What’s up, everybody? I’m interning at The Players’ Tribune this week, and despite what your Twitter comments say, nah — I’m not just fetching coffee. I’m in Photoshop. I’m in Google Docs. I’m out here making content.
Since it’s NBA Draft Week, I invited a few of the top picks to sit down for a relaxed conversation at the TPT offices in New York City. We even let some fans get in on it through the magic of BlueJeans video chat.
Next up is Jamal Murray from Kentucky.
Alright, he averaged 20 points per game for the Wildcats. He’s the only freshman in Kentucky history to score more than 30 points in multiple games. Welcome to New York, Jamal. First and foremost, I’ve heard you talk about meditating and the importance of mental discipline. You’re a young guy. How did you get involved with meditating?
Well, my dad did a lot of Kung Fu when I was growing up, so he taught me a lot about mental toughness. Ways to slow your heart rate down, slow your breathing down to take control of your body so you can push yourself to the next limit. So meditating helps me relax and to think slow while things go fast around me.
I agree. We actually have a coach in Portland who comes in and she kind of teaches us how to calm our heart rates down, how to actually take time out of our day to give to ourselves — with no music, no phones, just darkness, silence. I told her that I would try to kind of meditate on my way back from practice each day. Put a little bit of music on. I’ll share some of my playlist with you. The piano, the violin, no words. It’s really great.
Let’s move on here. Coach Cal. We hear a lot of stories about him. We see him on the sideline. I love the slicked back hair. What’s the truth about him? Give me your best Coach Cal story.
Not just me, but his ability to get kids to the next level at such a high rate, every year, just making guys look good. He’s a great recruiter, but he’s underrated for how great of a teacher he is. He teaches each and every one of us individually on what aspects of our game everybody wants to see.
You can see the passion he has for you guys. He’s gone on record saying that he believes college players should be paid. He’s also been a spokesman for the one-and-done. He gives you the opportunity to play right away and he encourages you to leave. So I think that shows the type of person he is.
So you grew up in Canada. You’ve seen Anthony Bennett be the No. 1 pick in the Draft. You’ve seen Andrew Wiggins. You potentially could go No. 1 here. You’re almost a certain lock to go Top 5. First of all, tell me what hoops was like in Canada, growing up in that atmosphere, and tell me how proud you are to rep where you come from along with playing and representing your country.
I’m very proud of all the young kids in the community looking up to me. I’m just another piece of the puzzle — the trend that’s already started. It was different growing up in hockey country, but I lived close to a basketball court outside and so we’d just go work. It was fun.
I can see it. You’ve got a real unique opportunity here and I’m sure you’ll take full advantage of it. We got some fans that want to talk to you and ask you questions so let’s open it up to the fans now. What’s up, Nick?
Nick (fan question)
C.J. and Jamal, thanks for your time. I’ve got a question for both of you. What are the most significant off-the-court experiences that have helped you both get to where you are today?
Wow. I’ll start with me. Personally, just having to go through multiple injuries early on in my career. I got hurt my senior year of college. I ended up breaking my fifth metatarsal after I pulled out of the Draft. That was a good experience for me to kind of find myself, figure out a plan for post-basketball because obviously it doesn’t last forever. And then getting hurt again my rookie year, the last day of training camp and not being able to play. You know, after going through two-a-days and having to watch my team have success early on. We were a lottery team that ended up being one of the best teams in the NBA. Up to Christmas, we had the second best record in the NBA. So it was a tough time for me. I had to dig deep and kind of overcome that. But I would say the injuries have been very crucial for me.
For me, it was taking advantage of my opportunities. Being in Canada, there’s just not as many of them as there would be in the States. When you go to like the Nike Hoops Summit, or the All-Canadian Game, all those really matter in your development and how people perceive you as far as how good of a player you are. So I went to the Nike Hoops Summit twice. It was taking advantage of those opportunities.
Let’s get a question from the next fan. What’s up, Sam?
Sam (fan question)
Thank you for the opportunity, C.J. I was wondering, you came out of a smaller school, being Lehigh. How did it affect people’s perception of you going into the Draft? And then Jamal, coming out of Kentucky, how did that affect you?
Wow, that is a great, great question, Sam. I think, for me coming out of a small school, there were a lot of question marks. People were wondering if I could sustain that elite level of play on a nightly basis. Playing in a small league, obviously your games aren’t televised. A lot of people are unaware of who you are until they look you up on Google or YouTube or with social media now. And secondly, being at a small school, they said that I was pretty much undersized.
Well, being at a big school, I had to perform every night. I had to deal with a lot of fans, media stuff, interactions, relationships, you know, just to build myself and show how much I care about Kentucky. There was a lot of work we all put in to win every night and also balance that outside stuff.
Thanks for the question, Sam. We appreciate it. Thanks, Jamal, I know you got a busy schedule so I appreciate you coming in. I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot of you in the NBA in the future. Good luck on Thursday.
Next up we have Duke’s Brandon Ingram coming through. Click before for that one.