Northeastern’s Tomas Murphy Dances His Way Into a Family Legacy

Tomas Murphy, Photo Credit: Northeastern University

When Tomas Murphy takes the court on Thursday afternoon with his Northeastern teammates against Kansas, it will be an indication that all is going according to plan for the sophomore forward.

Kansas, a blueblood program ranked 4th overall in the Midwest region despite a subpar year by their own standards, is the type of program that once recruited Murphy and his two older brothers before him.

Jay and Paivi Murphy had three sons – Erik, Alex, and Tomas. Together, they became the unofficial first family of New England basketball for more than a decade.

Jay was well-known in the area after having played at Boston College from 1980-1984 before a professional career that included four years in the NBA and numerous abroad. Paivi also played professionally in Europe as well as for the Finland national team from 1988-1994.

Tomas Murphy 2017-2018 Highlights

With those genes, all three brothers were celebrated at an early age. Erik came up in the same class as Alex Oriakhi and those two big men were compared and contrasted throughout their entire high school careers as the premier prospects in New England.

Erik went off to Florida to play for Billy Donovan. He played limited, but consistent rotation, minutes as a freshman and sophomore before becoming a more highlighted player as a junior and senior. He was drafted 49th overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 2013 NBA Draft and now plays professionally in France.

Alex, the middle child, was the most athletic and extroverted of the three boys. That charisma was there even as a middle-schooler when he used to come in to watch Erik’s games. Put it all together and he was the most celebrated of the three at an early age. He ended up going to Duke before transferring to Florida. After struggling to find his footing at both places, he transferred to Northeastern for his final season and now also plays professionally in Europe.

Tomas was always built more like Erik, in terms of both his body type and developing his game from the inside-out, as well as not quite as mobile or athletic as Alex. Tomas also stopped growing early in his high school career so ended up being an inch or two shorter than his brothers.

Nevertheless, he had great hands, touch, an understanding of how to play and the same ability to develop his floor-spacing potential just as Erik had done.

There’s a narrative out there that Tomas chose Northeastern because he didn’t have high-major recruitment.

That’s flat-out wrong.

He did.

Butler. Pittsburgh. Georgia. They were all recruiting him. And had he played out his senior year, he undoubtedly would have had more opportunities at that level.

But his comments on that August day when he committed to Northeastern were particularly telling.

“I wanted to go somewhere where I had the opportunity to play all four years, and I think Northeastern definitely gives me that chance to be somebody on the team who can make a really big impact and help the team win games,” he said. “I think that’s what’s important to what I want to do in my time there.”

Translation – I saw my brothers go to the highest levels and struggle for a couple of years or more. I don’t want to go through that. I want to find someplace where I’m a priority from day one.

Add in the fact that he was playing for Bill Coen, a longtime Boston College assistant and one of the most trusted coaches in New England, that he was staying close to home after being away at boarding school for several years, and that Northeastern had the specific major (behavioral neuroscience) that he was looking for, and it all made sense.

On the court, things have panned out exactly as hoped.

As a freshman, Murphy was named the CAA Rookie of the Week on two different occasions and also to the CAA All-Rookie team. As a sophomore, he’s been a part-time starter and averaged close to 20 minutes per game.

And now, he’s playing, and playing an important role, in the NCAA tournament.