Randy Mulder drove more than 300 miles from Windsor, Ontario, to Lexington to watch every Kentucky home game last season. Then he would drive home.
Down and up Interstate 75 he went. Seventeen round trips.
“He even bought a new car just to make the trip,” his son, UK guard Mychal Mulder, said. His father bought “a car that was more comfortable for him.”
Mychal Mulder hopes the 2016-17 season is something of a new car, something that will be more comfortable for him.
“I feel totally different when it comes to how comfortable I am on the court … ,” Mulder said heading into his second and final season as a Kentucky player. “I thought I was comfortable last year. I feel like my confidence has only risen. I feel like having that little time to adjust has been really good for me.”
Mulder never seemed to get out of first gear last season. He arrived billed as a shooter. But he only made four shots all season.
“You know, I really didn’t log a lot of time on the court … ,” he said. “It’s not really anybody’s fault in particular but my own. Maybe I wasn’t ready for the situation. … But I feel I’m confident this year, and I’m ready to make an impact on the floor.”
It’s not unusual for junior-college transfers to need time to adjust to Division I basketball. That would seem especially true at Kentucky, which, of course, is among the programs at the pinnacle of the sport.
“There’s not a bigger stage in college basketball than Kentucky,” Mulder said. “Just being on that stage was a pretty big change.”
Yet, it would seem shooting is shooting is shooting. Mulder made 46.3 percent of his three-point shots for Vincennes University. Then he made only two of 12 (16.7-percent accuracy) for Kentucky last season.
But as Mulder said, he did not play much: No more than four minutes in any game after Jan. 16. He played a total of 20 minutes in the season’s final two months.
Tony Delk, one of UK’s best-ever shooters, said two years ago that shooters need playing time to settle into a groove and perform at peak efficiency. Hence, the label “rhythm shooter” describes how playing time affects shooting accuracy.
“If I see the ball go in, it definitely helps me,” Mulder said. “So maybe that’s what I struggled with last year. I didn’t really have a whole lot of time. And in that time, I didn’t make the ball go in the basket. There really wasn’t a rhythm to it.
“I feel like this year I’ll be able to catch a little rhythm.”
Mulder became something of a pinch-hitter for Kentucky last season. Five times he played four or fewer minutes, missed one shot and went to the bench.
It was the most difficult situation he’d ever been placed in, Mulder said. “But I had to learn how to handle that. How to play my role accordingly. The biggest part for me in that adjustment area was just being a great teammate (and) understanding my time will come. I just need to be patient.”
When reminded that he made only two of 12 shots from three-point range (four of 20 overall), Mulder shrugged.
“I wouldn’t even know … ,” he said. “If I got a minute and I got a shot and it didn’t go in, it hurt the stat, right? But I’m not really worried about the numbers from last year. I know how I can shoot the ball, and I know how I play.”
Mulder said he rededicated himself this past offseason. When last season ended, the realization of his eligibility clock ticking away hit home.
“So now, it’s like make-it-or-break-it,” he said. “Ever since that moment, I’ve kind of thought, this is my last opportunity of becoming what I’ve always dreamed of becoming and making an impact on the floor as a college basketball player and leave a mark here at Kentucky just as so many guys have done before me.
“And I just want to add my name to that list.”
Meet the Cats
Today’s stories on Isaac Humphries and Mychal Mulder are the ninth and 10th in a series of 14 on Kentucky’s 2016-17 men’s basketball players.