Murphy Burnatowski spent the last four games of his sophomore basketball season at the University of Maine sitting on the bench.
Now, the player who had started 46 of 56 games over two seasons with the Black Bears is leaving the school.
UMaine announced Friday in a tersely-worded press release that Burnatowski has asked for and been granted a release from his National Letter of Intent and is free to transfer.
“We thank Murphy for his contributions to our program and wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors,” Maine head coach Ted Woodward said in the release.
Burnatowski, a 6-foot-7 forward from Waterloo, Ontario, will have two years of eligibility remaining. He would be required by NCAA rules to sit out a calendar year before playing at another Division I school.
“It’s a part of basketball, it happens,” Woodward said of the transfer. “Obviously, we’ll continue to go recruit and fill the spots we have left.”
Burnatowski could not be reached for comment.
The rugged Burnatowski appeared in 26 games this season, starting 21. He averaged 6.9 points and 3.0 rebounds while shooting 40 percent from the field, including 34 percent on 3-pointers, and 69 percent from the foul line.
Burnatowski scored a team- and career-high 21 points in UMaine’s Dec. 21 victory at Penn State and tallied 17 points in the loss at Maryland.
However, Burnatowski’s final game for the Bears came Feb. 16 in a 73-57 loss to Vermont at Alfond Arena in Orono during which he tallied four points, two rebounds and two steals in 12 minutes. He didn’t see the floor again, although he remained with the team.
Woodward didn’t address the specifics of the situation at the time, other than to say UMaine had ample depth on its squad and was using a different rotation.
The departure of Burnatowski creates another vacancy on a UMaine roster that is losing seniors Troy Barnies of Auburn, Sean McNally of Gardiner, Terrance Mitchell and Malachi Peay. Those players represent five of the Bears’ top eight scorers this season.
UMaine has received verbal commitments from 6-7 forward Kilian Cato and 6-2 combination guard Xavier Pollard.
Burnatowski established himself immediately as a freshman during the 2009-10 season, averaging 6.4 points and 3.7 rebounds, and went on to earn a spot on the America East All-Rookie Team.
He finished his UMaine career averaging 6.6 points and 3.4 rebounds in almost 21minutes per game.
UM-bound Walczak on the mend
Rumors of her injury may have been greatly exaggerated, but UMaine women’s basketball recruit Danielle Walczak is on the road to recovery.
The 6-1 forward from Oyster River High School in Durham, N.H., suffered a sprained right ankle during her team’s tournament quarterfinal last month. Walczak said she will spend two more weeks, a month total, in a cast.
“Recently, my ankle has felt a lot better,” Walczak said via a message on Facebook. “I feel as though the swelling has gone down and I’m in much less pain. I feel positive about where I will be in a couple months.”
Walczak, who signed an NLI in November, recently was named the New Hampshire girls basketball Gatorade Player of the Year. She averaged 19.2 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 3.5 blocks and 3.3 steals for the 14-6 Bobcats.
Walczak is a 4.0 student and also shot 72 percent from the field during her senior season.
“From talking with my trainer I should be ready to go before summer training at UMO and will get plenty of basketball work in before then,” she said.
UMaine football sets ‘Pro Day’
UMaine football players with an eye on playing at the professional level will have a final opportunity to show their stuff next week.
Coach Jack Cosgrove’s Bears have scheduled their “Pro Day” workouts for March 24 beginning at 8 a.m. in the Latti Fitness Center at Memorial Gymnasium.
Several UMaine players will perform for scouts from pro organizations, demonstrating their speed, strength, agility and football-specific skills. Tests include the bench press, hang-clean, vertical leap, 40-yard dash and the shuttle run.
UMaine’s candidates will include several of the outgoing seniors, among them wide receivers Tyrell Jones, Des Randall and Jeremy Kelley, linebackers Mark Masterson and Ryan McCrossan, defensive backs Steven Barker, Dominic Cusano and Levi Ervin, and defensive linemen Ryan Nani and Omar Jacobs.