Earlier this month, the collective Cardinal community held their breath as Melanie Murphy took a pair of official visits to the Bay Area. Though Stanford rarely finds itself head-to-head with nearby rival Cal in a recruiting war, Murphy is far from a typical case. The Brooklyn (N.Y.) native had been recruited by new Bears head coach Joanne Boyle since her time last year at Richmond, bringing a deep relationship and trust to Berkeley. Murphy told The Bootleg before she made her cross-country trip that the two Pac-10 suitors were in a dead heat, despite her lifelong dream of attending and playing at Stanford. Cal had much momentum heading into the four-day weekend.
"At Cal, I met a lot of people from the business school, which is something I'm very interested in," the recruit replays. "I also got to meet the team and the strength & conditioning coach. Overall it was a good visit. There was nothing bad about it."
One of the areas where Stanford needed to make up some ground was in Murphy's planned area of undergraduate study. She is aiming for business, but there is no designated "business" major at Stanford. Though the Stanford Graduate School of Business is one of the elite in the nation, the university has preferred to push undergraduates into more diverse fields of study. Murphy was met with that message during her official visit.
"I met with the Dean of Admissions, who said that there is no undergraduate business school because you don't need that to go on to [graduate] business school," she explains. "I could study economics of management science & engineering at Stanford, with courses geared toward business."
With concerns about her college major out of the way, there remained a basketball issue on the table. In a (re)building situation at Cal, Murphy sees the enticing opportunity for early playing time. At Stanford, fellow NYC point guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude is a freshman from the 2005 recruiting class, while '06 guard JJ Hones pledged an early commit to the Cardinal in July. The guard picture could easily appear crowded to Murphy, especially in comparison to the wide open opportunity that a new head coach like Boyle offers at Cal.
Unplanned by either Murphy or the Cardinal coaching staff, Hones took an unofficial visit to The Farm the same weekend when Murphy was on campus for her official visit. The two played together in Maples Pavilion, along with Gold-Onwude and the rest of the Stanford team, early that Saturday morning. It could have been awkward for Murphy to have Hones crowding her space, but it instead revealed to the Brooklyn recruit how the 2006 guard pair were different players.
"JJ is a very good shooter, while I'm more of a driver. I could drive and kick out to her, and be sure that she is going to hit her shot," Murphy offers. "Me, JJ and Ros - we're guards but we're different players. We can all play together. The point guard situation became less of an issue for me. Stanford likes to play more than one guard at a time, and they can alternate bringing the ball up the floor."
For all the hand wringing leading up to her visits to Stanford and Cal, with the specters of playing time and a business undergrad major, those factors did not much play into Murphy's final decision. She says it came down to softer considerations, all of which she cannot necessary verbalize.
"I went back and forth during the week. Cal is a good school, and I liked both teams, but Stanford might be more of who I am," Murphy maintains. "Stanford just is a better fit for me. Part of it is that Stanford is a more suburban place. I thought that might be a good place for me, since I already live in a city, and it could be a nice change. Other than that, I'm not exactly sure what it was. It just felt like a fit for me."
Beyond the campus, Murphy credits the people she encountered during her 48 hours on The Farm for making her feel comfortable.
"Candice Wiggins was my host, and I spent a lot of time with her. I also went to class with Brooke Smith," she details. "I met a lot of people on campus, including a couple of people in Candice's dorm from Brooklyn. One of them actually lived up the block from my school, and the other one was close by, too. That's really kind of funny, to come all the way out here but find people from back home."
"I asked Candice about what she thinks of Stanford," Murphy continues. "She said she feels really happy about being there. When she thought about it, she couldn't find anything wrong or anything she would change at all. I asked some other people, too, and they said the same thing. That says something about Stanford."
Murphy called Tara VanDerveer late Friday night after finishing a game with her club team, the NY Gazelles, and the Cardinal head coach was ecstatic to hear the news. Observers might make objections to Stanford's stockpile of guard talent in these last two classes, and in particular signing the reigning Newsday Brooklyn Player of the Year in the same class with Scout.com's #36 player in the nation - both at the guard position. VanDerveer runs her triangle offense that deviates from nominal notions of guard play in college basketball, however, and started a three-guard lineup last year while enjoying a #1 national ranking.
Hones can bring the ball up the floor or play off the ball, as she did that Saturday with Murphy, as a combo guard. Hones has an excellent stroke and a scoring mentality when needed. Murphy complements her as a pass-first guard. The First Team All-NYC performer has a strong handle and stays low with the ball against pressure or while driving the lane. Murphy is a mature and calculating player who, in every sense of the cliché, looks to set up her teammates and make them better. Both Murphy and VanDerveer are particularly excited about putting that to work with Scout.com's #1 center in the 2006 class, Jayne Appel.
With Murphy, Hones and Appel all admitted to the school and committed to sign in November, the Cardinal can already lay claim to one of the top recruiting classes in the nation this year. Stanford has as many as two more scholarships to give, including one pegged for 6'3" forward/guard Michelle Harrison, currently ranked by Scout.com as the #31 overall prospect in this class.
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