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Redwood Bark

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From late bloomer to mentor: Coach Khalil Murphy’s basketball journey

“I put so much time in and have so much knowledge. I was blessed with many opportunities to meet great coaches and learn from different players; giving back to the game feels right to me,” the junior varsity (JV) basketball coach Khalil Murphy said. 

Murphy grew up as a successful high school basketball player and uses the lessons he learned from his playing career to help develop Redwood players. He coached the freshmen basketball team during 2022 and will coach the JV team for the 2023 season.

 Due to being a late bloomer, Murphy didn’t play for an organized team until he was 15 years old, when he joined a team for 17-year-olds. Murphy believes that playing with older kids impacted his game development due to the pace at which they played.

While playing for the University of San Francisco, Khalil Murphy sits at the scorers’ table, waiting to enter the game.

At 16, Murphy was ranked as a top 10 player in his class in New Jersey. Top-tier basketball programs began to give Murphy scholarship offers to play for them. He received offers from programs like the University of Arizona, Villanova University, Seton Hall University, Rutgers University, the University of Texas, Georgetown University and the University of San Francisco (USF). However, troubles with standardized tests such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and American College Testing (ACT) hindered his ability to get into these schools.

“I had a 2.9 [Grade Point Average (GPA)]. I wasn’t the greatest student but I was far from the worst. I struggled with getting my ACT and SAT scores to match my GPA,” Murphy said. “Back then, you needed a certain score to be eligible for the [National Collegiate Athletic Association].”

After putting in a ton of work, Murphy took both tests a combined ten times, trying to get the score he wanted but continuously failed. Junior Rocco Saputo, a basketball player, is one of the original playersMurphy began coaching in 2020. He understands the importance of the classroom due to Murphy’s guidance.

“He always emphasizes the importance of working hard in school and maintaining good grades; school is always the number one priority,” Saputo said. 

Coaching has been an incredible experience for Murphy, teaching younger kids through his life experiences, successes and failures.

“Every single thing I offer is a lesson I learned throughout my life or [my] basketball journey. I preach the lessons I learned, whether it’s excelling in school, putting in hard work or being a good teammate,” Murphy said.

Murphy went to prep school for a year after high school instead of attending college immediately. This time, prep school changed his recruitment process significantly.

“A lot of schools were gone, but some great schools such as USF, Arizona and St. Mary’s were still interested in me,” Murphy said. “USF was just so loyal to me; they had been there from the beginning and made me feel the best, so I decided to go there.” 

Khalil Murphy prepares to shoot a free throw while playing professional basketball in El Salvador.

Coming into college, expectations were high for Murphy, yet his experience did not go entirely as expected.

“I was homesick so I transferred back east to Long Island University in Brooklyn [after my sophomore year] at USF. At Long Island, [I had] some struggles with the coaching staff and [transferred] one more time to [California State University] San Marcos in San Diego,” Murphy said.

With that decision, Murphy’s collegiate career was over and he decided to play professionally.

He played in El Salvador for a season, competing at a high level, which led him to search for new opportunities. While trying to find a new contract, Murphy dealt with negotiation issues and took one season off. During his time off, he trained independently until he agreed to play in Morocco.

After the COVID-19 pandemic shut down international travel, Murphy was forced to look for a new job. He began private coaching throughout the Bay Area and eventually coached at Marin Academy for a year before coming to Redwood.

Not only has Murphy given knowledge to his players, but he has also learned many lessons from coaching. 

Khalil Murphy’s freshmen team celebrates after a tournament win against Rancho Cotate.

“You learn from a [unique] perspective of not being in full control, which is a completely different experience. I’ve learned the value of patience and how to understand each specific guy and coach them in the way that suits them best,” Murphy said. 

Sophomore Jake Post played for Murphy on the freshmen basketball team last year and was impressed by his ability to work with the entire team.

“He worked with every single player and it seemed like he could do it all at once. I think every player on our team developed immensely,” Post said.

Murphy also believes basketball is more than just a game; it offers lessons far beyond the court.

“I don’t expect most guys to go play in college or the [National Basketball Association], but the tools that you will learn – hard work, discipline and focus will last you a lifetime,” Murphy said. “I think that’s way more valuable and helping these young men is something I don’t take for granted.”

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About the Contributor
Matthew Knauer
Matthew Knauer, Sports Editor
Matthew Knauer is a junior at Redwood High School and is a sports editor for the bark. He enjoys playing baseball, surfing, and hanging out with friends.