October 22, 2020

Independent analysis and commentary on UVA athletics

Welcome Trey Murphy

Virginia got good news today in the announcement that high-rated transfer target Trey Murphy III, a sit-1-play-2 player from Rice, chose the Hoos to continue his career. Rated as the #12 sit-out transfer by ESPN (more on that whole “sit out” thing in a bit), Murphy picked UVA over a top 4 that also included Villanova, Pitt, and Houston.

The Player

Trey Murphy III came out of the Raleigh-Durham region of North Carolina in the 2018 high school class. He was known at the time as a bit of a 3-point specialist, but at 6’4″ his ball skills weren’t quite enough to get him nationally ranked or any high-major offers (though many, including UVA, did give him a good long look), and so in October of 2017 he pledged to the Rice Owls.

His growth continued his first two years at Rice, both literally and figuratively. He sprouted an additional 4 inches over those two seasons, currently standing 6’8″ with a 7′ wingspan, and when that size gets coupled with his 3-point shot and natural guard instincts, you get a dangerous, well rounded player.

His freshman year, at the time measuring in at 6’7″, he came off the bench and had a very promising rookie campaign in a 6th man role, scoring 8.4 ppg and hitting on a lethal 42% of his 3’s. He moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore and, having reached 6’8″, became their go-to shooter, leading the team in scoring at 13.7 ppg, adding in 5.5 rpg, and hitting on 36% of his 3’s (38% in conference play). Rice had a way-too-small roster last year, forcing Trey to spend more time defending the post than he ought to, but otherwise he handled the spotlight and increased responsibility very well.

Rice is a pretty low-profile program, though, rarely making a dent even at the C-USA level, and though he never made an all-conference team, Murphy did enough to deserve a ton of high-major attention. Who doesn’t want a 6’8″ guy with career 39% 3-point percentage on high volume at the D-1 level? But what sets him apart is that at heart he’s still a guard, having maintained his handle and instincts at a solid level. Would it be good enough were he still 6’4″ and playing the 1 or 2? Maybe, maybe not. But at his size and deployed as a forward, likely at the 3 or the 4 at the high-major level, he’s a mismatch nightmare, able to shoot over or bully smaller guys, and stretching defenses and able to out-quick his defender when he draws a more traditional big man defender. Defensively he’s versatile with the ability to guard 2-4 depending on the opponent.

Many are going to want to pick a UVA player to compare him to, and the easy two names to pick are Braxton Key and DeAndre Hunter, two other perimeter-oriented 6’8″ combo forwards, though I don’t necessarily see either as a perfect match. Key’s far more physical and has always been way more at home playing near the rim than Murphy is or likely will be; Murphy is a shooter first, a slasher second, and a garbage man a distant third. Hunter is just an unfair comparison to make, though maybe slightly more accurate, in that Hunter was far more comfortable as a 3 than Braxton was; same goes for Murphy. 356 of Murphy’s 492 field goal attempts have been 3’s, but he doesn’t (yet) have the all-around game that made Hunter an NBA Lottery candidate even as a second year.

The player I want to compare him to (and sorry, folks, for the gag reflex I know is coming) is Duke’s one-and-done Cam Reddish. Reddish is also a long 6’8″ perimeter oriented floor spacer. Not the world’s most well-rounded player, though certainly capable on occasion to both play downhill or corral some rebounds, he was more finesse than other guys his size may be. That’s not to be a knock, just to acknowledge a role. Reddish played out of position as a 2 at Duke on many occasions, so the utilization may not be the same, but I see a lot of similarities in skill set.

Obviously UVA’s famed development team will pack on strength to Murphy’s 200-lb frame (as he’s still been growing vertically, filling out laterally has been slow to come), and coach him up on his rebounding work and downhill play. But I still think ultimately UVA likes him outside more than in. Depending on the opponent and who else is on UVA’s roster and playing well, we might see him alternatively at the 3 or the 4 spot, where against bigger opponents (the UNC’s of the world) we play him at the 3 and let the more physical McKoy handle the 4-man responsibilities, while against smaller opponents (the VT-type teams) Murphy is going to be a safer play as a small-ball-4 for long stretches.

I’m not certain he sees quite the usage rate he saw at Rice, as Virginia will have some elite options around him to share the ball (especially if we can follow up our great 2020 class with a stellar 2021 group, including more future pros at guard). But there’s certainly some potential for Murphy to put together all-ACC numbers if he continues to develop at the pace he’s been doing, understanding that due to his continued physical growth there’s a larger degree of untapped potential than you may see in a guy who’s been 6’8″ for a couple years.

As with any Bennett recruit, it’s safe to say Murphy will likely also be a great locker room and campus fit too. Rice is one of the best universities in the country, practically an Ivy, so Murphy’s coming in with likely excellent academic chops and a great nose for the classroom. Coming from central North Carolina, he’s likely got ties to Virginia’s deep roster ties to the state (Huff, McKoy, Shedrick, and McCorkle all North Carolinians as well).

I think Hoos are going to love having him on the roster for the next three years.

Roster and Recuiting Impacts

That’s right, I said next three years, not two, as Murphy will 99% redshirt this upcoming season. “But wait,” you interject, “isn’t the NCAA voting this summer to eliminate the sit-out requirement for first-time transfers?” And yes, that is the rumor. But smoke around Murphy’s transfer since the beginning would be that he was actually looking forward to the chance to redshirt wherever he went, with or without a waiver possibility or an NCAA rule change. He’s a smart, mature kid, and he understands that with the continued changes to his frame, he hasn’t really had time to catch up developmentally, whether that means adding good mass/strength or refining the skill set needed to play/defend “bigger”.

UVA’s excellent track record with redshirt years certainly played a role here (as it did in his consideration of Villanova), so while there’s always some small chance everyone changes their mind come October (maybe he proves extra-ready, maybe we have injuries that accelerate his need), for right now we’re going to put him in as a redshirt for the 2020-21 season.

Projected 2020-21 Roster

The lone reason it’s relevant to look at this year’s roster in the context of a Murphy commitment is to recognize that, at the moment, Murphy is taking over the 13th-and-final scholarship. Assuming no further attrition, UVA cannot take anyone else for the upcoming season, locking in the other 12 guys as your potential playable roster for the upcoming season.

Beyond that, the recruiting impact of Murphy’s commitment plays out in the 2021 recruiting class.

Projected 2021-22 Roster

What jumps out to me first and foremost is that there is some overlap here with Justin McKoy, both of whom you could describe as “combo forward” and who, come the 2021-22 season, will both be juniors. I absolutely think they can play together at the 3 and 4; which is which probably becomes semantics, and mostly manifested just in who guards whom on defense. McKoy is the more physical downhill player and probably the better rebounder, whereas Murphy is the better shooter and ball handler (not to say either is necessarily bad at each, just various shades of good). But anyone who saw Hunter and Key play side-by-side in the national championship game knows that’s a perfectly winning combination. Alongside 5’s Caffaro/Shedrick and a stocked guard rotation, Murphy helps maintain UVA’s position as a Final Four threat for another year or two.

In our spring recruiting primer we talked about the need for the 2021 class to include a true big to take Huff’s scholarship and work in behind Caffaro/Shedrick, a versatile forward to take Hauser’s scholarship and pair with McKoy at the 4, and a well-rounded guard/wing to take over Woldetensae’s scholarship and keep the depth chart flush with versatile ball handler / scorers.

It will be interesting to see how Tony feels Murphy’s commitment changes anything. Shooting was going to be a premium in that class with the loss of Huff, Hauser, and Tomas, all excellent 3-point shooters, and Murphy is a big part of fixing that. Where previously we saw the 2021 class potentially including a pair of paint-oriented guys like Efton Reid and DaRon Holmes, maybe now we go either/or. If you get Reid, you like Murphy as your added depth at the 4 and look out to the 2022 and 23 classes for the eventual successors to McKoy/Murphy. If you take Holmes, alternatively, you view him as small-5 capable in spurts and punt your pure-5 recruitment to 2022 (or do a tried-and-true late-2021-and-redshirt for your long term center pipeline). So either way, a forward / post type is still in the cards, and so is another great guard for the backcourt.


This transfer is such a perfect Tony Bennett move, getting a high-academic, high-character, versatile transfer to add size and shooting to an already stacked roster. It helps maintain a veteran presence on the floor while utilizing a redshirt year to better develop a player and put another D-1 talent on the practice floor in the interim. All through next year we’re going to hear rumors of “wait until you see Trey Murphy next year” much as we got to enjoy with sit-out transfers like Sam Hauser and Anthony Gill. 

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