Miami Hurricanes veteran Kamari Murphy back in Oklahoma and tough as ever

Kamari Murphy (Getty Images)

Kamari Murphy (Getty Images)

TULSA, Oklahoma — No Hurricane has appeared in more NCAA Tournaments than fifth-year senior forward Kamari Murphy, who made the dance twice at Oklahoma State before transferring to Miami. He will start his fourth appearance 70 miles east of where he spent the first two years of his college career.

“I’m a city kid,” he said. “I didn’t really miss Oklahoma like that.”

Murphy, a Brooklyn native, originally wanted to sign with Miami out of Bradenton-IMG Academy in 2012, but the NCAA cloud hovering over the program convinced him to go west.

[PHOTO GALLERY: Game-by-game look at the NCAA Tournament]

He started 15 games as a Cowboys freshman in 2012-12, and shouldered more of a load as a sophomore because of injuries to others. He started 21 games and led the team in rebounds (6.3) and blocks (1.2), chipping in 6.1 points.

He has fit the same defense-and-dunks profile at Miami, though his defensive game greatly improved — coach Jim Larranaga was disappointed Murphy wasn’t an ACC All-Defensive team selection — and is as confident as ever in his jump-shooting. He scored in double figures in six of his previous 10 games, a reason why he’s on pace for career bests in points (7.3), as well as rebounds (7.5). He is also shooting free throws at the best clip of his career (61.2).

He’s one of two seniors, along with Davon Reed, leading Miami into its first-round matchup with Michigan State on Friday (9:20 p.m.).

“I’m just showing them how it’s going to be on and off the court,” he said. “Teams are going to go on runs in the tournament games. Everybody’s going to bring their best game. You’ve got to be poised in those situations.”

Along with forward Anthony Lawrence Jr., he’ll be a big part of Miami’s defense against Michigan State’s Nick Ward, who is a load in the post at 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds. The smaller, quicker Murphy (6-8, 220) said he planned to “give him different things to think about” with how he defended him. If he can keep Ward (13.7 points, 6.5 rebounds) from getting comfortable on the block, he’ll be in good shape.

“He’s a big kid,” Murphy said. “But I’ve never been bullied. I don’t plan on being bullied.”

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