When Troy Murphy stared into the stands at the Hartford Civic
Center during a break in Notre Dame's stunning 75-70 upset of
No. 2 Connecticut on Jan. 5, he would later admit he was fixated
on a pretzel vendor. Murphy was in the process of filling up the
box score with 33 points and 16 rebounds, and all that hard work
had made him hungry. "Like all great athletes, Troy has the
presence to step out of the game," Irish coach Matt Doherty said
later. "That pretzel craving reminds me of Joe Montana in the
huddle at the Super Bowl, pointing into the crowd and saying,
'Hey, isn't that John Candy?'"
Murphy, a 6'10", 225-pound southpaw forward from Morristown,
N.J., was the Big East Rookie of the Year in 1998-99, and he has
apparently never heard of the sophomore slump. During the first
eight weeks of this season he has won the conference Player of
the Week award five times. Through Sunday he'd had 11 double
doubles and six 30-point performances and never scored fewer
than 17 as the Irish went 10-5. He ranked first in the Big East
in scoring (25.0 points a game) and rebounding (11.1), and he
could become the first player ever to lead the conference in
both categories for a season. He's such a devoted gym rat that
on Nov. 28 he stoically endured a three-hour practice despite a
severe bout of food poisoning. The experience left him so
dehydrated that he spent the next day hooked up to an IV in the
infirmary. One night later he scored 22 at Indiana.
Murphy is also renowned for relieving tension with bizarre non
sequiturs. With 18 seconds left in the season opener at Ohio
State, Buckeyes guard Scoonie Penn was preparing to tie the game
at 57-all with a free throw when Murphy turned to teammate David
Graves and said, "You know what? I'd love to go to the Steak 'n
Shake." Moments later Graves sank a 15-footer at the buzzer to
win the game 59-57. "A lot of times I look at Troy and think,
What in God's name is going through your head?" Graves says.
"He's a little weird. I always tell him it must be something in
that Jersey water."
Says Murphy, "I want to be a great player, but I try not to take
myself too seriously. Hey, I go to school for free, and
thousands of people come to watch me play a game. These are good
This summer Murphy diagnosed his own hernia after a broadcaster
described the ailment's symptoms during a Women's World Cup
soccer game. Murphy had surgery on July 13, and during his
convalescence he watched over and over a videotape of last
year's Irish game at UConn--a dismal 31-point defeat in which he
shot 2 for 9. He took notes on the Huskies' defense and carried
the notebook with him to Hartford last week and consulted it
before the game.
This time Murphy shot 11 of 18 with a devastating mix of post
moves and perimeter jumpers, and played all 40 minutes without a
turnover. With five seconds left he sank a clinching foul shot,
then walked over to Doherty and said, "Coach, listen to the
awesome silence in here." He then strode back to the stripe for
his second free throw attempt. After the game Connecticut guard
Khalid El-Amin summarized everyone's thoughts on Murphy by
saying, "My goodness, he's a monster."
Must be something in that Jersey water.
COLOR PHOTO: BRUCE L. SCHWARTZMAN