The Kentucky Wildcats have become very familiar to top-end Canadian basketball talent.
After adding Mychal Mulder earlier this year, and expected 2015 NBA draftee Trey Lyles last season, they increased their collection Wednesday evening when Jamal Murray declared he will be part of the Big Blue Nation for the upcoming season.
The 6-foot-5 guard out of Kitchener, Ontario, announced his decision live from the TSN studios, after mulling over offers from 30 potential schools.
Spending his high school career at Orangeville Prep under the tutelage of former NCAA head coach Larry Blunt, and playing for Canada’s AAU powerhouse CIA Bounce, Murray will look to take his next step under the wing of one of the NCAA’s top coaches in John Calipari.
Calipari’s resume includes a national championship, and guiding other dynamic guards such as Derrick Rose, Eric Bledsoe and John Wall, to name a few.
“It was definitely one of the main factors,” Murray said about Calipari’s influence on his decision. “How he handles everybody, even last year with all those great players on one team, he was able to switch up his coaching style quick.
“He has a lot of intelligence in the game, and I trust his word and how he’ll develop me.”
The 18-year-old Murray continued to turn heads this year, first dropping 30 points at the Nike Hoop Summit all-star game, following that up with 29 points, 10 assists and eight boards at the BioSteel All-Canadian game in April.
While Murray’s work has earned him the benefit of playing at one of the best basketball schools on the planet, the continued poise and work ethic has also impressed the Canadian basketball brass, an encouraging sign that the young guard will be a key cog in the nation’s continued rise.
“These athletes, they come along and they get so much attention so early, it’s really easy for them to lose focus of who they are, and what ultimately they’re about, and I never saw that with him,” said Rowan Barrett, assistant GM of Canada Basketball. “I really got the sense of a player who approaches a game like he’s the last man on the team, and I think long term for his success, that’s whats going to buoy him as he moves along.”
As far as any questions about playing the game at a high level on the big stage with the Wildcats, Murray seemed self-assured.
“I’ve always lived up to the expectation, and I hold myself to a high expectation. That won’t be a problem.”
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