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Trey Murphy an unexpected and very welcome surprise for Virginia

Hoos add depth and versatility on both ends of the court with transfer Trey Murphy.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Towson David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia Cavaliers didn’t know until Tuesday evening before practice that transfer Trey Murphy would be available for Wednesday’s season opener against Towson. His waiver was approved by the NCAA after deciding to come to Charlottesville in mid-April. The initial understanding was that Murphy would have to sit for the NCAA-mandated year — like Sam Hauser did last season after coming from Marquette — but the pandemic changed everything.

“Coach [Bennett] told me outside of the group,” Murphy said in the Zoom press conference after the game. “When he told me I just started smiling from ear to ear, but you couldn’t really see because I had a mask on.”

The waiver process can be fickle, but the NCAA has been generous with approvals within college basketball this off-season. Former Wake Forest players Chaundee Brown and Olivier Sarr debuted with Michigan and Kentucky yesterday, respectively. Former Georgetown player Mac McClung got the start for Texas Tech in their opener.

“We were so thankful for that [the waiver] and so excited,” Bennett stated from the dais after the 89-54 win over the Tigers at the event dubbed “Bubbleville.” The head coach had every reason to be excited. Murphy scored 21 points on 6-for-8 shooting from beyond the arc, and added one emphatic two-pointer (and the ensuing free throw after the foul).

Murphy was highly sought after in the transfer market with Villanova, Pitt, and Houston getting in the mix for the Durham native. Listed at 6’4 and 165 pounds in his 247 recruiting profile, Murphy didn’t get much attention out of the Cary Academy. Campbell, Yale, and Columbia all showed interest before the lanky guard committed to Rice. Now 6’9, 206 pounds, Murphy has the frame and skills to be a legitimate NBA prospect.

At a certain point against Towson it just felt that anything Murphy let go was going in. Virginia’s official Twitter account has already dubbed this phenomenon “Trey Murphy’s Law,” saying that, “...any bucket that can go in, will go in.”

He finished the game with an eFG% of 111% according to KenPom, a mark that would be good for 7th in the nation currently if he had played the minimum percentage of numbers to qualify (need 60% of minutes played, Murphy was at 42%).

Murphy got a little bit of a slow start, comparative to the rest of his game, as he missed his first three and was called for a charge. Any rust would be forgivable, of course, seeing as everyone is coming off of the weirdest off-season in college basketball history. The junior swing man was just happy to be playing with his new team. “It was just really exciting to play,” Murphy said of his return to the court. “We were playing against each other for so long. We had been going at it for about four months or so, and it was just fun to play against other guys and play with my teammates.”

Even though we have just one game to go off of, the Virginia offense looked light years ahead of the one that struggled so much in 2019-20. The 89 points scored by the Hoos was 11 points more than they scored in any game last year, and the first time hitting 80 points since taking Texas Tech to overtime in the 2019 National Championship game.

Virginia shot 52% from three against the Tigers — a good clip — but had made 14-of-22 (64%) before substitutions were made late in the game. The Cavaliers likely will not shoot north of 60% from three for the season, but after a year where they shot just 30% from beyond the arc, the offensive output is a welcomed sight.

Murphy wasn’t the only new face to suit up for the Hoos on Wednesday as Sam Hauser, Kadin Shedrick, Reece Beekman, Carson McCorkle, Jabri Abdur-Rahim, and Malachi Poindexter all made their official Virginia debuts. “This is my 12th year at Virginia,” Bennett said with a smile. “Whenever you see guys the first time they’re wearing the Virginia uniform and they get to play in a game, that’s really special.”

The Hoos take the court again Friday, November 27, at 11:30am against San Francisco. The game will be televised by ESPN.