Jamal Murray doesn’t get to come home often. Not back to Canada, and even less often back to the Kitchener-Waterloo region in Ontario where he was raised.
This off-season has been a busy one for the 20-year-old Murray. He’s travelled the globe partly for fun and partly due to sponsorship obligations all while trying to work on his game and get his body healthy. But earlier this week he put some time aside to put on a clinic of on-court drills for aspiring young Canadian basketball players at Conestoga College in conjunction with the BMO NBA Courts Across Canada program.
Murray played his high-school ball locally at Grand River Collegiate Institute before playing at the Athlete Institute in Orangeville en route to his one-and-done season at the University of Kentucky. He’s hoping more young Canadians can stay at home in Canada and play and still chase their NBA dreams, which is why he’s helping the NBA’s initiative to refurbish courts across Canada.
After putting up 9.9 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game in his rookie season there has been speculation this summer Murray could start for the Nuggets at point guard over Emmanuel Mudiay or even be traded for Kyrie Irving.
I talked to the guard going into his second season about adapting to the NBA, eating healthy, the trade rumours he’s been mentioned in, and the international growth of the game.
SN: What are you looking forward to this upcoming season?
Murray: I’m excited to be healthy. I think that’s the biggest thing. Last year wasn’t the best in terms of my health. This year it’s going to be a lot of fun just to be able to move and do what I do like I used to without any pain.
SN: What was bothering you the most?
Murray: I had surgery on my core muscles. They were ripping apart. I got that fixed so now I can get out of bed properly and sit up and all that. It definitely limited what I could do throughout the season but now I’m good. I’m definitely happy I’ve had the summer to rest and take care of that.
SN: What’s it like to be back home?
Murray: It feels good. Good to be home, see my family, see my friends, see these kids. I’m only home for a limited time so I want to make the most of my time and give back.
SN: Via Instagram I’ve noticed you’ve done some world travelling. What’s that been like?
Murray: A lot of fun experiencing different cultures and the way they do things. I’ve been trying to stay in shape while I’m there which is very hard. But it was a lot of fun to travel and experience those things and see all these different places.
SN: What is it like for you to see the growth of the game internationally when you are abroad?
Murray: It means a lot especially for me as an international player and someone who plays for my country it means a lot. The one thing you notice about the kids overseas that is the same as the kids here is that they have fun with it but now they have dreams to play professional basketball also.
SN: What do you want to impress upon the kids you are working with in these clinics?
Murray: I just want to spend time with them and have fun. I don’t want to overwhelm them with anything. I want them to be able to come up to me and ask questions without pressure.
SN: You’re taking part in an initiative with the NBA and BMO to refurbish courts. Why is that important to you?
Murray: I want to be able to do that and make sure courts are runnable for kids to play on and safe. It’s a great initiative to be renovating all these courts because I’ll be using them too once they get finished.
SN: What did it mean to you to see the Canadian under-19 team win gold?
Murray: It means a lot. Playing in it and knowing how hard it is to win all that so it was great to see this team (do what it) did. They have some great players and great confidence. They got the job done unlike we did when we tried.
SN: Have you had a chance to catch up with your high-school teammate Thon Maker this off-season?
Murray: He was with me for a lot of these events in Vegas especially. We’ve had a great connection since high school. He is still one of my best friends on the basketball court and we got a lot of workouts in together.
SN: This is your first experience with the crazy NBA off-season and rumour mill. How are you handling it?
Murray: It’s different knowing I could be in Cleveland right now. I could be in Minnesota. I could be anywhere in a couple days. It’s kind of nerve wracking because you don’t know what’s going on and there are so many rumours. I just have to stay ready and prepared for any opportunity.
SN: How many texts have you gotten about it?
Murray: I don’t really text a lot of people so it’s good to have nobody texting you about it. [laughing]
SN: Do you guys talk about it amongst yourselves as a team?
Murray: We kind of wait until it’s all said and done before we talk about it. We try and make sure everybody is on the same page with the guys that we’ve got. We’re going to have some workouts later to see what everybody has been doing. We kind of wait for the season and wait until we have everyone united and together before we make any decisions.
SN: What do you want to improve on in your sophomore season?
Murray: My health and my consistency in everything I do. Whether it is my shooting or going to bed on time. There are so many things you can do to be consistent.
SN: Is that the biggest difference after becoming a pro?
Murray: Yeah there are a lot of things that guys do that helps them and gets them into their routine. How they take care of themselves and what they do at home. I’m going to try and get into that and create my own routine and my own space that I can go to when I need to.
SN: Is there something from a veteran you’ve adopted and put in your maintenance routine?
Murray: Wilson (Chandler) is vegan. Wilson doesn’t eat meat. So, I’ve seen what he does and what he eats. He has a lot of smoothies, he’ll have different types of sandwiches and it helps him. So, I’ve been trying to eat more healthy this summer and take care of my body like he does throughout the season.
SN: No meat? That’s devastating.
Murray: I know. I’m like a carnivore. [laughing]