Kitchener’s Jamal Murray entering NBA Draft
Waterloo Region Record
By Kyle Tucker
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Jamal Murray posted an old photograph on social media last August, a grainy image of him as a grade-school boy in Kitchener shooting a basketball over his then-much-bigger father. Frozen there in time, Roger Murray claims, is the exact moment he knew his son could be a special talent.
“And I said it to his mom. I said, ‘One day, I’ll use this picture and come back and show you what I meant,’ ” the elder Murray said Friday, a good day to reflect as Jamal announced he was leaving the University of Kentucky after just one season and entering the NBA draft.
“When he held the ball in his hands, it was a physical, emotional, psychological love he had just looking at that ball. I knew with that kind of passion and that kind of energy, we could harness it properly, and that’s what we did.”
The son, now a 6-foot-4 guard who towers over his dad, officially became the 17th one-and-done of the John Calipari era at Kentucky by declaring his plan to hire an agent and begin the pursuit of his professional dreams. In his one season with the Wildcats, Murray set school records for points (720) and made 3-pointers (113) by a freshman.
“We’ve been working on this for a lifetime,” Roger Murray said. “I told him when he was a kid that if he listens to me, if he really gives me his ears, he will achieve his goals. And we set the bar really high. He wants to be the best player that ever lived, and that’s the path he’s on.
“We always envisioned being here, but we knew the work it would take to get here. He committed his own life to being here and did the work. It’s not an easy thing, but it’s very rewarding. Looking at him right now …”
There was a long pause, a knowing look between father and son, and then a tight-squeezing hug that looked like it might not end.
Dad dreamed this for his boy long before Jamal scored 20 or more points 18 times — and 30-plus three times — this season at Kentucky, before he earned multiple All-America honours, including second-team by USA Today and third-team by The Associated Press.
“He put me in this position. He’s gotten me to this spot and he’s taught me everything I know. I’m thankful to have him in my life and have him as my best friend, my mentor, my biggest critic and my biggest fan,” Jamal said. “Going on the court in the hot sun or doing pushups in the cold or making me rake up the leaves until I got my hands better and stronger — there’s a lot of little stuff (about) his kung-fu side I didn’t understand at first, and now I understand.”
Murray said his father drove from their home in Kitchener on weekends to watch him play and spend time with him at Kentucky.
“He did his part,” the son said, “and now I’ve just gotta take it from here.”
Cats coach John Calipari, who moulded Murray into a more efficient scorer and often lethal weapon by the end of last season, “did his part, too,” Murray said. “He made me better. He made me play winning basketball and make winning plays.”
Murray, who averaged 20 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and hit 40.8 per cent of his 3-point attempts this season, said there was a moment of pause after Kentucky lost to Indiana in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“I had the feeling that I did want to stay,” he said. “Obviously, you want to come back and you want to get revenge and play harder than you did before. But it was just the right decision … to enter the draft.”
Murray will be missed in Lexington, where he’ll go down as one of the most electric scorers in the program’s rich history. He’ll be remembered, too, for his bow-and-arrow celebration that briefly captivated the nation — and he plans to take with him to the NBA.
Calipari, who was away at the Final Four in Houston during the announcement, tweeted:
“Jamal is one of the greatest kids. The improvement he showed over the course of the season may be unmatched by anyone I’ve ever coached. He grew into a true winner and one of the most efficient scorers. What I love about Jamal is he’s a great teammate who has a smile on his face every day. I’m going to really miss coaching him.”