Meet the Wildcats: Humility, hard work fuel Mulder’s drive

A new season brings new players and new stories to tell. Over the next several weeks, will be profiling Kentucky’s newcomers in its annual and exclusive “Meet the Wildcats” series. Each story will be accompanied with video. Next in the series is Mychal Mulder, a hard worker with something to prove.

ychal Mulder is a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

He is a newcomer, and yet he is a leader. He’s humble, but he’s eager to show what he can do. He went to a junior college because he didn’t have much exposure coming out of high school. Now he’s playing at the winningest basketball program in the country.

To say Mulder’s path to Lexington has been different would be an understatement. The 6-foot-4 wing from Windsor, Ontario, is just the third junior-college commitment in the last seven years under Kentucky head coach John Calipari, and he is chomping at the bit to play at Rupp Arena in front of 24,000 fans for the first time.

“It’s amazing to me that he would – such a great coach, such a great program – give me such an opportunity,” Mulder said. “Not all schools are willing to go look at JUCO at all. When I had Coach Cal reach out to me, it was real special to me. I didn’t ever expect it to go that far. I kind of thought going to JUCO I was going to play NCAA. I was determined. But I kind of thought I had a ceiling. But then Coach Cal reached out to me, I’m standing outside, and I’m like, there is no ceiling.”

Bio Blast

Position: Guard
Date of birth: June 12, 1994
Parents: Randy Mulder and Jennifer Gignac
Hometown: Windsor, Ontario
High school: Catholic Central High School
Nickname: Mike
Twitter: @MychalMulder
Instagram: @mikemulder11
Favorite TV show: Breaking Bad
Favorite food: Steak or lobster (“I don’t discriminate with food”)
Favorite superhero: Superman
Favorite player: Michael Jordan
Favorite sport/hobby outside of basketball: Hanging out with friends, video games
Favorite movie: Friday
Favorite artist: J. Cole

Mulder, a junior who transferred from Vincennes University, a junior college in Vincennes, Ind., packs a reputation as a sharpshooter, having hit better than 46 percent from deep as a sophomore. Talk to him for five minutes and it’s easy to see he will be much more than that for another young Wildcats squad.

A leader by example, Mulder believes one of his roles on the team is to be the guy who is always giving his all.

“Fans can expect to see a kid who works hard and someone who they know they can trust that by the end of the game he’s still going 100 percent,” Mulder said. “They’re not going to see any laziness or attitude, ego or nothing like that. Coming from where I came from it’s not like I was really rubbed out a whole lot. It’s all about working hard, and I feel like that’s what they want to see from me, so that’s what they’ll get.”

That shouldn’t prove to be too difficult for the blue-collar Canadian. Mulder’s work ethic has been molded since a young age and has been nurtured by the fact that he has never been the well-known, five-star, blue-chip prospect that everybody is talking about.

As a freshman at Vincennes, Mulder roomed with sophomore point guard Paris Burns, who now plays for the University of Illinois-Chicago. With Burns serving as a mentor, the two worked out in the gym both late at night and early in the morning. Conversations centered on maximizing their talents, something Mulder not only practices but preaches frequently. It was at Vincennes with Burns that Mulder learned Grinding 101.

A leader by example, Mulder believes one of his roles on the team is to be the guy who is always giving his all.

A leader by example, Mulder believes one of his roles on the team is to be the guy who is always giving his all.

With junior college being a place most players are hoping – and often expected – to play for only two years, Mulder was looked upon to lead the next season as a sophomore.

No problem.

He would go on to earn first-team junior-college All-America honors while guiding the Trailblazers to a 33-2 record and average 15.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. And while he’s a newcomer at Kentucky, that leadership isn’t being left behind.

“There are so many young guys, and these guys are great players, but not all of these guys are initially ready to lead right out of high school,” Mulder said. “We have a couple older guys on the team, myself included, who I feel like will do the majority of the leading, and that’s a position I’m ready to take. You kind of have to move fast when you’re in JUCO. You’re a freshman and then as a sophomore you’re expected to lead. That’s not really something I’m worried about. I feel like I can provide that for the team.”

“I’m so excited to be coaching Mychal. He’s been in a great program the last two years and been pushed hard by a terrific coach. His teams have won and he’s shared, yet he was still rewarded as a First Team All-American. He fits our program.” – Coach Cal
He can also provide the team with outside shooting. Gone are Devin Booker and Aaron Harrison, the Wildcats’ top two 3-point shooters from a year ago, hitting 58 and 59 3s last season, respectively. Mulder, who hit 88 3-pointers last year, says he has no hesitation to shoot if he’s left open, but he won’t pull if there’s no reason. If the team is down two and needs a 3, Mulder says he’s “absolutely” comfortable in taking that shot.

What will surely be helpful to him is having so many other options. The Cats look to have three of the best guards in the Southeastern Conference and country in sophomore Tyler Ulis and freshmen Isaiah Briscoe and Jamal Murray. Down low, the Cats have one of the top prospects in the country in Skal Labissiere, as well as junior Marcus Lee and senior Alex Poythress.

“I feel like it provides me with a great opportunity to showcase what I can do,” Mulder said. “That’s going to be a good situation for me.”

Overall, it seems like Mulder views obstacles and hurdles as opportunities and potential.

That’s why following his eighth grade year, Mulder decided to uproot himself. Instead of going with all of his friends to the county school, Mulder opted to move to the city school, Catholic Central, which had a reputation for producing a number of good players.

“That was a big decision for me, but I felt like, at this point I’m thinking my parents might not have to pay for school after high school if I do this,” Mulder said.

With Devin Booker and Aaron Harrison gone, Mulder's outside shooting will be big for the Wildcats.

With Devin Booker and Aaron Harrison gone, Mulder’s outside shooting will be big for the Wildcats.

Mulder’s parents aren’t the only ones who he keeps in mind with his basketball playing abilities. He’s also thinking about his older sister and her newborn baby.

“She just had a daughter not too long ago so I’m recently an uncle,” he said. “I’m thinking about what can I do for this little baby? What can I do?”

As a kid, Mulder played baseball, where he was a shortstop, and soccer. In high school, he was talked into playing football by his friends, where he was a wide receiver, tight end and defensive end.

Outside of basketball, Mulder says his passions are his friends and family. He treats people with respect and hopes they do the same to him. Between the lines, he says he’s not opposed to a little talking, but he still shows respect.

Mulder comes to Kentucky with a chip on his shoulder, something he loves to have. The chip was born out of being a junior college prospect from Canada, which makes him one of few in either category. Combined? Even fewer. Now it’s time to show people what he can do.

“Complacency is not something I have in my vocabulary.
Coming from JUCO is all about getting to the next spot, right? And then I come here, and again, I have another two-year window to get to the next spot. That’s all I think about.” – Mychal Mulder

“I feel like I have a ton to prove,” Mulder said. “I don’t feel like I want to stand out, necessarily. I want to just prove the stereotype wrong of the JUCO, lazy, failure type guy. Not everybody in JUCO has that story. Some are non-qualifiers because of their grades. Some are more like me where the exposure just wasn’t where it needed to be at the right time, so you just need to take another route. I feel like I have a lot to prove. I want to show kids they don’t have to worry if they have to go to JUCO. That’s not a failure. You just work hard in that two years and you get what you got to do.”

Just making it to Kentucky isn’t the end goal for Mulder though. For the wing player with as much athleticism as anybody on the team, Kentucky is the next step in his journey, and he’s ready to make the most of it.

“Complacency is not something I have in my vocabulary,” he said. “Coming from JUCO is all about getting to the next spot, right? And then I come here, and again, I have another two-year window to get to the next spot. That’s all I think about.”