By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach John Calipari didn’t say that Jamal Murray should be SEC Freshman of the Year with games left to be played.
“I know he’s awful good. Awful good. And he’s playing winning basketball, which he didn’t at the beginning of the year. He just played basketball – whatever happened, happened. Now he’s playing to win and you’re seeing a guy on another level,” Calipari said Friday.
“Less shots – you ready? – more points. Less turnovers, more assists. Getting to the foul line. Now, defensively, he’s not as (much of) a liability as he was early in the year, because he works. Every day, he comes out (and works). The other day, guys laughed; he said, ‘I’m a stopper. Let me guard him.’ They said at the foul line they all busted out laughing.
“But he’s now taken on that mentality: ‘I want to guard,’ and that’s the first step. So he’s good, but there are other good freshmen in the league.”
Murray averages a team-high 19.4 points per game, has made at least one 3-point shot in every game and has scored 20 or more points in seven straight games going into Saturday’s game in Nashville. He says he would like to be SEC Freshman of the Year.
“I’m just trying to work hard to win that, and prove that I’m one of the top players here. But that’s not really my main focus right now. Just focused on finishing out the season strong, first of all, and putting my team in the best place possible,” he said Friday.
Murray has been on a shooting tear in recent games. Or has he?
“I mean, I’m not really hot. I’m just hitting shots that I should be hitting and I’m doing it in consecutive games. So I’m just trying to keep this play up and get the W. That’s all we really care about,” he said. “I’ve been way hotter, yes. But right now I’m just shooting open shots, taking good shots and it’s working out for us. Whatever the team needs me to do to contribute, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Murray admits at times he’s hit more than 50 consecutive shots in practice.
“I can’t do that in a game, but I’ve had a glimpse of it before,” he sad. “It’s just a groove that you get into and it’s fun to be able to hit shots like many people can’t hit at a time. It’s a good feeling.”
“You take any shot and you just know it’s going to go in. I have a lot of fun doing that and try to get hot a lot.”