From Canada to Lexington, and now to the NBA, Jamal Murray had his NBA dreams realized Thursday night.
It happened early in Round 1 when Murray was selected by the Denver Nuggets with the seventh overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Though Murray was projected to go as high as No. 3 by some, he ended up falling a bit as it appeared No. 5 to Minnesota was the furthest he'd fall, but he ended up falling a bit more before Denver grabbed him.
While several NBA teams had Murray ranked as their 4th-8th best prospect, the Nuggets sound like they were as high on him as anyone.
How high were the #Nuggets on Jamal Murray? He was the first player on their draft board after Simmons/Ingram— Chris Dempsey (@chrisadempsey) June 24, 2016
The 6-foot-5 Murray was not only arguably the best freshman in college basketball, but one of the nation's best scorers all season long. Murray led the Wildcats in scoring at 20.0 points per game, which is the highest individual scoring average at UK in the John Calipari era.
"Jamal is one of the greatest kids,"Calipari said after Jamal declared for the draft. "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."
Murray finished the season with 720 points,giving him the school's freshman single-season scoring record. That mark is also good for eighth all-time among all players in school history.
"I think as far as talent goes, Murray has the ability to be the best perimeter scorer in this draft," ESPN NBA Draft analyst Chad Ford said on a teleconference June 17. "I think that he’s going to be a 20-point per game scorer in the NBA and one of the best shooters in this draft."
The Kitchener, Ontario, native posted three 30-point games this season, two of which came against SEC foes. The three 30-point games are the most by a freshman in school history, and his 35 points vs. Florida tied Terrence Jones (Jan. 11, 2011 vs. Auburn) for the single-game freshman school record.
Murray's ability to light up a scoreboard from deep is something every NBA team could use more of.
"If you’re watching the (NBA Finals) championship, shooting, there’s a premium in the league right now," Calipari said. "The game is becoming positionless. Whoever has it appears to be the point guard. That’s what he is. He’s 6-(foot)-5, he’s physical, he can slash, shoot the ball with anybody."
For his efforts, Murray earned many postseason accolades, including AP Third-Team All-America honors, as well as All-SEC First-Team recognition by both the AP and the league's coaches. He was tabbed a freshman All-American by Sporting News and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.
But the greatest accolade of them all was becoming an NBA player, not to mention the kind of prospect a team is willing to develop into a franchise-level star.