Persistence paid off for Murphy

Erik Murphy almost left Gainesville. After his sophomore season, the forward was averaging 10.8 minutes and wanted more. He thought hard about leaving with people in his ear that were pushing him to find another place to play. But Murphy didn't want to leave. His persistence has paid off with this season, averaging 12.4 points and shooting 46.4% for three on one of the best teams in the country.

"It was tough," Erik Murphy said. "I had a lot of people telling me a lot of different things. When it really came down to it, I talked with Coach and the thing he said was, ‘What do you really want to do? It's your life. You've got to make a decision for yourself.'

"For myself, I loved it here and wanted to stay here. When I really thought about it like that, it was a pretty easy decision."

The decision to stay in Gainesville has earned Murphy a spot as one of the most unique players in the country. He's a stretch power forward, capable of scoring in the paint or from behind the three-point line. Murphy is tied with Kenny Boynton for the team lead with 58 three-pointers, but he has done it on 52 less attempts.

His efficiency is what makes Murphy effective. He's shooting 53.4% from the field and can score from anywhere on the floor. That's what makes Florida head coach Billy Donovan think that Murphy could have a future in the NBA after his collegiate career is over.

Donovan likes the thought of an NBA team pairing Murphy with an elite point guard to run the pick and roll. It's similar to how Florida uses him. It forces opponents to switch and put a smaller player on Murphy, or if they try to fight through the screen, it could leave Murphy open on the perimeter.

"He's definitely going to have a chance. There's no question. He's a problem," Donovan said. "People always talk about having an NBA skill. He has an NBA skill. That guy can really, really shoot. He's going to have a chance.

"There's the old intrigue when you look at guys like Ryan Anderson,  Kyle Korver or Matt Bonner. That has correlated and translated up there at that level."

Murphy also has a chance to put his name into a historic place within the program along with Kenny Boynton. If the Gators beat either Vanderbilt or Kentucky to clinch the outright Southeastern Conference regular season title, the two will become the first players in program history to win two outright SEC titles during their careers at Florida.

The two came to Florida after back-to-back seasons in the NIT for the Gators. Boynton and Murphy both wouldn't take the credit for bringing the program back, instead pointing at guys like Chandler Parsons and Vernon Macklin that did it, but there's no denying they've help uphold the standards at Florida.

"I think it says a lot just because I don't think it's ever happened before in the history of the program," Donovan said about winning two SEC titles. "I think that says a lot with what they've been a part of. They've been a part of really good things here and both of those two guys had opportunities to go to a lot of different places and they chose to come here. I'm just happy it's worked out well for those guys, and they've been pretty significant in their roles."

Murphy struggled to put the last four years into words on Monday. His time in Gainesville shaped him as a player and a person. He learned persistence while sitting on the bench and waiting for his time to shine. Once it came, Murphy took advantage of it with two big seasons in a row.

It wasn't always smooth, but Murphy is happy with the decision to attend Florida.

"There's so much I can take away, just life lessons, basketball lessons," Murphy said. "It's been a crazy four years. It's been a rollercoaster ride, but it has been the best four years of my life."

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