College / Jan 23, 2013 / 2:30 pm

The Extraordinary Journey Of Ole Miss’ Murphy Holloway

Murphy Holloway

Murphy Holloway (photo. Joshua McCoy/Ole Miss Athletics)

Transferring is so commonplace in college basketball some even call the issue an epidemic. NCAA transfers must sit out a year unless they are granted a waiver to play immediately. These are supposed to be granted in situations where a player must play closer to home because of family or other mitigating circumstances. However, now essentially any person looking to transfer can file a petition for a waiver and have a chance to get cleared immediately.

This past offseason, Central Michigan guard Trey Ziegler left the school after his dad was fired as head coach and transferred to Pittsburgh. He was granted immediate eligibility. Maryland’s Dez Wells was kicked out of Xavier for being involved in a suspected rape, and was cleared to play this year for the Terrapins. Rice’s Arsalan Kazemi left school in September and transferred to Oregon, where he was cleared less than two months later. The system is flawed and the waiver rule is not applied with consistency. But one shining example of a waiver being granted is for Ole Miss forward Murphy Holloway.

Coming out of high school, Holloway was rated a three-star recruit by Rivals and the No. 133 player in the nation, but he struggled academically in high school. Entering his senior year he was unsure if he would qualify immediately to play college basketball during the 2008-09 season. Because of that, many schools stopped recruiting him. They didn’t want to take a chance he wouldn’t qualify and would have to go to JuCo or prep school for a year.

Throughout it all, Holloway says the Ole Miss coaching staff was there for him. He repaid them for their support by committing to play for the Rebels.

During his first year in Oxford, the Rebels finished 16-15 and Holloway averaged eight points and 6.6 rebounds per game, but it wasn’t exactly what he envisioned. The team was beset by injuries, and finished barely above .500. During his sophomore season, he averaged 10 points and 7.6 rebounds on a Rebel team that went 24-11 and won the SEC West Division during the regular season. However, that record was not enough to get the team over the hump and into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002, and that left a sour taste in Holloway’s mouth, despite reaching the NIT semifinals.

“That was really disappointing,” he says, “’cause we worked hard throughout the season but we just couldn’t pull through.”

After the season ended, Murphy expected to return to Ole Miss for his junior season, but then a series of family circumstances forced him to reconsider that plan. He loved Ole Miss. He loved the school, the coaches and his teammates. It was where he wanted to be but not where he needed to be. He needed to be at home in Irmo, South Carolina, just outside of Columbia, with his family. His mother was ill and the mother of his daughter was planning to re-enroll in high school and get her diploma after dropping out the previous year. Someone needed to take care of his mom and daughter, and Holloway realized that it had to be him.

“My family was struggling a little bit,” Holloway says. “My mom was dealing with an illness and the mother of my daughter had dropped out of high school when she got pregnant, and she was looking to go back to school to graduate and get her diploma, so I thought it would be best if I went home for a year and took care of that and put basketball to the side.”

He ended up at South Carolina in Columbia, saying, “If it weren’t for those circumstances, I never would have considered transferring.”

Most players with professional aspirations never would’ve put their basketball career on hold to take care of their family like that. Some would have left school and tried to play professionally and sent money back to their family. Holloway made the selfless decision to put the interests of those he cared about ahead of his own. This was impressive. Even more impressive was that it forced him to walk-on at his new school.

With the Gamecocks and Rebels both in the SEC, Ole Miss refused to release Holloway from his scholarship to attend another SEC school. Holloway says Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy was sensitive to his situation. Kennedy never tried to convince him to stay, and said he understood his need to transfer. Still, Kennedy refused to release him from his scholarship, forcing Holloway to bear the burden of paying his own tuition for a year at South Carolina. Many people would have been angry or resentful toward Kennedy. They would have questioned how much he really “understood” the reasons behind the transfer. But the then 21-year-old Holloway, took the decision in stride.

“I didn’t hold a grudge that they wouldn’t release me from my scholarship to go to USC cause I can understand why they wouldn’t want to do that and play against me in the future,” he says. “They were just doing what they had to do and thought was best for their program.”

As soon as his sophomore year ended, Holloway returned home and enrolled at the University of South Carolina. He didn’t apply for a hardship waiver, partly because traveling with the team would have meant time away from his family, and sat out a year exclusively practicing with the team, even though he probably would have been granted a release to play right away.

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