CHARLOTTESVILLE — When Trey Murphy III arrived at Virginia before the 2020-21 season, the basketball coaching staff thought he had the potential to develop into a similar style player as De'Andre Hunter, the athletic wing who helped lead the Cavaliers to the 2019 national championship before becoming an NBA lottery pick.
The New Orleans Pelicans apparently see similar potential in Murphy. The Pelicans took the 6-foot-9, 206-pound guard with the 17th pick in the first round of Thursday’s NBA draft, making Murphy the Virginia program’s 11th first-round selection and fourth in the last six years.
Murphy played two seasons at Rice before transferring to UVa for the 2020-21 season. After initially planning to redshirt, Murphy ended up playing in 25 games, starting 20. He averaged 11.3 points and 3.4 rebounds per game this past season for the Cavaliers.
In New Orleans, he joins a roster that includes former Duke star Zion Williamson, former UCLA star Lonzo Ball and former Virginia Tech star Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
The Pelicans finished 31-41 last season, placing fourth in the Southwest Division. They acquired the 17th pick in a trade with the Grizzlies earlier in the week.
Murphy joins Justin Anderson (21st to Dallas in 2015), Hunter (fourth to Los Angeles in 2019) and Ty Jerome (24th to Philadelphia in 2019) as recent first-round picks for the Cavaliers.
He's the ninth UVa player selected during coach Tony Bennett's 11-year tenure.
Virginia had some recruiting interest in Murphy as a high schooler in Durham, North Carolina, but at the time, Murphy was too small to play at the ACC level, the staff felt.
At Rice, he grew and excelled, becoming the team's leading scorer as a sophomore, when he averaged 13.7 points per game. He entered the NCAA's transfer portal after that season and chose to play at UVa, picking the Cavaliers over Villanova, Houston and Pittsburgh.