As a sophomore, Modesto Christian High forward Gabe Murphy battled for playing time on a roster crowded with collegiate talent.
He was a backup to Robinson Idehen, the 2015-16 All-District co-Player of the Year who signed with Western Kentucky after his senior season.
Today, Murphy isn’t far from joining Idehen or another Crusader forward and Bee player of the year – Pacific’s Anthony Townes – at the collegiate level.
Murphy’s recruitment has spiked following a breakout junior season and a strong early showing with Chuck Hayes Basketball, a fast-rising AAU team on the Adidas Uprising circuit.
Murphy is a centerpiece for the under-17 team sponsored by the shoe company. The 17s have played marquee live-period tournaments in Dallas and Atlanta, where college coaches were allowed to scout the next crop of stars.
A 6-foot-9, 245-pound prospect, Murphy has drawn a lot of interest.
“It’s picked up quite a bit since my junior year started,” Murphy said. “(AAU) has been fun, getting to travel and play the top competition around the country. It’s improved me as a player. When we go to big tournaments, like Atlanta and Dallas, I see guys my height, so I can really see how much I’ve progressed over the years.”
Washington State is the latest school to inquire about Murphy, who averaged 11.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.1 blocked shots last season for the Crusaders.
The Cougars, who sent hand-written notes to Murphy and Beyer High point guard Ben Polack, join a list that already includes Navy, Boise State, Cornell, San Jose State, Northern Arizona, Chico State and Fresno Pacific, among others.
“I wasn’t expecting it because it’s Pac-12,” Murphy said. “Teams will send out recruitment letters to all the kids, but they hand-wrote this one and it was lengthy, too. It was kind of big deal for me. I was stoked.”
Modesto Christian coach Brice Fantazia said Cornell, Boise State and Navy are the highest on Murphy, whose physical transformation has been astonishing.
Murphy shed 35 pounds before the start of his sophomore season. Since then, he’s added about 15 pounds of muscle.
“He’s been working hard – 6 a.m. everyday. He never misses a session,” Fantazia said. “He’s really been working hard to improve his footwork, and his body looks great right now. He’s starting to get shredded. I think he’ll be a beast next season.”
Navy requested transcripts Wednesday and may have Murphy out for an official visit next month.
Fantazia believes Murphy is the complete package: big, strong, smart (he’s a straight-A student), and at 16, still developing.
His ceiling is that of two of the top big men to play in the Stanislaus District: Idehen and Townes, the 2015 All-District Player of the Year.
“His best basketball is ahead of him,” Fantazia said of Murphy. “I told him, ‘If you want the next kid to say I want to be the next Gabe Murphy,’ you have to put in the work.
“At the rate that he’s improved from his freshman to sophomore year and his sophomore year to last year, if he takes that next step, he’s in that class (with Idehen and Townes).
“He’s stronger than Robinson and he might be better on the low block that Robinson. He’s not the high-flying athlete that Robinson is, but he can have that same type of impact.”
Murphy isn’t content with letters and interest. He wants a concrete offer from a four-year program, so the battle continues.
“I know how far I’ve come and how much I’ve progressed,” he said. “It’s nice, but I want to be better. I just want to end up being one of the best players in the country. People might say it’s a long shot, but I feel like I can do it. Look how far I’ve come.”