Few people are looking forward to the Duke-Oregon men's basketball game as much as Dennis Murphy.

By TIM TROWER
Mail Tribune

Few people are looking forward to the Duke-Oregon men's basketball game as much as Dennis Murphy.

The South Medford boys coach will be front and center to watch two of his products, Kyle Singler of top-ranked Duke and E.J. Singler of Oregon, go at it Saturday — and he's taking nearly 1,000 of his friends with him.

Murphy the taskmaster became Murphy the ticketmaster as excited fans approached him about getting into the game.

"Many people called and made the assumption that I might have tickets," says the veteran coach.

Eventually, he did, thanks to the efforts of Frank Rinaldi of the Rose Garden in Portland, where the game will be played.

Rinaldi sent a note to the Medford School District saying the Rose Garden was happy to welcome Kyle Singler and Duke. And, would the Medford area like access to blocks of tickets?

The district put Murphy on it, for good reason.

"The result was, I became the ticketmaster," says Murphy. "I was glad it happened. People had been asking me about it. I said, this is great, and put the word out."

He told his staff, he told a meeting of the Linebackers Club, he told anyone who called.

Rinaldi asked how many Murphy could sell, 200, 400? Murphy, the athletics director, and his assistant, Kris Hess, started with 500 and they went quickly. Then it was 700, then 900. The final tally, over about three weeks, was 925.

"We could have certainly sold more," says Murphy, who dispensed several blocks of more than 30. His own extended family put in for about 60.

But it became necessary to cut it off and submit the order.

The seats are in four sections of an end zone and came at a good price, in the neighborhood of $25.

In 2007, the senior Kyle and the sophomore E.J. helped South Medford win its first state championship in boys basketball. They were a big part of successful Panther teams before and after, too, and Murphy reveled in it.

Now he gets to see them together again on the court.

"I feel awfully proud and fortunate to have had two kids like this come through our program," says Murphy. "I count my blessings that I was in the right place at the right time. For me, it was nothing but fun. I have great feelings and great respect for both of these guys. They're great kids and they come from a wonderful family.

"It really is going to be fun just to watch them and go, 'Wow, those kids are products of our program and our school and our community. I don't think it gets any better than that."

There figures to be a lot of Duke blue and Oregon green and yellow in the stands. Murphy might be in blue — Panther blue, like others around him.

"I really believe there's going to be a real feeling of Medford, a huge Medford presence," he says. "It'll be kind of like when we'd go to the state tournament. Surely, you knew Medford was in the house."

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MEDFORD ELEMENTARY school students will receive keepsake bookmarks tied to the Singlers and the Duke-Oregon game.

There will be 5,000 of them distributed as a way for Medford products Kyle Singler of Duke and E.J. Singler of Oregon to give back to the community in which they were raised by sending a message about the importance of education.

The front of the bookmarks have the "Singler Minded" picture that's on giant posters in Portland. On the back, each offers three tips for achieving success in school, accompanied by a quote.

"Those are directly out of their mouths," says Josh Jamieson, Oregon's director of basketball operations, who also is from Medford and came up with the bookmark idea. "They weren't written for them."

"They were both in the Medford school system and were good students and good community members," he says. "It's kind of neat, something they can give back."

The bookmarks will be sent to the elementary schools in the near future. They'll be distributed based on incentive structures developed by the schools.

Here's what's on the back of the bookmark:

KYLE & E.J. SINGLER

Kyle, a senior at Duke University, and E.J., a sophomore at the University of Oregon, are both proud products of the Medford school system.

Kyle and E.J. have some tips to help you to be a success in both the classroom and in life.

Kyle's Tips for Success

1. Have fun, make school enjoyable.

2. Have a passion to learn.

3. Be a good friend.

Kyle also has this to share: "Everything worth achieving requires hard work."

E.J.'s Tips for Success

1. Come each day ready to learn.

2. Share your ideas.

3. Respect your peers and teachers.

E.J. wanted to share this: "Don't let school be a chore. Always work hard and enjoy learning."

READ TO ACHIEVE

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com