and on the pick and pop nailing three pointers. He’s less effective defending players in the post. An enigma to say the least.
This season Billy Donovan needs him to do more and that’s what makes him the wild card. To this end, Murphy has bulked up to 240 lbs. and has been working on his inside game. Donovan needs him to play bigger and play stronger at both ends of the court but particularly in the low post.
“He cannot just be, for us, that guy that steps away from the basket and shoots it,” according to Donovan.
“I think he’s proven himself to be able to do that pretty consistently. I think the next step for him is can he become a scorer from the perimeter and from the mid-post area or from the low post.”
He also needs to get better and be more consistent on the defensive end of the court. He did start to come on at the end of last season. In the Sweet Sixteen against Marquette he had 7 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Against Lousville in the Elite Eight he had a team high 14 points with 8 rebounds.
The ability is there he just needs to play with more consistency. Particularly in rebounding. The Gators are guard heavy right now and their only real size is Patric Young and Murphy. They will play a 3 guard lineup often but the question becomes where does the rebounding come from?
“Right now my biggest concern is we don’t rebound.” Donovan said. “Not at the level that we need to rebound the ball at.”
So Murphy will be counted on to step up this season. Expect to see him more in the low post creating an inside presence on offense and banging with the big guys on defense and fighting for rebounds.
“That’s something that I’ve always tried to get better at, rebounding and banging down low. I feel like I’m doing well there right now,” Murphy said.
Donovan realizes with Cody Larson leaving the team they are real short on depth in the low post. Therefore it is imperative that they get the most out of Murphy and Patric Young in post presence and in rebounding.
This team is trying to get back to the Elite Eight for the 3rd year in a row and have publicly stated their goal is to go further and make the Final Four. Make no mistake, Erik Murphy will be a large part of however they far they go this year as he is the wild card.