Sept. 28, 2011
The Oregon State men's basketball team opens its 111th season when practice officially begins on Oct. 14 with its most talented and deepest team in years. We'll provide a feature on all 13 players on the roster so you can get to know the newcomers and find out what the veterans did during the summer to prepare for the inaugural Pac-12 season. Our third feature highlights redshirt sophomore forward Rhys Murphy.
Rhys Murphy isn't a superstitious guy. He doesn't listen to any particular music before a game; doesn't wear the same socks when he's making shots; and, despite what his teammates have asked (even begged), he won't be changing his jersey from No. 13.
Murphy has had about as much bad luck as an athlete can have. He broke a bone in his left foot on the first day of practice his freshman year and had to sit out the season and then found a broken bone in his wrist the following year and was able to play in only four games. Despite the injuries, he has remained positive and upbeat and is excited about contributing to the team in the years to come.
"We are all rooting for Rhys because we all know how tough it has been for him to get out on the court with all of these injuries," head coach Craig Robinson said. "He's healed well and been working out with the guys. He's 6-foot-7, almost 6-foot-8 now, and he's a really good defensive player.
"He's athletic and has a decent outside shot so I can't wait to get him to practice and see what he can do since I haven't seen him for a couple of seasons," Robinson added. "The guys are very excited about what he's been doing in pick-up (games), which makes us as a staff very excited to have him for game situations as well."
The native of Sydney, Australia was a three-time national high jump champion and has used his leaping ability and athleticism to grow into a basketball player and fulfill a dream to play the game in the United States saying "a lot of people wouldn't have thought I could get here. I'm glad I made the decision to come here and play basketball."
He has excelled in the classroom and was selected to the Pac-10 All-Academic First Team last season with a 3.67 GPA, the highest among any student-athlete in the conference who made the first, second or honorable mention teams.
Murphy enters this season as a redshirt sophomore after redshirting his first year and would have to petition the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility after receiving a medical redshirt by the Pac-12 Conference Faculty Athletic Representatives Committee in August.
In his own words, Murphy talks about his unfortunate luck with injuries, his successful career as a high jumper and how he and fellow Aussie Angus Brandt both ended up at Oregon State.
How difficult has it been to get injured your first two years at Oregon State?
"It's obviously been disappointing but good things have come out of it. I got the redshirt years and it's working out from here."
Exactly what happened your first year at Oregon State?
"I broke the bone in my foot on the first day of practice; in the first couple of minutes in the first practice. Before that, on the first day of school, I had a bone bruise in my wrist. I had that in a cast for three weeks and the day I got that off was the day I broke my foot. We thought the wrist was fine, but I think there was a hairline fracture in there for the whole year."
So what happened your redshirt freshman year?
"We couldn't see anything on the x-ray because there wasn't a big impact where I broke my wrist. It was hurting for a couple of weeks so we think it was broken all year. It hadn't been hurting but around the start of December it started to hurt again. It had been hurting for about two weeks so the trainer (Tom Fregoso) said we should get an x-ray just to make sure it was alright. I actually didn't want to get the x-ray because I was convinced it was just a strain. When I got the x-ray, it showed that the bone was snapped in half. So I had to have surgery the next day."
Are you a superstitious person?
"I definitely don't believe in that. The whole team is always on me about changing my number (No. 13). Just when I got knocked out the other day, everyone was getting mad at me for not changing my number. I don't believe in that at all; it's just a number. If you're going to make a shot, you're going to make a shot. Your socks aren't going to help you make the shot."
What happened when you got knocked out?
"In practice, I went to box out Joe (Burton) and I'm not certain what happened. Somehow his elbow ended up in my face and I was on the ground. I'm alright though. It will just be a couple of days until I can do anything again. It's not too bad; I just don't look very pretty anymore."
How did you begin you career as a high jumper?
"I started around the fourth grade. I really wasn't good at anything and then one day we had a carnival and you had to choose four events to compete in and I had chosen three events. I had to do one more and I decided to do the high jump and I smashed the record. I really can't explain it. I ended up being a three-time high school national champion."
When did you start playing basketball?
"I've been playing basketball since about grade five, but it was always more of a hobby. Track definitely came first. I always enjoyed basketball and enjoyed it more than high jump because there are so many different things you can work on to get better. You can be so different to the next player, yet you can be as good as the player next to you. With high jump, I found it really one-dimensional. I got a little bored with that."
When did you decide to pursue basketball over high jumping?
"I wanted to play basketball for a long time; really right when I started playing it. I wanted to come to America, but I never really got an opportunity where someone believed in me until I met Damian Cotter right before I graduated from high school. I trained with him and Angus (Brandt) for about nine months and then came over and did prep school."
Did you know Angus before then?
"No, Damian had just gotten the job at the New South Wales Institute of Sport and he was looking for guys who hadn't been discovered yet. I was still doing high jump and had just been at a national camp and one of Damian's friends had seen me shooting around and said I should check out this guy. Same thing with Angus. I always wanted to be in a program like that but never thought I'd have the opportunity so I quit high jump and started working on basketball. Angus and I were the two in the program who took it the most serious, I suppose, and really valued the opportunity to be there."
When did you come to the United States?
"Damian thought the best opportunity for both of us to get into a college was to go via prep school to get some more experience. So we came over in June of 2008 and played AAU in Chicago and both had real good seasons."
When did you decide to come to Oregon State?
"Angus and I didn't make the decision to come together. We went to different prep schools. I went to a prep school in Maine (Lee Academy) and Angus went to a prep school in Chicago. Oregon State was the only team recruiting both of us. So it seems like we made the decision to come here together, and we committed to Oregon State within a week of each other, but it was a coincidence. It worked out well for both of us."
Did you always think you'd end up playing college basketball?
"I had always kind of dreamed about playing in a big arena in front of a lot of fans. I never really thought it was possible, to be honest. I didn't think I was going to play Division I when I first came over. But all of a sudden I had this amazing opportunity and I really wanted to give it a try."
What did you like best about Oregon State?
"I really like the coaches. I really like the family atmosphere; the friendly country town atmosphere. I really wanted to be in a college town and the people in Oregon are so friendly."
How would you describe your game to people who haven't seen you play?
"I'm a shooter. I play off the ball. You won't see me dribbling the ball much. I get to the corners and let Jared (Cunningham), Ahmad (Starks) and Roberto (Nelson) beat their man off the dribble, and if my defender helps, they'll kick it out to me and I'll shoot the three. I'll rebound and set screens and be the glue guy; just spread the defense."
What are your individual goals in the future?
"Staying healthy would be very nice. I'd like to have a significant role off the bench and help the team as much as possible."
What are your hobbies when you're not playing basketball?
"I like to play chess. I like to cook. I don't like cleaning. I like to go to the river in the summer and just relax."
Do you have any regrets about not pursuing high jumping?
"No, I don't. Sometimes I think I could have gone to the Olympics. But I'm in a very good spot right here. I have a lot of options of things I can do in the future. I'm very glad with the decisions I've made. A lot of people wouldn't have thought I could get here. I'm glad I made the decision to come here and play basketball."
What would you say to the fans of why they should be excited about the upcoming season?
"We have some great young guys and are ready to play. We are all on the same page and excited to win."
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