Jordan Murphy embracing Summer League with Wolves
MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - For at least one game last year in college, Jordan Murphy and Jaylen Nowell were opponents.
The University of Minnesota men's basketball team was facing Washington in the last game of the Vancouver Showcase. Nowell had the better offensive performance with 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting, and grabbed four rebounds.
Murphy, who graduated from Minnesota and finished his Gophers' career as the school's leading rebounder and top five in scoring, finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Most importantly, he got a key neutral court win over the Huskies that went on Minnesota's resume as coach Richard Pitino led the Gophers to their second NCAA Tournament in three years.
For the time being, Nowell and Murphy are Timberwolves' teammates. The Wolves drafted Nowell with the No. 43 pick in the second round, and signed Murphy as an undrafted college free agent. Spend a few minutes around Nowell, and you find out quickly he hates to lose. Especially on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Gabe Kalscheur, who may have taken an extra step or two to get the shot off.
"Well you know what happened in that game out in Vancouver. We were just talking about that. He even said ‘the guy traveled.' But we took that L, we was real mad about that one," Nowell said Monday.
The Wolves are hosting minicamp this week before heading off to the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. Nowell is the only current draft pick participating. Jarrett Culver is technically not yet on the roster and can't officially be added until July 6, when the trade for the No. 6 pick can become official.
Nowell, Murphy and nine other undrafted college free agents are starting their professional careers this week. They're hoping to get noticed by a coaching staff, even if it ends up not sticking with the Timberwolves.
Murphy traded his Maroon and Gold No. 3 in for a blue and white No. 14 Wolves jersey this week. He had options after not being selected in the NBA Draft, but decided he wanted to remain in the Twin Cities at the start.
"I think it's the familiarity I had. I had a couple other offers, but this is where I wanted to be at the end of the day," Murphy said.
Nowell isn't guaranteed a roster spot when the Wolves get closer to training camp and the season, but his role is probably a little more defined. The Pac-12 Player of the Year shot 44 percent from the perimeter last season.
The Wolves finished 23rd in the NBA last season with about 10 three-pointers made per game. They finished 20th in three-point percentage at 35.1 percent.
Nowell grew up on the south side of Seattle, watching players like Brandon Roy and Jamal Crawford. He competed against Dejounte Murray, now with the San Antonio Spurs. He'll take his competitive edge to Las Vegas with the Wolves.
"Playing with those guys and seeing them as they grew up, it's always competitive so every time you step on the court, you've got to give it your all or you're going to get embarrassed," Nowell said.
Murphy's path is far less certain, but he's not going to let it stop him from doing everything he can to earn a job. He was a First Team All-Big Ten selection and will go down as one of the all-time greats in the Gophers' program.
Pitino said on Senior Night that Murphy's jersey, one day, will hang in the Williams Arena rafters. For now, he just wants to keep playing basketball. That opportunity is what the NBA Summer League is all about.
"I look at it as a great opportunity for myself just to showcase what I can do. Showcase that my game can really fit any type of system," Murphy said. "Just making sure I play with my teammates and be a team player all around."
Murphy knows the challenge that lies ahead, being an undersized forward by NBA standards. He's put a lot of work into his shot and ball-handling in the hopes it'll show on the court in a live game situation. It's involved a lot of early mornings and late nights in the gym, which is nothing new for Murphy.
Both Murphy and Nowell agree that it starts with getting a chance.
"I'm just coming out and looking for just opportunities. Wherever I end up, I'm going to make the best out of it," Nowell said.