Jamal Murray already had a pretty impressive resume heading into the 2014 Nike Hoop Summit. He had been named co-MVP of the 2013 Jordan Brand International Classic, scoring 24 points in an impressive fashion to firmly put his name on the map. He went on to lead Canada’s U16 team in scoring as they won a Bronze Medal in the FIBA Americas and play a strong role as the only 1997 born player-representing Canada in the Nike Global Challenge. Even so, he was going to face a week in front of NBA scouts, going up against the likes of top ranked HS Class of 2014 point guard Emmanuel Mudiay. Murray thrived in the spot light, with a great week of practice and an excellent performance in the game.
Jamal Murray 2014 Hoop Summit Interview
Q: What was your experience in your first year at Athlete Institute?
JM: I enjoyed it. Couple of bumps and bruises, but next year is going to be good. It was fun overall, great guys, a lot of them from (CIA) Bounce. I know them all well, roomed with them and make jokes, was a good overall year.
Q: Can you give us some background on the Athlete Institute program and what brought you there?
JM: I mostly went there for my academics, needed to boost that up. But, I am good now. It was mostly for that, getting more tutoring and more help. I wasn’t given that at my old school as much, was busier. Also have a lot more of an opportunity at Athlete Institute, as we travel and go to the States a lot. We play against some really good teams, in good tournaments and next year is going to be even better. Was more of an opportunity and focus on academics.
Q: You played on Canada’s U16 team last summer, what are your plans in summer of 2014 for either Cadet (U17) or Junior (U18)?
JM: Am going to be playing with the U17’s or U18’s, am not sure which one yet. Will be playing for that one, going to Dubai hopefully, with a number of my teammates from last year.
Q: What do you expect your role to be this year on CIA Bounce?
JM: Last year I was more of a facilitator, more giving guys open shots, picking my spots. This year I think I am going to be more of a leader, more of a go-to guy, especially playing the point. Going to go left and right, set-up for other scorers, drive and kick. So mostly, look to score and drive to pass.
Q: What are your aspirations as far as someday playing on the Canadian Senior Men’s Team?
JM: That’s always the dream. That would be a great opportunity if I could do that. It would be a lot of fun, have watched those games and watched my teammates, my friends, play for the team and enter the NBA Draft. Would be a wonderful opportunity.
Q: What aspects of your game are you focused on improving?
JM: Quickness, strength and shot percentage stand out. Have to get stronger, jump higher, all of the physical attributes I need. I am the youngest one here and playing up, so I have to be able to bang with those guys and hold my own.
Q: What are your goals for your next high school season?
JM: Not much, just try to do my thing and lead the group. For now I am at Athlete Institute and haven’t decided where I am going to go yet. But, mostly just lead and second year be more comfortable, know what’s going on a little more and talk to my coach about the role on my team. Just try to find my spot.
Q: What do you do for fun when you are not playing basketball?
JM: Basketball (laughs). I study a lot, try to do that math. I enjoy doing math, it just takes a little longer to get it. Study basketball, play 2k, see my friends or something, but mostly just basketball. Only thing I have time for.
Q: Anything you do as far as preparation for a game?
JM: Depending on when the game is, if I know a day early, drink a lot of water or Gatorade. Visualize what I am going to be doing in the game, how I want to picture it how I want to play. Listen to music sometimes, sometimes just be independent, sit on my own. Have time to think about it and go over what I am going to do.
Q: Do you have any hype up music?
JM: Sometimes I just like to be clean and not listen to any music. Sometimes, you get a different mentality at times, listen to Busta Rhymes, Jay-Z, Meek Mill. But sometimes, I’ve got to run the slow tracks Alicia Keys, got all of those tracks too (laughs).
Q: What did getting selected to the Hoop Summit mean to you?
JM: Meant a lot. I knew how big it was, I watched Andrew (Wiggins) play in it. Thought it was going to be a good experience and it has been. Looking forward to the game tomorrow. When I first got the invitation, my dad came to school and he was telling me how I got invited and would be leaving in a week. I was amped to go, long plane ride to Portland, had a lot of time to think about it.
Q: What would it mean to beat Team USA and continue the World Team win streak?
JM: It would be really big. That was one of my goals just to be here, to represent Canada and represent International basketball. To go out and beat USA, to show that even though they are good, we are better and it is because of this team. That is definitely one of my goals, to beat them.
Jamal Murray 2015 Hoop Summit Interview
The World team did come up short facing a Team USA squad led by the Duke trio of Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones who would win the 2015 NCAA Championship. Even so, Jamal Murray finished the game with 10 points, second only to Mudiay’s World Team leading 20, outscoring future Kentucky Wildcats and fellow 2014 World Team starters, Karl-Anthony Towns and Trey Lyles.
While many were impressed with Murray’s overall scoring ability and how well he had shot the ball in practices, his having stayed in Canada to play at Orangeville Prep had still left him somewhat under-the-radar. While certain recruiting services had him on the cusp of five-star status, he still was not necessarily considered to be as highly regarded as a number of players that graced the 2015 World Team. We again got to catch up with him after he had an eye-opening week of practices that would lead towards a whirlwind that would see him become a household name in terms of his place among the top prospects outside of the NBA.
Q: How did you feel about your year at Orangeville Prep and did you reach your goals?
JM: Didn’t fully reach our goals, It was our first year having Thon and Matur (Maker), adding new pieces like Juggy (Jahvon Blair) and Keshaun (Saunders), who were big. Took us a little while to get our chemistry going, but after a while we clicked. Wish the season were a little big longer, because I believe we would have had a good run. Came up a little bit short in how we wanted to end the season, but overall it was a good season.
Q: How was your experience with U17 World Championships in Dubai?
JM: That was a good experience. We missed Justin Jackson; he was going to be a key part of our system. We had a good team overall, could have done better. We fell short in some clutch moments, but it was fun. Spent a month with those guys, went to France for a week and a half, than went to Dubai for a whole month. Got to see two new places I had never been with guys I love, so overall off the court it is was fun, some good times. On the court, I feel we could have done better.
Q: How was last years EYBL Circuit and are you thinking of possibly competing this year?
JM: I will be possibly competing with CIA Bounce in this year’s circuit, though I am not of sure my decision for reclassifying yet, 2015 or 2016. I am taking my time, my parents and my coaches handle the recruitment process, though I hope to be playing Bounce and the FIBA’s (U19).
Q: What are your thoughts on having the BioSteel All-Canada All-Star Game?
JM: I think it is cool, really shows how much Canada has grown over the years since (Anthony) Bennett, Tyler (Ennis), (Andrew) Wiggins, X (Xavier Rathan-Mayes) and all of them. They’ve all grown Canada; really developed Canada and we are next up here. Think it is good for all of the kids to really appreciate what they have, really looking forward to playing with and against guys I know. Should be a fun game, 3 days after the Hoop Summit.
Q: When I saw you earlier in the year, you told me that you had hoped to come to the game with your teammate at Orangeville Prep, Thon Maker. What is it like to like to actually be here with your teammate after having played here last year?
JM: Adds another piece, automatic chemistry right there. You have two guys who have great chemistry, on and off the court. Other guys like Cheick Diallo I have played with, Stefan Peno, Ben Simmons. I have either played with them or played against them, that is already a good group of players right there just off the bat. Off the court, I am really getting to know the other World Team players and really enjoying our experience.
Q: Have you put any thought into your possible college choices and do any schools stand out?
JM: Like I said before, my parents handle the recruiting process with my coaches. I am trying to stay focused on what I can do academically and on the court. I have no say in top schools or who I am leaning towards, even if I am going to be 2015 or ’16. Have no preference right now.
Q: What would it mean to you to win this game after coming up short last year?
JM: That’s my main goal, to win the game. Doesn’t matter, always try to win the game. Whatever it takes, loose ball, tip-in, an extra pass…
Q: Half-court shot (alluding to an early practice, where he hit a shot past half court to win a scrimmage)
JM: (laughs) Half-court shot. Whatever it is, I always try to win the game and I will do whatever it takes to win the game. Doesn’t have to always be scoring or anything like that, I am a willing passer and I am going to do anything I can to win this game. That’s what I am here for.
Jamal Murray Kentucky Announcement
In one of the more impressive individual scoring performances in Hoop Summit history, Murray finished with 30 points, 5 assists and joined the likes of prior #1 NBA Draft picks Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins as winners of the Hoop Summit in a thrilling 103-101 victory over Team USA. He had been a match-up nightmare for Team USA’s guards and had shone on a team with the likes of Ben Simmons, Skal Labissiere and Cheick Diallo, all considered top talents in the HS Class of 2015.
Three short days later, Jamal Murray put on a show in the first ever BioSteel All-Canadian game, scoring 29 points to go with 10 assists, although his team was on the losing end of a 99-95 contest. This only further confirmed Murray’s dominance at the high school level and led to further speculation that he was ready to go to the larger stage that is high major NCAA basketball.
On June 24, 2015, Jamal Murray made his college decision on Canadian national television. At TSN studios, he was draped in a giant Canadian flag, hiding his final college choice on a tie underneath. When he finally removed the flag, he was sporting a University of Kentucky tie, signaling he would be playing for John Calipari and the Wildcats.
Q: John Calipari has coached a number of elite point guards, is that a big reason why you chose Kentucky?
JM: That was definitely one of the main factors, just how he handles everybody on the team. Even last year, with all of those big players on one team, he was able to switch up his coaching style so quickly. He has a lot of intelligence in the game and I trust his expertise moving forward.
Q: This was perhaps the first time a player announced his college intentions on national television in Canada, why do you think it was necessary and what do you think it speaks to in terms of basketball in this country?
JM: I didn’t attend a school in the States, I stayed in Canada, stayed in my home. Thought it was good for me to wear the flag, honor my country. It has done a lot for me and I wouldn’t be in this spot if it wasn’t for them.
Q: What prompted you to reclassify?
JM: I had all of the offers I really needed, the situation was right. It was time for me to go, I did not need to spend another year of high school with the possibility of injury. All of my academics were done, so it was really just time for me to go.
Q: With people already saying you will be a NBA lottery pick, how do you manage to stay focus and block all of that?
JM: I’ve been going through that for a while. I just try to stay focused.
Q: Has coach Calipari said anything to you about where you will be playing as far as the split of minutes?
JM: I will be playing my natural position as the one. If he needs to move me around I will gladly move to the two. I can play multiple positions offensively and defensively, so the minutes were not really a factor.
Q: How much do you thrive on and love competing for minutes and having big roles on teams?
JM: That is just a part of practice. Practice is supposed to be as hard as the game, you really show up in practice. That is your time to shine.
Q: Jamal, obviously there is much more attention to a Kentucky basketball player versus an Oregon basketball player, how much did that influence your decision?
JM: I would say it didn’t. I try not to pay attention to the, attention. Just try to focus on the end goal and where I want to be.
Q: I’ve read about you wanting to be the #1 NBA Draft pick down the road, is that something you see as attainable, knowing that their have already been two Canadians to do it?
JM: Well, I am sure everybody wants to do it, so I wouldn’t see why I wouldn’t be able to say it. I see myself working hard and trying to get to that spot, trying to be at the top. Try to be the #1 draft pick. Right now I am focused on Kentucky and doing my work there.
While he is very soft spoken and humble off the court, you can see a quiet intensity and focus around Jamal Murray. Once he gets on the floor, a switch seems to be flipped that turns up his volume as a competitor. Before he left for Lexington, he had yet another chance to shine on the big stage with the Pan-American Games in Toronto. On a team filled with Canadian National Team veterans and featuring two NBA players in Andrew Nicholson and Anthony Bennett, Murray showed a maturity and drive that opened even more eyes.
He finished as the teams 2nd leading scorer behind Nicholson, with averages of 16 ppg, 3.2 rpg and 2.4 apg in a tournament filled with pro level players and grown men. In the semifinals against Team USA, Murray took his lumps for the first three quarters as Canada faced an 80-74 deficit. He would go on to score all 22 of his points in the fourth quarter and overtime, leading the final few drives of OT to give Canada a 111-108 win and a place in the championship. While they did finish with the Silver Medal, Murray was one of the absolute stars of the tournament and further cemented his status as one of the top prospects in the 2016 NBA Draft.
Even though he went through his ups and downs in what turned out to be his lone season at Kentucky, it has to go down as an absolute success. He averaged 20 ppg, the most among any freshman from a high major conference, to go with 5.2 rpg and 2.2 apg. He made over 3 three-pointers per game on 40.8% shooting, while showing how dangerous he was both with and without the ball as a scorer. All of this along with his strong work ethic and competitive edge have made him a mortal lock at the top half of the lottery. With Murray’s own experience with his fascinating rise to prominence, Canada basketball surely hopes that he will be their guide towards doing just the same.