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What does Thursday’s NBA Draft hold for Murphy, Hauser & Huff?

By Jerry Ratcliffe

trey murphy

Trey Murphy III. Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference.

During my four decades-plus career, I thought I just about seen it all in my coverage of basketball. That is until Trey Murphy III came around.

He was largely ignored by ACC teams coming out of high school as a skinny 6-foot-5 guard. No way he could stay on the floor with the experienced, stronger guards in America’s best basketball conference.

After enrolling at Rice and not having the kind of success he expected, a much taller, stronger Murphy transferred to Virginia with plans on redshirting so that Mike Curtis could build his physical frame and Tony Bennett could build his basketball skills and his confidence.

At 6-9, packing a 7-foot-1 wing span, Murphy realized that he could play with Virginia’s starters, applied to get the transfer eligibility cleared and ended up a star for the Cavaliers.

Thursday night, less than a year from becoming a standout for UVA, Murphy could be hearing his named called as a late lottery pick in the NBA Draft.

As aforementioned, I thought I had seen it all, but I’ve never seen a player transform the way Murphy has in such a short time frame. When he arrived in Charlottesville, he wasn’t mentioned as someone who could be drafted, so he went from an unexpected undrafted player who many thought should return to UVA for another year of seasoning, to a guy who has been whispered as a lottery pick, somewhere as high as top 10.

Some believe the Grizzlies could take him with the 10th pick, some the Spurs at No. 12, others with the Warriors at 14, the Wizards at 15.

The Warriors had him in for a second look this past week.

Why?

He’s a big guy who can spread the floor with his 3-point shooting ability and has enough versatility defensively to guard 1-4. The newest term for that among the NBA crowd is “3&D.”

Murphy accomplished the Holy Grail of major college basketball shooting accuracy this past season for Tony Bennett when he record the “50-40-90” shooting season. He shot 50.3 percent on field goals, 43.3 from 3-point range and 92.7 percent at the free throw line. He made 41.7 percent of his 127 catch-and-shoot attempts from beyond the arc, which makes him an ideal off ball floor spacer. One of the knocks against Murphy is that he’s not a creator, so he may be that guy who lurks outside to hit the open 3-pointers.

He opened a lot of eyes at the NBA Combine. While he worked under Curtis for a year, he still could use some bulk, which would make him a more effective Stretch 4 if he adds the muscle.

Many consider him the best spot up shooter in the draft, a guy with the ability to play both ends of the floor, can play either forward spot or guard, stuff that every general manager in the NBA is searching for.

Meanwhile, two other UVA players are hoping to get drafted: 6-8 small forward Sam Hauser, who also competed at the NBA Combine; and 7-1 Jay Huff, who was invited to the G-League camp.

Hauser is projected as a second-round choice, while Huff is rated as a possible late second-round choice or an undrafted free agent. He also has the option to return to UVA with an extra year of eligibility granted by the NBA, or to play overseas or the G-League.

Hauser is clearly one of the best outside shooters in this year’s draft, projected as a 3-point specialist. While the knocks on his game is that he has slow feet, which makes it difficult for him to be an average defender, his shooting skills make him a valuable commodity.

At a recent workout for the Indiana Pacers, now coached by former UVA player Rick Carlisle, he was hoping to show that he’s a better defensive player than given credit for, and that he can keep his man in front of him so that Hauser can stay on the floor.

Some believe that if he can’t improve in that area, he will be dominated by NBA level athletes.

Hauser said he developed and matured at Virginia and improved on both sides of the ball, where he was influenced by Bennett. He also said he was proud that he shot 40 percent or higher from the 3-point line in all four years of his college career.

While he worked out for the Pacers, he doesn’t know and hasn’t met former Cavalier Malcolm Brogdon.

Meanwhile, Huff, projected as a borderline second rounder, has worked out for the Washington Wizards. A pick and pop player, who shot 38.7 percent from 3-point range, has great hands for lobs, alley-oops, and is an underrated athlete who thrilled Virginia fans with his ability to fetch lob passes for some spectacular dunks that brought John Paul Jones inhabitants to their feet on many ocassions.

The criticism is that he may not be strong enough to play as a center against more powerful NBA bigs, but that he may not fast enough to play at other spots on the floor. Some believe he could be an effective Stretch 4.

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