South Carolina Basketball: Examining Collin Murray-Boyles' Impact

The freshman showed out against tough competition last year. He'll be even better next season.
Collin Murray-Boyles drives against Oregon in the NCAA tournament.
Collin Murray-Boyles drives against Oregon in the NCAA tournament. / Joe Sargent/GettyImages

Mononucleosis couldn’t stop South Carolina basketball star Collin Murray-Boyles. So what hope would SEC defenses have? The freshman missed the first six games of the season with the illness and didn’t get a start until the win over Missouri in the third game of the conference slate, but once he got a chance, he shined. 

The Columbia native transferred to Wasatch Academy in Utah for his final year of high school before coming home to Lamont Paris’s program. After starring in the summer during the Gamecocks’ trip to The Bahamas, he was thought to be a major piece of the frontcourt as the start of the season rolled around. That ultimately didn’t happen due to the unforeseen mono affliction, but as the season went on, CMB proved to be all that he was projected to be, and a bit more.

Listed at just 6’7”, he isn’t the tallest big in the conference. In fact, he’s one of the shortest. It turns out, however, that it simply doesn’t matter. What Murray-Boyles brings to the court can eliminate the height advantage any opposing big man may hold. Who needs to be seven feet tall to get to the basket when footwork can do the trick?

Take, for example, one of his dunks against Vanderbilt this season, at the 3:35 mark in this video. CMB, situated just outside the paint along the baseline, feigns a drive off the pass then looks outside to Zachary Davis and B.J. Mack. With nothing going on there, he waves off Davis towards the perimeter to bring Vanderbilt’s interior defense away from the basket, steps away from the basket with his left foot, then spins and moves closer to the baseline and basket with a couple dribbles, getting into the paint and backing down his defender. He then uses one final spin move to launch off two feet and to the rim, leaving his defender behind and dunking on top of the other Vanderbilt player who had come over to help. 

Unless opposing defenses can produce a player capable of guarding those types of post moves, Collin Murray-Boyles will remain a force on the inside for South Carolina. The raw stats back up what the eyes can see on the film. 6th in the SEC in 2PT%, ahead of Auburn’s Johni Broome. 6th in the SEC in true shooting percentage, ahead of Tennessee’s Dalton Knecht. 

His post game isn’t the only asset the CMB brings to the table, however. Two aspects of his game that improved the most over the course of the season were undoubtedly his ability to distribute the ball and crash the boards. Over the last 13 conference games, starting with the win over Kentucky, he averaged 8.0 RPG and 2.2 APG, ranks that, if held over the course of the season, would rank first and third on the team, respectively. 

Rebounding-wise, Murray-Boyles simply has the “see ball, get ball” vision that not every big man possesses. In fact, most don’t. That’s not a talent that can be taught, a player either has it or they don’t. CMB is firmly in the “has it” group. Distributing the ball is another skill that the average big man cannot do at the level of CMB. If he’s backing down his defender in the paint, there will more often than not be a man open. Somehow, the freshman already has the patience to keep an eye on his defender, the rim, help defense, and his teammates, all at once. That’s about two more eyes than what typical humans have. 

His all-around offense was arguably the most effective on the team down the stretch for Lamont Paris’s team, and the advanced stats back that up. Murray-Boyles placed top 10 in the conference in offensive rating, player efficiency rating, offensive box plus/minus, and offensive rebounding percentage. His PER ranked below Johni Broome, but ahead of every other qualifying player across the SEC.

Defensively, he’s a much taller player than his listed height suggests. There’s no better example of that than the crucial block on 7’5” Jamarion Sharp against Ole Miss at home, located at the 0:09 mark in this video. Sharp is wide open on the left side of the paint, calling for the ball after Josh Gray followed Matthew Murrell to the perimeter off of a screen, while Collin Murray-Boyles is on the opposite side of the baseline, just outside of the right side of the paint guarding his own man. By the time Sharp catches the ball, CMB is already loading into his jump to contest the shot at the rim, then meets the tallest player in college basketball at the peak of the shot, sending the ball off the backboard and grabbing the rebound. 

Causing havoc in the passing lanes is a different type of defensive asset, but CMB has shown that too. The freshman was the only player in the SEC to rank in both the top 10 in steal percentage and block percentage. Against Missouri, Arkansas, and MississippI State, he picked up four steals in each game. All three of those games, South Carolina won. If there is a better thief of the ball in the mold of an SEC post player, we haven’t seen them yet. Not a single other Gamecock averaged a steal per game, even Meechie Johnson or Ta’Lon Cooper. 

It seems as if the only asset that CMB hasn’t developed yet is the outside shot, as he didn’t hit a three-point shot all season, attempting just five on the year. But it wouldn’t be wise to suggest he isn’t developing that. In conference games from February onwards, he shot 83.9% from the free-throw line. If that’s the type of shooting we can come to expect from Murray-Boyles, defenses next year might be in for a surprise. 

But it’s not just college defenses that need to prepare for CMB, it’s the NBA too. It’s hard to succeed in the NBA without a three-point shot, that much is true. But it turns out Collin Murray-Boyles, as a freshman in college, can do basically everything else a coach could ask for. It’s not a matter of if this player makes the league, it’s when. More likely than not, CMB won’t be in Columbia for four whole years. Not because he’ll transfer out, but because it’ll be hard to pass up a first round selection in the NBA draft. His footwork, passing vision, physicality, it all will translate to the league. The most impactful player on this team next year will in all likelihood be Collin-Murray Boyles, and the hometown prospect won’t just be All-Freshman, he’ll end up on the All-SEC team. 

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