When Millard West travels to face Westside High School tonight, a top-flight D-1 basketball coach from Creighton will be taking in the live action. That would be Preston Murphy, now in his third season alongside Coach Greg McDermott. But he’ll be there on a different type of official business, namely, rooting on his son Preston Murphy Jr., a freshman and rising talent for Omaha Westside.
We chatted with the elder Murphy to talk about the Bluejays season to date, his relationship with his son, and even touched upon his alma mater, Rhode Island, and how he’s keeping tabs. Here’s what he had to say:
Chris DiSano: Good to catch up as always… How are things going out there at Creighton?
Preston Murphy: Things are going well. Today we cracked back into the top 25, which is great. I think that we’ve kind of pleasantly surprised some people, with us losing five guys who contributed significantly to our team last year. There were a lot of question marks coming into the season and we’ve done a nice job so far. We’ve answered some of those question marks during the non-conference season and still have some to address.
CD: To that end, any one area in particular you’d like to see the team firm up?
PM: It would be defense. We’ve struggled some in the second half of our games, particularly at the start of the season. We need to put together more consistent performances on that side of the ball.
CD: In addition to all of the action at Creighton, you’re mentoring and following your oldest son, Preston, Jr., as he begins his high school career and is becoming a hoop prospect. What’s your take on this experience so far?
PM: Obviously it’s really early, but it’s been good. He was fortunate enough to make the varsity team at his high school, and with him being around basketball his whole life he has a really good understanding of it. He’s still learning and it’s a great new stage and chapter being able to play high school basketball.
CD: For those unfamiliar with your son, can you provide a little background on his game, his position, the school he plays for, etc.?
PM: Sure, he’s a point guard and is about 5-10 — actually I’ll say 5-11 because we always give ’em the extra inch in sports — and he plays at Westside High School. It’s a Class A school here in Nebraska, the highest class. He came off a pretty good summer playing AAU ball and playing in some exposure things for some of the top 8th graders in the country — where he performed well. He played well at Chris Paul’s elite camp and John Lucas’ camp… and, again, was fortunate enough to make his varsity team. He’s averaging about 20-25 minutes per game [four eight minute quarters] for his high school team.
CD: You talked about it earlier… he’s been exposed to the game from such an early age. What do you remember of him as a little boy; do you have vivid memories?
PM: I do. When I was younger I was a high school basketball coach at the time at Woonsocket High School in Rhode Island. I remember him being around two years old… carrying him into practices, being in the gym, and always having a ball or rolling a ball up and down the court, not having any idea what was going on, but always being around it. Just growing up in the gym.
CD: As far as where he’s at now in his growth and development, what are some similarities – and differences – you see between you and him at this same age?
PM: From a difference standpoint, when I was 14 years old I was playing freshmen basketball. I didn’t have the ability or the opportunity to play on the varsity team at 14 years old. So that’s the biggest difference. As far as similarities, he has a great passion for the game, he studies it, and he wants to be really good.
— HoffmansHoopsAcademy (@HoffmansHoops) May 14, 2017
CD: How about skills? What similarities or differences there?
PM: He’s more of a positional player. For me, I was a combination guard. He’s a better ball-handler and passer than I was. Probably shoots is similarly at the same stage. But I think his overall feel is a little better than mine was at this age.
CD: What do you try to impart upon him?
PM: I try to impart upon him [laughs] — patience. There are going to be bumps in the road and as you grow and adjust to different levels. Especially right now as he goes from playing against eighth graders to playing against some kids that can be 18, 19 years old.
CD: When you talk about the importance of patience, the process for these kids starts so early now. When you were 14 did you even know you might be a college prospect or player?
PM: Yeah, good question… I think for him he has a tour guide. For me, I didn’t understand I was a prospect. For him, he has me to give him guidance, advice, and try to help him make sense of everything as he goes through it. Not trying to get it all at once… he’s not going to be the player at 14 that he will be in a couple of years. Helping him have that patience, keep working as he always does, to get better each and every day.
CD: With as busy as you are with Creighton, how do you find the right balance to help him improve and be there for him in this process?
PM: During the season, it’s all up to his coach. I’m hands off. When he has free time I do try to work with him on some skill stuff. What’s really great for me is Coach McDermott obviously has a son who was [is] a really good basketball player. So he understands us and he gives me a lot of freedom. If we’re in town and I have to shift something to be able to be there for my son (to get to a game) and my family, he’s great and I’m fortunate to be able to have that understanding from someone who’s been through it himself.
CD: Let’s shift and talk about your alma mater real quickly… have you been following the Rams?
PM: Absolutely always keeping tabs on the Rams. Coach Hurley and I spoke yesterday and I was telling him how much I enjoy watching Fatts Russell play. He may be one of my new favorite college players. I watched the PC and Alabama games and it’s great to see what coach has done in building that program and turning it into a national power. From where he took over to today, it’s something that for anyone who’s ever been a part of that program from a player to a coach… everyone on that campus — should be extremely proud of where they are today. It’s great to see.
CD: How gratifying is it for you to have been a part of that early process, helping to bring in E.C. Matthews and others, and seeing the program now?
PM: It’s really awesome. I really owe Danny a lot for hiring me, first and foremost, but I got to learn a ton from him. The way he constructs a program, built a program from the ground up, his incredible work ethic, and then how he handles the day to day operations. So it’s great to see that success from something I was a part of at the beginning.
CD: Thanks and this has been a great talk… any parting sentiments?
PM: You know, I think that for myself and for Preston Jr., we’ve been extremely blessed and fortunate. God has blessed us with some physical tools and abilities and it’s a gift and blessing. You can love the game and have a passion, but there are some physical tools you need to be successful at a high level. That’s something I’m truly thankful for.
Watch Preston Murphy, Jr in Action as Omaha Westside takes on Millard West Tuesday, December 12:
Rhode Island – YurView Cox Channels 4 and 1004 – 8:15pm ET
Omaha – YurView Cox Channel 1013 – live coverage begins at 5:30pm CT with the Varsity Girls game immediately followed by the Varsity Boys game.
You can also watch live stream of the game on YurView.com!