At 6-7, Murphy Burnatowski is equally adept at shooting the three or taking smaller opponents to the basket. (Credit: Bob Cornell)
As a transfer from Maine, Colgate’s Murphy Burnatowski was nowhere to be found on the pre-season All-Patriot League team when it was released in October.
If the 6-7, 230-pound junior from Waterloo, Ontario keeps demonstrating his prowess on both ends of the floor chances are he will be there come March. Opposing coaches are already taking notice.
“He is a handful,” Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen said. “He can really shoot it, so it is tough for a bigger guy to match up on him or he will take your guards inside.”
Coaches Zach Spiker (Army) and Ed DeChellis (Navy) would likely echo those sentiments after watching Burnatowski torch the service academies for a combined 64 points in a pair of Red Raider victories.
The outings earned the former America East All-Rookie performer his second Patriot League Player of the Week award.
“He has been a big help, there is no doubt about it,” said Colgate Coach Matt Langel. “I credit him for working really hard last season. That off-year can often be hard for transfers, but he used it to add some versatility to his game.”
Since starting the league season 0-3, the back-to-back wins have the Red Raiders in the middle-of-the-pack in a tightly bunched league race.
The scoring proficiency is something that has come later in his basketball career, as he was known more for his defense and rebounding coming out of Canada’s National Elite Development Academy.
“Growing up through the Canadian National Team program I was never touted as an offensive player,” said Burnatowski. “Playing defense was the way I made those teams and started as a freshman at Maine. It was just recently that I started to develop my offensive game.”
The defense was on display early in Colgate’s 93-90 win over Army as Burnatowski helped limit Ella Ellis, a 2012 All-Patriot League member, to just five points on 1-for-10 shooting.
After scoring four points in the first 20 minutes, Burnatowski caught fire and scored 31 points after halftime — including the game winning three-pointer with 12 seconds left in overtime.
The Patriot League’s second leading scorer at 18 points per game followed up the career-high 35 points with a 29-point effort against Navy. He is also among the top 10 in PL rebounding at 5.7 per contest.
“It was obvious to us last year that he was going to be able to score — and sometimes score alot,” Langel said. “But part of his development has been when he is not scoring and other teams are looking to take him out is to find ways to help the team.”
Burnatowski’s arrival in Hamilton, N.Y. came soon after Langel took the reigns of the basketball program in the spring of 2011.
Despite having some of his best games in big moments as a sophomore with the Black Bears — 20 points in an upset win over Penn State and 17 in a loss to Maryland — Burnatowski saw his minutes shrink late in the year and a growing disconnect with coach Ted Woodward.
Having arrived late in the recruiting game, Langel had a scholarship to offer and Burnatowski was still looking to play Division 1 basketball in the U.S. Roy Rana, the head coach at Ryerson University in Toronto, had a relationship with a member of the Colgate staff and a connection was made.
“After meeting with Coach Langel and some of the assistant coaches I took to them right away,” Burnatowski said. “I definitely thought they were going to do a good job here.”
Picked to finish 7th in the PL pre-season poll, the Red Raiders have an uphill climb. With Burnatowski on the scene for another year and transfers Ethan Jacobs (Ohio) and Austin Tillotson (Monmouth) joining the fold next season, Langel may be finding immediate help.
“You always want to add guys that are going to help your program who are going to be good citizens and represent you well on the floor and off the floor,” Langel said. “It just so happens that in these first couple of years some transfer situations presented themselves that we were excited about.”
If Jacobs, a 6-foot-11 center, and Tillotson can provide the same impact on the Colgate program as Burnatowski has, the Red Raiders will be a team on the rise.
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