Kamari Murphy's twitter handle — Kamari Who — tweaks anyone who has ever dared doubt him.
“That comes from the years of people underrating me,” said Murphy, a freshman forward at Oklahoma State. “I love being the underdog. Ever since high school, people didn't think I'd be one of the top players.
“It comes with the basketball life. But I accepted it. I like coming from the bottom. ‘Who is this guy?'”
And here he goes again, causing double takes with the Cowboys, slotted for significant minutes in his rookie season, which continues Thursday as OSU opens play in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
Murphy, who started in his Cowboys debut against UC Davis, stands as a godsend for a team already down two players to injury and still easing center Phillip Jurick back into action following his offseason recovery from a torn Achilles.
“He just plays so hard, and he's a competitor,” said OSU coach Travis Ford. “His game fits our system — he can run, he can jump. He's a guy who I think can compete in the Big 12, because of how hard he plays.”
The “Kamari Who” tag followed Murphy to Stillwater.
While the attention from last year's recruiting class focused on Texas prep teammates Marcus Smart and Phil Forte, Murphy flew under the radar, despite a strong season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. For IMG, which finished 28-2 and ranked in the top five nationally among prep schools, Murphy averaged 20 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.
And yet, Murphy went almost unknown to Cowboys followers.
Already, that is changing.
Murphy contributed seven points and six boards in OSU's season-opening 73-65 win over UC Davis, following up a productive preseason that saw him play well on the team's exhibition tour of Spain.
And his energetic, hard-nosed style is giving Cowboys fans reason to get to know him.
“It's going to remain that way, too,” Murphy said.
Murphy's starting spot isn't guaranteed. Depending on matchups, Jurick or 7-footer Marek Soucek could be better fits on certain nights. And when starting forward Michael Cobbins returns from a toe injury next month, playing time will be more divided.
“He did a lot of good things in our first game, made a really big block late,” Ford said. “But there are a lot of areas he's got to get better at, too. What we don't want him to get caught up into thinking is this thing is easy, because he kind of fell into the spot.
“When a freshman kind of falls into a spot like he has, you don't want him to think it's just automatically their spot and they're going to play. There's a lot of things he's got to learn to be his best and reach his potential.”
Still, Ford confirms that there's a major role for Murphy and what he brings to the floor as a 6-foot-8 scrapper.
And Murphy is still driven by the underdog role.
“Coming here, I didn't know I'd be starting this quickly,” said Murphy, who played high school ball in Brooklyn. “That was my overall goal through the season, to eventually start. But now that I have it, it's not like I'm backing away from it.
“In practice, you can tell, the coaches are yelling more and they're forcing more things on me because I have a bigger role now. And I'm taking that role and going with it one step at a time.”
Kamari Murphy, starting forward, Oklahoma State Cowboys.
“I don't think they saw that coming,” Murphy said.