Kamari Murphy was one of those recruits who turned down the University of Miami because of the Nevin Shapiro booster scandal. But after two years at Oklahoma State, he decided to transfer to the Hurricanes program that had initially been his first choice.
He sat out last season, and now the 6-9 forward from Brooklyn is itching to play. He and the rest of the Hurricanes started heavy gym work this week to prepare for the first day of practice Oct. 2.
“Funny story, I was supposed to come here my freshman year,’’ Murphy said Monday. “But my parents, with the sanctions and the stuff going on, didn’t feel it was the proper situation for me. If I had come here, I’d already have an ACC ring. But now I’m happy to be here.’’
Murphy started 21 games as a sophomore at Oklahoma State, averaged 25 minutes, 6.1 points and 6.1 rebounds, but didn’t feel he was “being used properly.’’ When he announced he wanted to leave, UM coach Jim Larrañaga called.
“I couldn’t turn him down twice,’’ Murphy said, smiling.
Larrañaga says Murphy is the team’s “X factor.’’ Like former Big 12 transfers Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan, Murphy has high-level college experience. He is a tenacious rebounder, can defend multiple positions and can also score.
“I bring toughness, rebounding. I’m an energy guy, a vocal leader,’’ Murphy said. “The two years I was at Oklahoma State we had great teams, and I can’t say I regret going there, but I think I was used in the wrong way, just as a rebounder, a set screen guy. This year I’m going to show people I have the skills and the basketball IQ. I can’t wait to play and prove people wrong.’’
Murphy will be one of three new players in a UM jersey, along with freshmen Ebuka “Buka’’ Izundu and Anthony Lawrence Jr. Izundu, a 6-10 native of Nigeria, was spotted at a camp and moved to the United States in 2013. He attended high school in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“Buka reminds me of Tonye as a freshman,’’ Larrañaga said, referring to senior Nigerian center Tonye Jekiri, who has become a mentor to Izundu. “Buka came in at 201 pounds and he needs to get to 225 or 230. He’s not quite ready to do what he’ll be capable of when he gets stronger, but he’s a willing learner.’’
Lawrence is a 6-7 forward from St. Petersburg, and he has deep UM roots. His father, Anthony Sr., played at UM from 1991-93, and his uncle, Patrick, was a Cane from 1991-94. Coaches like his versatility.
The Hurricanes return seniors Rodriguez, McClellan, Jekiri and Ivan Cruz Uceda. Junior Davon Reed returns, as well as sophomores JaQuan Newton and James Palmer. Three players transferred — Manu Lecomte (Baylor), DeAndre Burnett (Mississippi) and Omar Sherman (Paris, Texas, Junior College).
“As a player, you need to be someplace where you’re really happy, and if their playing time wasn’t satisfying them, it’s best for me to be honest, even if it’s not what they wanted to hear,’’ Larrañaga said. “They are all good young men and we wish them well.’’