BROOKLYN, N.Y. – It was another successful evening for the University of Kentucky men’s basketball program at the NBA Draft as Jamal Murray (seventh, Denver Nuggets), Skal Labissiere (28th, Phoenix Suns) and Tyler Ulis (34th, Phoenix Suns) were selected in the 2016 draft on Thursday (June 24).
Murray is the 11th UK player since 2010 to go in the top seven picks. Labissiere is UK’s 21st first-rounder in the John Calipari era, while Ulis will join four Wildcats in Phoenix after being selected 34th overall. In a proposed trade, Labissiere’s rights were sent to Sacramento, where he will join three former UK players.
“It was another nerve-wracking night waiting for draft picks to be made,” Calipari said. “I always wish the guys were drafted in better positions, but we got three in the league and all with good organizations. Although Alex (Poythress) didn’t get drafted, I’m proud of the position he’s put himself in after what he went through a year a half ago. I’m confident he’ll get a contract just like Aaron Harrison last season. At the end of the day, it was still a life-changing draft for several of our players and their families. I’m just so proud of the guys. They’ve all earned this and have chased their dreams. I know they’ll all be ready for more.”
The Wildcats have had more top-10 picks, more lottery selections and more first-round picks in the Calipari era than any other team in the country.
“Denver sounds good,” Murray said in an interview with ESPN. “I’m just happy to be with a good organization and a part of the NBA now. It’s been 19 years of me waiting for this moment so it’s a big experience. (I’ll do) whatever the team needs. It’s going to take me a little bit to get into the flow of things and just feel the team and the NBA. I’m down to do whatever. Whatever it is, I’m ready for it.”
In seven seasons with Calipari at the helm, Kentucky has churned out three No. 1 selections, 21 first-rounders, 14 lottery picks and 28 total players in the NBA Draft. The 28 draft picks is more than twice as many as the next school (Duke and Kansas) since 2010. With another surge of first-round picks, Kentucky has more first-round selections (34) than any other school in the NBA lottery era (since 1985).
Kentucky has now had 119 players drafted 121 times in its illustrious history with 42 players selected in the opening round.
“It’s a great blessing. I’ve been waiting on this my whole life,” Labissiere said in an interview with ESPN. “I’m thankful to be a part of the NBA. At first it was nerve-racking (waiting to be selected), but after a while I realized it was God’s plan for me. Wherever he wants me to go, that’s where I want to go. I know I’ll be successful in the league.”
It is the seventh consecutive NBA Draft that Kentucky was represented by multiple players in the first round of the draft. UK is the only program since the draft went to two rounds in 1989 to have multiple players selected in the first round in seven straight years. Calipari is the only coach to have multiple players selected in nine consecutive NBA Drafts, dating back to his time at Memphis.