BASKETBALL: Gordon Lee duo to stay together at GNTC

Gordon Lee seniors Hayden Murphy and Kannen Derryberry (seated, center, from left) will play basketball for Georgia Northwestern next season after signing their letters of intent on Tuesday. Also on hand for the ceremony was Leah Murphy and Amber Neal (front row). On the back row is Ricky Murphy, Ava Murphy, Gordon Lee head coach Matt Smith, Georgia Northwestern head coach David Stephenson, Paul Neal and Baleigh Smith. (Photo by Scott Herpst)

Gordon Lee seniors Kannen Derryberry and Hayden Murphy have been teammates for a while now and they see no reason to let a little thing like graduation keep them playing together for a while longer.

The two Trojans will continue to wear navy blue next basketball season, but "Georgia Northwestern" will replace "Gordon Lee" on the front of the jerseys as the sharpshooting duo signed their paperwork with the Bobcats and Coach David Stephenson on Tuesday.

"They're super excited about getting to play together again," Stephenson said. "They were wanting to continue to play together, so we're really blessed to get both of them. They seem like quality kids and quality players."

"It feels good," said Derryberry, who was named to the Region 6-A North second team and the Catoosa-Walker County first team last season. "This is always been a dream of mine. Murph and I have always thought about playing together, but my main focus is always been to play college basketball while I'm also getting a degree."

Derryberry said he expects an adjustment period as he transitions to the college game.

"It's going to be a lot different," he said. "I'm used to being the guy, but now I'm going to be just one of the guys. I just have to learn my role and do everything they ask of me. I've always wanted to be close to home and (Georgia Northwestern) has a good nursing program, which is what I want to go into."

Meanwhile, Murphy was a Catoosa-Walker honorable mention selection in his senior season. A long-range specialist like Derryberry, Murphy hit plenty of big shots for the Trojans during his time in Chickamauga.

"I'm just ready to work and I'm ready to see what I can bring to the team," Murphy said. "I'm ready to do whatever coach tells me to do. I can shoot the ball and use my range, plus I can pass and dribble, whatever the team needs. It feels good to be able to bring my teammate with me. We've always dreamed of playing together, so this is the next step up. I think we're ready for it."

Murphy added that he's already started establishing relationships with Stephenson and the returning Bobcats players.

"I like Coach Stephenson," Murphy continued. "He's really laid-back and more focused on mechanics. I've already had one practice with the team and I like my teammates. I think it'll be a good fit for both of us."

"With Kannen we're getting another athletic player at the two or three spot," Stephenson explained. "He's a slasher and it seems like we're getting a lot of them this year, but it's fine because we want to play a faster game than we've played in the past.

"With Hayden, I think we're getting a knockdown shooter type. We've always liked football guys because they're used to the physicality of the game. He comes with a really good attitude according to everything we've seen from him as far as our workouts go."

Gordon Lee head coach Matt Smith said he believes both players are ready to play at the next level and feels that their chemistry will only benefit the Bobcats.

"Hayden and Kannen are not only excellent three-point shooters, but they each bring other skills sets that will help the team," he said. "Hayden is an excellent on-ball defender, who will take charges and do the dirty work. Kannen is a solid rebounder and has a nose for the ball. He finishes at rim as well as anyone in the area and has the potential to be a high-level offensive player."

While Derryberry plans to study nursing, Murphy plans to get his core classes completed at GNTC and said he would like to pursue a career in sports management.