Johnny Furphy, who is attending college a staggering 9,200 miles from home, has fit in nicely with his new University of Kansas basketball teammates.
“He’s a solid mate, that’s for sure — a solid mate,” KU senior center Hunter Dickinson said with a smile at Wednesday’s KU media day at Allen Fieldhouse. Dickinson was referring to the soon-to-turn-19 Furphy, a 6-foot-9, 202-pound freshman guard from Melbourne, Australia, and the only international player on KU’s 17-player roster entering the 2023-24 season.
Furphy — he spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since the start of first-semester classes in late August — has especially been a hit with roommates Nick Timberlake, Elmarko Jackson and Zach Clemence.
“Johnny has me and Elmarko into Australian football,” Timberlake, a senior guard from Braintree, Massachusetts, said Wednesday. “It’s a little more violent than American football, a mix between American football and rugby. We’ve been watching highlights with him (because) we couldn’t find it on a regular U.S. channel. He’s a big fan of it.”
Timberlake has noticed Furphy — who said he is “loving it” at KU thus far despite being so far away from home — has kept in contact with friends in Australia, an effective way to combat any possible homesickness.
“I’m pretty sure he’s a big Fortnite player,” Timberlake said, referring to the video game. “He plays with his boys back home. He stays up a little later than us just to play with ‘em.”
As far as fitting in on the basketball court … Furphy has shown enough for Timberlake to declare that “easily, he can go to the next level.”
One problem Furphy has faced of late is combating an injury that’s sidelined him the last 10 days of practice. Furphy has shin splints in both legs — “mainly the left,” he said. The condition will prevent him from playing in Sunday’s exhibition game at Illinois.
KU coach Bill Self said in fact said Furphy could miss another week of practice.
“I am, because I don’t know how much (time) he’s going to miss,” Self said when asked if he was “concerned” about Furphy perhaps falling behind. “He was behind getting here (since he committed to KU on Aug. 2). He’s been out about 10 days. That 10 days is probably going to be another week and then we’re hopeful when he does come back there are no setbacks.
“He needs the reps as much as anybody. He tries hard. We couldn’t be happier with him so far on his presence and also his play. Get him back in a week, you’d still have 10 day before we go to Chicago (for Nov. 14 game against Kentucky). We may be able to pace it out a little bit. We’re kind of running out of time. He needs to be out there.”
Furphy said he’s had some pain in his shins, “for the better part of the last year. We’re staying on top of it, getting a lot of treatment. At the moment I’m in the process of just managing it.”
As to what caused the shin splints, Furphy said: “I think what’s explained to me is I had a fast growth spurt and training a lot put a lot of stress on it.”
Furphy — he turns 19 on Dec. 7 — had been pleased with his progress at KU until being sidelined by the shin splints.
“The biggest adjustment basketball-wise is the physicality. Just going against older, stronger guys is the biggest thing for me,” Furphy said. “I am confident in my skill-set. Physicality is the biggest thing, but I’m feeling confident.”
He said receiving pointers from KU veterans like Dajuan Harris, KJ Adams, Kevin McCullar and Dickinson has helped him immensely in his first two months in Lawrence.
“The older guys have been welcoming, like family, helping me feel comfortable,” Furphy said.
Furphy said the biggest adjustment to Kansas off the court “is the food, probably. I’m getting used to it. Fast food, obviously. I don’t have a car yet. I need an international license, so I’ve got to work on that.”
He said it’s also been a challenge budgeting his time. Between practice and attending classes, he’s been mighty busy.
“I’m still kind of settling in and settling into the roster,” Furphy said. “I don’t have any expectations (of starting or being a contributor off the bench). The national championship is a goal we are working toward. For me personally I want to make an impact defensively, offensively, make some kind of positive contribution.
“I think we have a really all-around aggressive team, especially coming off the defensive end. Being able to run offense from our defense is something I think we are going to take pride in.”