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One and Gone: UK’s Murray excited and anxious for the journey that awaits him in the NBA

By Keith Taylor
KyForward sports writer

Jamal Murray has packed up his bow and arrow and is headed to the National Basketball Association.

Murray officially declared for the NBA Draft Friday, leaving as the school’s all-time freshman leading scorer. In his lone season with the Wildcats, Murray scored 720 points, the most for a freshman, shattering Brandon Knight’s record of 657 points he scored during the 2010-11 campaign.

Jamal Murray talks to reporters after declaring for the NBA Draft Friday (Keith Taylor Photo)

Jamal Murray talks to reporters after declaring for the NBA Draft Friday (Keith Taylor Photo)

In the 36 collegiate games he played, Murray became the first player in school history to hit a 3-pointer in every game. Murray, the first player to average 20 points per game in the John Calipari-era at Kentucky, scored 30 or more points in two games, including 35 in a Southeastern Conference win over Florida.

Prior to arriving at Kentucky, Murray made it a point to “get to a good university” to enhance his chances of playing at the next level.

“When I first committed to Kentucky, it was the biggest moment of my life,” he said.

It didn’t take long for Murray to make an impact for the Wildcats. Teaming with point guard Tyler Ulis, the pair formed one of the top backcourt combinations in college basketball. Personally, Murray developed into one of the top 3-point threats in the nation.

“Jamal is one of the greatest kids,” Calipari said. “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.”

Despite being projected as a Top 10 pick in the draft, Murray had second thoughts following Kentucky’s 73-67 loss to Indiana in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last month but opted against coming back for a second season.

“It was just the right decision,” said Murray, whose father joined him at the podium for the press conference at Memorial Coliseum. “My family and I came to the conclusion that this would be the best option to put my name in the draft.”

Murray’s father, Roger Murray, said following his son’s basketball career has been “fun” and a “challenge.”

“It’s been everything that you can imagine in trying to be the best you can be,” he said. “He has sacrificed a lot. As a young man coming up, I told him when he was a kid if he listens to me, he will achieve his goals. We set the bar really high. He wants to be the best player that ever lived. That’s the path he’s on. As a kid coming up, we always envisioned being here, but we know the work it would take to get here. He committed his own life to be here and did the work. I’m just happy he listens. That’s the biggest part of it that he actually listens.”

Now that he’s moving to the next level, Murray doesn’t plan on shelving his noted bow and arrow imitation after each made 3-point basket.

“That’s part of me now,” he said. “That’s something that fans and teammates have forever so I’m going to carry it for the rest of my life. It has meaning behind it now.”

Murray, the first of several Wildcats who are expected to officially declare for the draft, also is excited about the challenges that await him at the next level.

“It’s been a crazy experience and I had a lot of fun this year,” Murray said. “I’m excited to take on the challenges and see the journey ahead of me.”

Several of Murray’s teammates are expected to test the NBA waters as well, but have not yet hired agents. The most likely Cats to join Murray are Ulis, Skal Labiessiere and Isaiah Briscoe. Alex Poythress is a senior.

Keith Taylor is a columnist and senior sports writer who covers University of Kentucky athletics for KyForward.com

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