Mychal Thompson, Kevin McHale, and Randy Breuer. Those names are synonymous with Minnesota Golden Gophers basketball. They are also considered to be three of the best players to ever set foot on campus. Over the course of the last four seasons, the program has been afforded two players that may one day rival the likes of McHale and Thompson. Nate Mason and Jordan Murphy have cemented themselves as, at the very least, the two best Minnesota players in the last 10 seasons. Now that Mason is done with his Gopher career we can adequately assess his rank among those other great players. As for Murphy, he still one year of eligibility left, but with his fantastic 2017-’18 campaign he has thrust himself into the conversation.
Unfortunately, both of their individual success has been overlooked due to how the Gophers have performed overall. However, it would be misguided of us not recognize talent when we see it. Just try to understand the overall scope of Mason’s career at Minnesota.
He finished his Gopher career with a whopping 1,731 total points. That is good for fourth best in school history. Though it is still over 200 points off of Mychal Thompson’s school record, Mason is still higher than Kevin McHale and Quincy Lewis on the all-time leader board.
Mason also finished with 512 career assists. That is second in school history behind Arriel McDonald, who racked up 547 total assists in his tenure from 1990-’94. Mason is also tied with McDonald for sixth all-time in total steals. He also was at least in the top four every season for team win shares. Those stats accurately judge how many wins a player provided and Mason was near the top for Minnesota each of his four seasons. That should be a sufficient measure on the value Mason has provided.
Jordan Murphy is well on his way to surpassing Mason on the scoring list with his senior season yet to come. Right now, Murphy has poured in 1,282 points in just three seasons with Minnesota. If we use this past season as a gauge, we can assume Murphy will score close to 600 total points in 2018-’19. He scored 538 points this past year, so a decent number to predict would be at least 575. If he reaches that, he will finish his Gopher career with 1,857 points. Not only will that put him ahead of Mason, but it will make him the second highest scorer in school history. If there is one player capable of that, it is Jordan Murphy.
Murphy will also become the top rebounder in Minnesota history in 2018-’19. To date, he already has 908 total rebounds which is third all-time. Kevin McHale is second with 950 and Mychal Thompson is just ahead of him with 956 rebounds. To put this in perspective, Murphy snared 361 rebounds this last season. If he keeps up that production on the glass, he will hold that school lead by a huge margin.
It is hard to assign Murphy a specific ranking considering he is not done yet. It really is not so far-fetched to believe that he could become one of the two best players in Minnesota basketball history. As for Mason, he is definitely in the top 10, if not the top five in my opinion. He has the numbers to back up that case, the only thing is the Gophers lack of success in the win-loss column.
However, it is worth noting that Mychal Thompson never played in the NCAA Tournament when he was a Gopher. Kevin McHale never played in one either, and Randy Breuer only played in one NCAA Tournament. Nate Mason and Jordan Murphy have played in one which sets them apart from McHale and Thompson. Whether or not that is a conclusive enough fact to prove one is better than the other is up to your judgement.
What we do know if that Richard Pitino has been given the fantastic opportunity to coach two of the best Gophers ever. Unfortunately, that has not transitioned into consistent on-court success. From an individual perspective though, Nate Mason and Jordan Murphy are two of the finest talents to play in Williams Arena.