UK bench hits mark with celebrations – The Courier-Journal

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UK G EJ Floreal explains arrow celebration.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – UK reserves EJ Floreal, Mychal Mulder and Jonny David find themselves firmly outside of the primary rotation heading into postseason play, but the trio were still among the stars of Kentucky’s 85-59 win over Alabama in the Southeastern Conference tournament on Friday.

In a season where Monmouth’s bench became known for its choreographed celebrations, the UK reserves have begun to have their own fun. The act started in the regular-season finale against LSU when Jamal Murray’s now-routine bow-and-arrow celebration after a made 3-pointer ended with Floreal pretending to have been shot by the imaginary arrow. As David supported Floreal’s limp body, Mulder then pretended to bring him back to life with a defibrillator.

“Most teams you watch and the bench sometimes isn’t into it,” Floreal said. “It’s just really boring to watch, but we just have a lot of fun and we just try to enjoy the process and the fun. We don’t have unlimited time together. We just enjoy all the moments we have.”

In the SEC tournament opener, the celebrations expanded to include variations where Floreal pulled an arrow out of his shoulder, Mulder caught an arrow and broke it over his leg and David took a shot in the chest after Floreal ducked out of the way.

All the UK players credit Floreal with inventing the celebration. Floreal gives the nod to Dallas Mavericks guard Wesley Matthews.

“I like how he plays,” Floreal said. “He shoots the bow and arrow after every 3. I just said, ‘I’m going to bring it to college.’”

The bench players actually did not include Murray in the planning of the celebrations. Floreal simply instructed the Wildcats’ star guard to make sure he shot the arrow in their direction after a made 3-pointer.

Then Murray gets to be surprised like everyone else about what comes next.

“I just know my job is to shoot the shot and shoot EJ with the arrow,” Murray said.

UK’s bench has had plenty of opportunities to prepare for Murray’s shooting.

The star freshman guard tied a school record against Alabama with a 3-pointer in his 32nd consecutive game. He already holds the UK freshman record with 104 made 3s and is closing in on the NCAA freshman record (122) and UK single-season record (117). He has scored at least 20 points in 11 consecutive games.

While UK’s bench players are prepared for Murray’s 3-point barrage, even they were caught off guard when normally stoic senior forward Alex Poythress fired off a bow-and-arrow celebration after hitting one of his season-high four 3-pointers against the Crimson Tide.

“The last guy I’d expect to do it is Tyler (Ulis),but Alex is for sure up there,” Floreal said. “He’s very reserved during the game unless he’s yelling after a dunk. That type of celebration caught me off guard, but I’ll be ready next time.”

With the growing notoriety associated with the celebrations, “next time” appears almost certain. Floreal even left the door open for the celebrations to expand from bow and arrows if other players come up with their own moves.

Floreal made sure to clear his idea with John Calipari, telling the UK head coach if it became a distraction he would stop.

“He said, ‘No, I love it. I love that you’re having fun,’” Floreal said.

Fun is the operative word for a Kentucky team that appears to be clicking heading into NCAA tournament play.

Calipari’s teams have built a reputation for playing their best basketball in March, and the current squad appears to be no exception to that trend. That success should bread future opportunities for celebration, but there are some boundaries.

Would Murray consider shooting Calipari?

“I’m not going to test my waters yet,” he said with a laugh.

Perhaps the next logical step for the celebration will occur when Floreal gets a chance to return the favor. He made a late cameo in the blowout win over Alabama, but Calipari directed his players to hold the ball until the clock expired on Floreal’s only possession instead of giving the former walk-on a chance at his own 3-pointer.

If that chance comes and Floreal converts the 3, expect the biggest celebration yet.

“I’m not just shooting Jamal,” Floreal Said. “I’m shooting Jamal, Alex, Tyler, Isaiah (Briscoe),Jonny, Tai (Wynyard),Kenny Payne, Coach Cal, everybody. There’s going to be like 15 arrows.”

Email Jon Hale at Follow him on Twitter @JonHale_CJ.





UK bench hits mark with celebrations – The Courier-Journal

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