Kentucky's Jamal Murray went from Canadian prep star to hoops 'poster boy'

Kentucky's Jamal Murray went from Canadian prep star to hoops 'poster boy'

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Kentucky's Jamal Murray went from Canadian prep star to hoops 'poster boy'

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DES MOINES, Iowa – To most college basketball fans, All-American point guard Tyler Ulis is the face of Kentucky basketball and freshman Jamal Murray is his very capable sidekick. To Canadian basketball fans, it’s the other way around.

“I would say there’s a growing number of people who will casually know who Jamal Murray is,” said Simon Garan, a producer at TSN, that country’s version of ESPN. “I would say the overwhelming majority of Canadians would have not much of an idea who Tyler Ulis is.”

Which is odd, not only because of Ulis’ star status, but also considering TSN broadcast 25 of Kentucky’s regular-season games and Sunday’s Southeastern Conference championship game across Canada. So the folks north of the border have had ample opportunity to get familiar with Ulis.

It’s just that up there, “the reason people are tuning into these Kentucky basketball games is almost entirely because of Jamal Murray,” Garan said.

And the Ontario native has not disappointed. Murray is averaging 20.1 points and shooting 42.1 percent from 3-point range for the Wildcats, who open the NCAA tournament Thursday night against Stony Brook. Canadians will be watching because TSN is showing that one, too, and airing an extended feature on Murray for the postseason.

“He’s perfectly hitting his stride and he’s playing with all this enthusiasm, has the bow and arrow going,” said Garan, noting Murray’s popular pretend-archer celebration. “It’s certainly going to be easy for Canadians to fall in love with him come tournament time.”

Many already have. Kentucky has been inundated with interview requests for Murray from outlets all across Canada this season. Media relations director Eric Lindsey said the sheer volume – TV stations in Toronto, newspapers in Vancouver, radio stations in far-flung locales – has been “kind of crazy.”

“We obviously have another marquee guy nationally in Tyler, and we’ve gotten a tremendous amount of requests and media attention for him, but Jamal has been something more,” Lindsey said. “Going back to last year’s historic team, where you had a ton of NBA picks and a team that was doing something nobody ever had before, we’ve never had this many requests.

“Most kids don’t understand the spotlight that’s here, but Jamal really didn’t understand that, so we had to walk him through it and say, ‘These requests are going to come in.’ Even we didn’t know they were going to come in to this magnitude.”

“I think it’s kind of the perfect storm,” said Larry Blunt, his high school coach in Ontario. “Jamal is kind of the perfect person to carry that torch and continue to build basketball here. He’s become the Canadian poster boy.”

Here’s a look back at Murray’s mixtape from his time at Orangeville Prep north of the border.

For more on this story, visit the Courier-Journal.

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