By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Murphy Holloway has completed an unusual journey back to the college basketball at Ole Miss.
Holloway – who sat out last season as a member of the South Carolina basketball team – felt a spring in his step on Wednesday when news of his immediate eligibility became official.
He faced the prospect of sitting out another season had the NCAA and the SEC not granted requests for a waiver of the NCAA’s policy that transfer athletes sit out the first season at their new schools.
“Oh, man, it feels good to finally get that burden lifted off me. Real good. I doubted it the whole time,” said Holloway, addressing media for the first time Friday. “When the NCAA cleared me, I was like, ‘If the SEC doesn’t clear me…’ Everything worked out well.”
Holloway, a 6-foot-7, 240-pound forward, was a two-year starter at Ole Miss as a freshman and sophomore. He left for family reasons in May of 2010. Earlier that spring he finished as the fifth-leading rebounder in the SEC at 7.6 boards a game and also averaged 10.1 points.
Back to the future
His transfer back to his original school is believed to be the first of its kind in the NCAA. South Carolina coach Darrin Horn, though disappointed, was supportive of Holloway’s decision.
“He understood when I told him, ‘Coach, I want to explore my options and see if I can go back,'” Holloway said. “I’m from there, so it was home. It was good seeing family and all that, but I think when it came to a basketball standpoint, I was so used to the way this was.
“It was a lot of just praise to God and thanks to Ole Miss and South Carolina for even supporting this,” he said.
The Rebels host North Alabama on Thursday evening in an exhibition game. They open the regular season Nov. 11 at home against Louisiana-Monroe.
“I’ve practiced, but I’m very hungry to play and get back into the atmosphere. Free throws are going to be better. My free throws are going to be a lot better,” said Holloway, who was a career 48.6 free throw shooter at Ole Miss. He shot 41.7 percent two years ago. He was also known to use his quickness to rebound his own misses.
Holloway had eight double-doubles as a sophomore, one of them a 17-point, 11-rebound performance against Texas Tech in the NIT quarterfinals in 2010. He also had five steals in that game.
Holloway averaged 9.3 points, 7.1 rebounds over his two years.
He played on Ole Miss teams that went 16-15 and 24-11, the latter going 7-9 in the SEC and reaching the NIT Final Four.
The Rebels haven’t played in the NCAA tournament since Holloway was 12 years old. It’s the longest drought in the SEC, one that senior forward Terrance Henry predicted to SEC Media would end this season.
“I’ve been on what, two teams here? This is probably one of the most talented, but surely one of the most focused teams I’ve been on, as far as a sense of urgency,” Holloway said. “Everybody’s on the same page. Everybody’s locked in, focused.”