Arkansas going hard after 2020 Memphis guard Matthew Murrell

By: Dudley E. Dawson
Published: Friday, October 19, 2018
Matthew Murrell
Matthew Murrell

— Arkansas is once again going after one of the Bluff City's best basketball players.

Memphis Whitehaven junior guard Matthew Murrell (6-3, 180) will arrive in Fayetteville on Friday for his first official visit.

Murrell, ranked 82nd nationally by 24/7, is also considering Memphis, Florida, Georgetown, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Tennessee and others.

“I am extremely proud of him, and all the attention he getting is well-deserved with his recent accomplishments,” Whitehaven head coach Faragi Phillips said. “But I tell you what, he has worked to earn those — every bit of it.

“He is the kind of kid that can change the program in more ways than one. He is the hardest-working player that I have and is the most studious kid when it comes to academics. He is a kid who is going to be able to accomplish anything he wants on and off the court.

“He can do it all on the basketball court and he also walks the halls with a 4.2 grade-point average and all Es (excellent) and Ss (satisfactory) in conduct, so that makes it so easy for me and will make it easy for his coach on the next level.”

He is one of three official prospects — all ranked in the top 100 nationally in the 2020 class — that Arkansas is hosting for official visits this weekend along with former North Little Rock and current Montverde Academy guard Moses Moody (6-5, 185) and Tulsa (Okla.) Booker T. Washington guard Bryce Thompson (6-5, 170).

Murrell, who averaged 15 points per game as a sophomore before missing the playoffs last season because of a broken wrist, bounced back with a great AAU season for both the Bluff City Legends in the spring and Team Thad in July.

Phillips has known Murrell, who has a whopping 39-inch vertical leap, since Murrell was a second-grader.

“I could go on and on since I have known him since he was 8 years old,” Phillips said. “He has grown up into a young man that really gets it. He’s humble, has a great amount of humility and a great foundation with two great parents.

“I think the best is yet to come for him when it pertains to basketball or what he wants to do in life. He has a pedigree that is going to make him successful in life in anything he wants to do.”

Whitehaven made it to the state title game last season before losing to a loaded Memphis East squad that was coached by current University of Memphis head coach and former NBA star Penny Hardaway.

“We lost to Memphis East last year in the state championship game and that was with Matthew missing the last half of the season,” Phillips said. “He was going up for a dunk and got hit and broke his wrist. But we were still able to kind of put some things together and play for a state championship.”

Whitehaven, who opens its 2018-2019 season on Nov. 15th at Memphis Melrose, returns eight players from that team and has added some height.

“We have eight of those players coming back and we have added a 7-4 kid who is going to give us a big presence inside and some size that we needed because we lost a good portion of our frontcourt,” Phillips said.

“Matthew is going to steer the ship and we are going to go as far as he can take us. He is going to be in the driver’s seat and try to take us where we want to go.”

Phillips sees Murrell as a versatile point guard on the next level.

“The way the game has evolved, everything is so positionless and as long as you can dribble, pass and shoot, then you will be on the court,” Phillips said. “But for the sake of us just saying what he plays, I think he is a guard – a point guard as it pertains to the next level. That is what we are going to be shooting for this year as we put the ball in his hands a lot more than years past.

“Hopefully by next year, he will be well-suited to be a point guard on the next level.”

Arkansas assistant T.J. Cleveland has been the chief recruiter for Murrell for Razorbacks head coach Mike Anderson.

“I think Coach Cleveland is a great guy,” Phillips said. “He is very open and honest about what they want to do with Matthew, and obviously over the next few months, we are going to continue to build a relationship with him and Coach Anderson and see where things are.

“But in terms of what they want and what they think about Matthew, it is obvious that they really like him and are making him a priority.”

Hardaway made Murrell the first Memphis-area 2020 prospect he offered on April 6 in hopes that Murrell will stay home and play for the Tigers.

College coaches have been frequent visitors to Whitehaven’s gym since September.

“(Murrell) has gotten a lot of attention — Tennessee, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Memphis just to name a few,” Phillips said. “We have had activity in our gym and coaches showing up every day for the last three weeks. They all came away raving about Matthew’s skill set and his potential, so we are excited for him.”

Phillips has mixed emotions about the new NCAA rule allowing juniors to take official visits.

“Selfishly, I am not excited because it pulls them away from what we are doing, but hey, I think it is a good thing that the NCAA is doing by allowing these kids to get out and see college campuses going into their junior year,” Phillips said.

Arkansas will be Murrell’s only official visit of the preseason, according to Phillips.

“He hasn’t set up any other visits and I don’t think he is going to take any more right now after this visit to Arkansas because we are getting ready for our season,” Phillips said. “He may take one around the first of the year — maybe — but it is something that me and his mom and dad will sit down and talk about.

“But I spoke with them earlier today and (Arkansas) will be his first and last official prior to our season beginning.”

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