Mychal Mulder was supposed to be the starting shooting guard for Gregg Marshall at Wichita State. He was set to be the third piece in the Shockers’ 2015-16 backcourt, in between two of the best players in college basketball, seniors Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker.
That was Marshall’s plan for Mulder, so he said in his pitch, as he recruited Mulder for two years at Vincennes University, one of the premier junior college basketball programs in the country. Wichita State had been recruiting him since the beginning and the interest was 100 percent mutual.
But then something very unexpected happened in the spring of 2015 after Mulder played his last game in Vincennes: John Calipari and the University of Kentucky came into the picture. And when that happens, things change, momentum swings, and “Kentucky eats first,” as Cal has said in the past.
At that moment, when Kentucky expressed serious interest in the JUCO guard, Wichita State was no longer fighting off Creighton, the other school that had been on him from the get-go, and Indiana’s Tom Crean, who offered him at the end of the season. Now, Wichita State had to hold off John Calipari, the Champagne Papi of basketball recruiting, for a commitment Marshall had wrapped up seven months earlier, when Mulder was ready to sign his Letter of Intent in the early signing period.
So why didn’t he sign in the fall? If Wichita State was the pick, as it has been reported, why make Marshall and the Shockers wait until April to make it official?
The answer: Todd Franklin, Vincennes’ head coach, has a rule prohibiting his players from signing with a school in the fall of their sophomore season. So when Mulder received his official offer from Wichita State in October of 2014, the fall before his sophomore season, he couldn’t pull the trigger.
His high school coach, Peter Cusumano, said at the time, “Mychal wants to sign, but his JUCO coach is not letting him. They’re very high on him. They want him. Mychal wants to be there.”
Catholic Central High in Windsor, Ontario, Mulder’s high school, even went as far to post the news of Mulder’s commitment to Wichita State on the school’s website, but it was premature. Mulder would have to wait until the end of his sophomore season before signing any Letter of Intent, thus leaving things open for the tides to turn.
And turn they did, shortly after the 2015 NCAA tournament, when several high-major Division 1 programs came calling, including Kentucky. John Calipari had, uncharacteristically, missed out on all of his five-star targets in the spring signing period, and was desperate to add a shooter to his roster. Mulder was the best available, and it didn’t take long for the power of Kentucky to take over his recruitment.
On April 18, 2015, Calipari extended a scholarship offer.
On April 24, 2015, Mulder traveled to Lexington for an official visit.
On April 28, 2015, Mulder committed to the University of Kentucky over Wichita State, Creighton and Indiana, among many others.
It took all of 10 days from offer to signature.
At his signing day announcement and ceremony at Vincennes, Mulder said, “Calipari told me there is an opportunity there for me and it’s my choice to grab it. That’s all I ever wanted.”
Fast forward to today, when Mulder will play his final home game of his college career as a Kentucky Wildcat, not a Wichita State Shocker, as he had originally planned.
In looking back on that two-year career in Lexington, Mulder said, “I have learned a lot about myself as a man and as a basketball player. I have learned what it takes to win, what it takes to win at a high level. Just what the opportunity really is. Growing up you are always wanting to play in a place like this and play for a coach like this and have great teammates like I have been fortunate enough to have. So there is a whole lot of learning that has taken place over the last two years, and I don’t think I will forget any of them.”
“Coming in here as a basketball player I knew who I was, but as a young adult I was still growing, still continuing to grow,” he added. “But being able to play under Coach Cal and in his system, it really teaches you a lot — not just about basketball but about life. He’s setting you up to succeed in more areas than just basketball. He’s setting you up to be able to work under pressure, to be able to follow instruction, to be able to know who you are, so there is just a ton of life lessons that I have learned.”
In the coming weeks, Mulder could play a big role in Kentucky’s SEC and NCAA tournament runs — a situation, I assume, he never could’ve imagined at this time two years ago.
So shout-out to Vincennes’ policy on early signees, because without it, we never know Mychal Mulder at Kentucky.
Although, without Mychal Mulder at Kentucky, this poor guy from Asbury is probably still alive today: