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Jamie Vaught: Junior college transfer Mulder expects to provide Wildcats with a deep threat

With Kentucky losing a handful of stars from last season’s 38-1 squad, it would mean the Wildcats have lost 79 percent of its three-point bombs made during the 2014-15 campaign.

Other than 5-9 guard Tyler Ulis who returns a nice portion of three-pointers (33 of 77 for a team-leading 42.9 percent) from last winter, who will help to take up the slack this year?

How about a Kentucky newcomer by the name of 6-4 junior Mychal Mulder, a transfer from Vincennes University?

Ranked No. 9 among the top junior college players during the summer of 2015 according to JucoRecruiting.com, Mulder would be an excellent choice for the long downtown jumpers.

While freshman Skal Labissiere (left) will play the post for Kentucky, 6-4 junior Mychal Mulder, a transfer from Vincennes University, expects to be a threat from long range (UK Athletics Photo)

While freshman Skal Labissiere (left) will play the post for Kentucky, 6-4 junior Mychal Mulder, a transfer from Vincennes University, expects to be a threat from long range (UK Athletics Photo)

While averaging 15.7 points and 6.4 rebounds as a sophomore last season, he hit 46.3 percent of his three-point field goals, helping his Vincennes squad to a remarkable 33-2 mark and a national No. 1 ranking for the most of the season. For his outstanding efforts, Mulder also was named junior college first-team All-American.

“I feel like shooting three-pointers consistently is something that is important to every basketball team, and that is something that I can provide,” said Mulder recently.

In last week’s UK Blue-White game, Mulder hit 3 of 10 three-pointers in his Rupp Arena debut.

“It was nice to see him come out and hit his first few in a row,” said UK assistant coach John Robic. “They were all good looks. They’re going to fall for him. He has confidence in his shot and his teammates do as well.

“For him, it was really the first time shooting at Rupp Arena in front of a big crowd. It was good to see. I thought they were all good looks after going back and looking at the tape. We have confidence in him.”

Also, Mulder hit 2 of 4 three-pointers for six points in limited action (nine minutes) in Monday night’s exhibition contest with Ottawa at Rupp Arena, a 117-57 Kentucky win.

The Wildcat rookie likes the distance of three-point arc (20 feet, 9 inches) in college basketball and added, “I’ve been shooting 3s for a long time,” he said. “I feel like every team I’ve played on, I’ve had the green light to shoot 3s. It’s not really like the hardest shot I can really say.”

A very athletic, explosive jumper with remarkable long-range shooting skills, Mulder didn’t expect to transfer to Kentucky until very late during the recruiting process. So he was looking at other schools, including Wichita State, Minnesota, Missouri and Indiana.

But Kentucky came calling and Mulder — a one-time Top 10 prospect in Canada while at Catholic Central High School in Windsor — he couldn’t say no to coach John Calipari.

“When UK came in, it’s kind of hard to ignore,” he said. “I had a lot of great schools recruited me and talking to people. I really appreciate all of the opportunities that were given by junior college. But you know when it comes down to UK, it’s a different world in Lexington.”

A big reason Mulder signed with Kentucky is the program’s proven record of developing future NBA players.

“I just thought, at the end of the day, playing at Kentucky is probably my best chance of continuing my career after college,” Mulder said shortly after his commitment to the Wildcats last April. “I hope to play professionally one day, and I felt like that would probably be my best opportunity.”

With UK loaded with prep All-Americans on its roster, some might question how much playing time the transfer will receive. But Mulder’s said he wasn’t worried.

“I never have been the guy who is about being promised minutes,” said Mulder. “All the best things that have happened to me in my career so far have come from hard work and being able to be around guys who want to work hard. This decision wasn’t based on minutes, but it was about who has the same goals as me, and who is going to work hard to be a national champion. This is the best place to be.”

Calipari has said he’d likely to use a seven- or eight-man playing rotation this winter. The Canadian was asked if he feels pressure to join that group.

“I feel pressure to be the best version of myself,” said Mulder. “That seven or eight is just the best group for the time. There are players for every situation. I feel like everybody has an opportunity to play if you prove yourself.”

Asked if Mulder will be one of the guys in the rotation, Calipari said in mid-October, “He’s in the conversation now. He’s got to work his way in and there are probably three or four other guys like that.”

Mulder added, “I feel like in order to be a part of that (rotation) I just got to show fight every day, compete, go hard with my teammates and show that I’m a good teammate on and off the floor. Just got do my job, whatever he (Coach Calipari) asks me to do, that’s what I got to do and I feel like that’s something we’re all working on.”

And Calipari said he is glad he has Mulder on his squad as the guard comes from a winning program.

Commented Mulder, who will have two years of eligibility left, “I’m going to bring a winning attitude that I learned (at Vincennes University) and try to carry over there. I know (Kentucky is) all about winning and that’s something I try to be all about too, so I’m going to try to carry that over and try to make an impact the best I can.”

Mulder is adjusting to the campus’ academic environment and is majoring in Integrated Strategic Communications.

“I’m taking communications (courses) at school and it’s been going really well,” he said. “Classes are great. Teachers here are great and I really like the students here. Everyone in Lexington has been really nice so it’s been a great experience.

“Usually you could walk to class in like five or 10 minutes tops, but now you have to go and catch a bus. It’s a big campus.”

Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime columnist in Kentucky, is the author of four books about UK basketball. He is the editor of KySportsStyle.com online magazine and a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Middlesboro. You can follow him on Twitter @KySportsStyle or reach him via e-mail at KySportsStyle@gmail.com.

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