Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari has enjoyed watching Jamal Murray’s evolution from college standout to burgeoning NBA superstar.
“Jamal Murray’s spirit on that basketball court was palpable,” Calipari said Friday during an appearance on Good Show one day after the Denver Nuggets guard’s memorable Game 4 effort against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Murray spent the 2015-16 season playing at Kentucky under Calipari before being selected seventh overall by the Nuggets in the 2016 NBA Draft.
The Kitchener, Ont., native has improved year-over-year as a pro and is nearing the end of his fourth season in the NBA. He has elevated his game in each of the past two playoffs, averaging 21.3 points in 14 games in 2019 and 26.9 points and a career-high 6.6 assists per game through 18 post-season contests in 2020.
Calipari said Murray’s versatility is one reason for his success.
“The thing that makes him different – there are players in the league who score shooting the ball. He can score the ball lefty, righty, off the wrong foot, fading away, making free throws, he makes free throws so if you foul him it’s two points, and he can make threes,” Calipari explained. “He can bomb a three. That’s why he scored here (at Kentuky).”
Murray is active at both ends of the court, too, something Calipari likes seeing from his former pupil.
“The other thing he learned to do (at Kentuky) is defend,” Calipari added. “You have to guard here or I can’t play you. I can’t have one guy lose a game because you’re getting scored on left and right. You watch (Murray), his hands, his ability to block shots, his ability to stay in front of people, his ability to play a big if he has to.
“And he’s only 23. It’s crazy what I’m seeing there. All the stuff he did (at Kentuky), he has mastered it to another level.”
Murray and the Nuggets will look to stay alive against the Lakers Saturday in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final.