By DRAKE LOHSE,
There’s a transfer from Iowa. A point guard from UAB. The twins from Indiana. And a brand new coaching staff. It isn’t just the team, add in renovations to the lighting and sound system, beer and a fresh floor, and there is just something different about the air in the Knapp Center.
These changes began in March of 2018 when Darian DeVries signed on to be the new head coach of the Bulldogs. Behind him, three assistants—Larry Blunt, Marty Richter, and Matt Woodley—all in their first year at Drake.
Then came the transfers.
Perhaps the most talked about is the trio from Division 1 factory Florida Southwestern. Freshman guard D.J. Wilkins was a 2016 McDonald’s All-American Honoree. Joining him are the twins, juniors Tremell, and Anthony Murphy, who averaged 16.7 and 10.4 points per game, respectively, at Florida Southwestern.
From there, the list of Drake’s incoming transfers includes senior guard Nick Norton (UAB), sophomore guard Roman Penn (Siena) and senior guard Brady Ellingson (Iowa). Drake also welcomes the arrival of two first-year big men—the 6-foot-8-inch Matt Gray (Orange, Australia) and the seven-footer Liam Robbins (Davenport, Iowa).
Drake basketball has perhaps never had two players like the Murphy twins. With their length and physicality, they’re able to stretch the floor in ways that open up the Drake offense and solidify its defense. That lines up with what first-year Head Coach Darian DeVries said he hopes develops into a consistent style of play for his new team.
“I know so many people come into their first head coaching position and tell everyone, ‘oh, we’re going to play fast,’ but that is truly what we will do,” DeVries said. “Attacking in transition and getting to where we want to go quickly and efficiently is going to be our staple and what we want Drake Basketball to be known for.”
Drake lived up to that promise in an exhibition game against Coe College Sunday night—a 98-58 blowout that saw transfer guard Nick Norton scoring 19 points and delivering six assists. From there, it was on to Thursday night, where the hometown Drake crowd would get the chance to view their team in action for the first time this season.
The Bulldogs came out strong early on in the game. Drake jumped out to a 16-1 lead, starting with an aggressive move down low for an easy layup by Tramell Murphy.
Just a few possessions later, D.J. Wilkins would bury a deep three, and on the next possession, Liam Robbins would just miss the bunny, only for Anthony Murphy to clean it up with a put-back slam, just feet from the Drake student section.
Drake emerged from the locker room for the start of the second half with a 49-27 lead. From there, it was nothing but Bulldogs. Senior Nick Norton dazzled the audience in the third quarter by dishing a no-look pass to Anthony Murphy, who spun and delivered it to his brother Tremell, who put it through for the layup.
Nick Norton was again the leading scorer for the Bulldogs, with 17 points, shooting 3-for-4 from three. As a team, Drake would finish the game with a 56 percent field goal percentage, and 40 percent from beyond the arch.
Fans got to see that fast-paced offense in action, and that offense led to a 98-52 blowout win over the Buena Vista Beavers.
“It’s just a different system,” said Nick McGlynn, senior forward. “We’re trying to play faster, more athletic. From a culture standpoint, I have to say, it’s just a different atmosphere. We have a lot of new players, a lot of new coaches, but even with that, we have this rapport with one another. Overall, I have to say we’ve all grown closer as a unit, and to have that happen in one summer is something that’s new for all of us, and I think that’s translated on the court and I think it will continue to translate to the court.”
The Bulldogs pack up and head West for a return to action on Nov. 13 for a matchup with the Buffalo of Colorado.
PHOTO OF DRAKE MEN’S BASKETBALL TEAM | PHOTO BY HANNAH COHEN