Trey Murphy III bet big on himself, and it paid off. Heading into the 2020-21 season at Virginia, Murphy was not a name found in many (or none) early drafts. But at the end of the season, his stock started to skyrocket. Murphy refers to a Jan. 25 game against Syracuse as when he began to think about his future in the NBA. He finished with 16 points and eight rebounds, and that’s when the phone calls started.
“There are agents calling my coaches to talk about leaving this year, and it hasn’t really crossed my mind as if I would actually be able to do that.” Murphy said. “But as the games progressed, I started to see my name take on a little more importance, and that’s when I started to really gain a lot of confidence.”
Murphy initially declared himself for the draft, but maintained his eligibility for college. In June, he had signed with an agent and was working with other players leading up to the draft. “That’s when I start to realize, like myself, that this is where I belong,” he says. “I am not here by chance. It’s not, you know, a wellness story. A month later, the Pelicans drafted Murphy with the 17th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
Murphy’s journey has the remnants of a wellness story. He was not in high demand in high school. He only had six deals, mostly low to medium size programs, and eventually landed at Rice. At a young age it was clear he could shoot, but physically he just wasn’t there yet.
“My body development in general came late,” says Murphy. “I weighed 168 pounds in college and now I’m around 210, so I put on a lot of weight.” He also climbed five inches, from 6 ‘4 “to 6’ 9”.
The next step in the evolution of Murphy III is to work on physicality. His trainer and dad say he’s relentless in the weight room. His earnings helped him when he entered the NCAA transfer portal last year, and this time around there was no shortage of offers. Virginia, a school that succeeded her to high school, became her new home. He’s averaged 11.3 points on 43.3% shots in three of his 25 games with the Cavaliers.
It was a season still facing the pandemic (UVA had to withdraw from the ACC tournament after a player tested positive for COVID-19) and a season Murphy believed he was going to have to be absent until that the NCAA grant him a waiver to be eligible to play immediately after Rice’s transfer.
The path from high school to the pros was as mental as it was physical. Murphy couldn’t have predicted his fortuitous growth spurt, but he knew he wanted to at least play in college. As a result, his mental game has become one of his most powerful weapons.
“Before entering university, I started reading two books. A conscious athlete by George Mumford then a book by Tim Grover, TirelesslyBoth are bestselling sports psychology books that Murphy’s favorite player, Kobe Bryant, had talked about.
“I really tried to master the mental part of the game because it was so important to me because I was such a little kid and I had to find those little things that helped me get through it,” says Murphy.
The books had such an impact that Murphy studied sports psychology in college, looking to work as a psychologist if the NBA didn’t succeed. He reads before games. His new apartment in New Orleans will house his collection of recent years. Murphy treats this like any other aspect of his training and a way to navigate his career. “I think the most important thing I got from psychology was just to control what you can control,” he said, “and I can’t control my height, I can’t control if I’m going. whether or not to be watched by that coach or that coach All I can control is my effort and my energy.
Murphy isn’t the only player in the league to become a newbie to mental processes, and he’ll be the first to admit it. But much of his career up to this point was out of his control. Less than a year ago, he was just trying to transfer to a more solid college program, determined to hone his skills for the 2022 draft class. Instead, he made his NBA Summer League debut. , scoring 26 points and rebounding less than a double double in the Pelicans’ game against the Bulls. Not to mention that he had the opportunity to partner with All-Stars Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson.
As he prepares for his debut with the Pelicans, he keeps in mind that his NBA career has come ahead of his schedule. His adaptation to playing in the league was accelerated. While performing drills with his trainer, Shawn Farmer, the focus is on ball handling as Murphy III continues to perfect the change of direction at a faster speed to escape the defender. It’s a skill he probably would have worked on had he spent a year in college, but like so much of his career, things changed in no time.
It wasn’t a linear path to the league, but Murphy says he’s exactly where he’s meant to be. His latest selection of books is The alchemist by Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho, and if you’ve read it, well, you might agree with it.
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