February 23 no ordinary day for Jamal Murray

Freshman guard Jamal Murray (23) high fives his teammates prior to the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Tuesday, February 23, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won the game 78-53. Photo by Hunter Mitchell | Staff

Josh Ellis

[email protected]

Feb. 23 isn’t just another day for the kid from Kitchener, Ontario. Feb. 23 is a day to be celebrated, a day to be amazed and a day to be remembered. 

On Feb. 23, 1997, Sylvia and Roger Murray celebrated the birth of Jamal Murray. Nineteen years later, their boy has become a household name for college basketball fans across the country. 

His father Roger Murray, a former track athlete who excelled in the 100-meter dash, put the orange leather sphere in Jamal Murray’s hands before he could even form words or walk. Jamal Murray grew up with a passion for basketball, an obsession for winning and most of all, a love for the game.

Jamal Murray would attempt to duplicate his father’s competitive and hardworking spirits as a child, and those spirits have undoubtedly shown on the basketball court.

Off the basketball court, he looks up to his mother Sylvia Murray and his younger brother Lamar Murray. The three share a bond that overflows with trust and support, a bond that can never be broken.

As Jamal Murray got older, the more attention he got. The 6-foot-4 guard was notched as a top-15 prospect in almost every recruiting service — an attractive five-star who could shoot the lights out on any given night.

He made a name for himself at the Nike Hoop Summit while playing for team Canada, dropping 30 points in the duel against team USA. When he decided to reclassify to the 2015 class, his rankings either stayed the same or shot up. Jamal played a huge role in Team Canada’s quest for a gold medal in the 2015 Pan-American games, coming up just shy with silver.

Then it was time — time to make a decision where he wanted to play his college ball.

It seemed almost certain to some that Jamal Murray would reside in Eugene, Oregon, sporting the hundreds of different uniform combinations splattered with neon yellow and green. However, on June 24, 2015, he reclassified and was the last of six-man class heading to Lexington, Kentucky.

Jamal Murray took the moniker of being a Wildcat and ran with it.

In his first game wearing No. 23 for the blue and white (23 because it’s his date of birth), Jamal Murray scored 22 points, snagged 12 rebounds and dished nine assists in an exhibition against Ottawa. Then in the season opener, he had 19 points, eight assists and three steals. Big Blue Nation was amazed at the potential this kid possessed.

But little did they know there would be a lot more to cheer for down the road.

On Feb. 23, 2016, Jamal Murray scored — as one could imagine — 23 points. It was the freshman’s 13th game of the season, and 7th straight, with at least 20 points. The streak is the longest since Jodie Meeks had nine consecutive 20-point games in 2008-09.

And on top of that, Feb. 23 was also his 26th straight game scoring double figures, the most since Brandon Knight had a 28-game stretch in 2010-11.

Not only does Hall of Fame UK basketball coach John Calipari know Feb. 23rd’s victory over Alabama was a day to remember for Jamal Murray, but it was also a day to look back and see how much the freshman had improved since first stepping foot on campus.

“I mean, how much better is he?” Calipari said to the press after the Alabama game. “Oh my gosh, he’s not even the same player. His shot selection, he’s not turning it over, he’s defending better, he’s getting by people, he drawing fouls.”

But scoring 23, while wearing 23, on Feb. 23, was a day Jamal Murray and the rest of Big Blue Nation will never forget.