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Jamal Murray’s commitment a huge boost for Kentucky

The Biosteel All Canadian basketball game

The Biosteel All Canadian basketball game

Rick Madonik

Earlier in the spring when there were rumblings that five-star guard Jamal Murray was considering a move into the 2015 class, many believed that Oregon was the team to beat for his services. With an assistant (Mike Mennenga) who at one point in his career was co-director of the CIA Bounce grassroots program and the addition of Dylan Ennis, a grad student who like Murray played for CIA Bounce, the general consensus was that if Murray played college basketball anywhere it would be at Oregon.

Well recruiting can throw a proverbial curveball on occasion, and Wednesday evening that was the case as Murray announced that he will attend Kentucky next season.

Murray announced the news on Canadian sports network TSN, and his decision gives John Calipari one of the nation’s top recruiting classes and best backcourts.

Murray represents the fifth addition to a program that lost seven of its top eight scorers from a team that went 38-1, with four of those additions coming on the perimeter. Murray joins another Canadian in Vincennes College transfer Mychal Mulder, and freshmen Isaiah Briscoe and Charles Matthews as perimeter additions for Kentucky with elite big man Skal Labissiere rounding out the class.

Murray can make things happen offensively either on or off the basketball, which is key when considering the presence not only of Briscoe but of sophomore Tyler Ulis. Ulis didn’t start a game last season but ranked fifth on the team in minutes per game (23.8 mpg), and his 3.6 assists per contest were tied for the team lead with the departed Andrew Harrison.

Ulis and senior Alex Poythress, who played in eight games last season before suffering a torn ACL, will be asked to provide leadership for a team that will lean heavily upon newcomers Briscoe, Labissiere and Murray.

While the expectations for Kentucky may not be as high as they were for an absolutely loaded 2014-15 squad, the addition of Murray helps Calipari in his quest for the Wildcats to play “positionless basketball” in 2015-16. And it also strengthens the argument that the Wildcats will once again be a national title contender.