Mychal Mulder's road to the NBA was long, and his stay there might be short.
Mulder is nearing the halfway point of a 10-day contract with the Golden State Warriors after toiling in the G League with the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Whatever happens when the contract runs its course, the native of Windsor, Ont., has shown he can hang with basketball's elite.
In four games since joining the Warriors last week, Mulder is averaging 12 points, 3.8 rebounds and 30.5 minutes per game, and has been in the lineup for two of Golden State's league-low 14 wins. He made his first career start in the Warriors' 116-100 upset of the Nuggets on Tuesday night in Denver, scoring 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the three-point line while playing a team-high 35 minutes.
The 25-year-old, who leads the G League with 152 three-pointers made this season, has shown a flair for offence at the NBA level by reaching double digits in points in three of his first four games, including 17 off the bench in a 124-110 loss to Washington on Sunday. The six-foot-four guard has also been called upon to guard the likes of Washington's Bradley Beal and Phoenix's Devin Booker.
"He's been doing great on both sides of the floor," Golden State forward Andrew Wiggins said of his fellow Canadian after the Washington game. "Defensively he's getting after it.
"He's fast, he's stronger than he looks. And on offence, he's shooting the ball well. He's playing with confidence, attacking and doing everything we need him to do."
Mulder's basketball journey began about 330 kilometres away from the hoops hotbed of the Greater Toronto Area. He said basketball talent in Windsor was often overlooked, but his Catholic Central High School team, coached by Windsor/Essex County Sports Hall of Famer Peter Cusumano, got exposure where it could by making trips to neighbouring Detroit.
"A lot of the high name guys you see out of Canada are from the GTA-Toronto area," Mulder told reporters recently. "My city was a bit overlooked. I thought we had some talent in our city, but not a lot of guys really got the opportunity they might have deserved.
"My high school coach did a great job of bringing us across the border and entering us in American tournaments and making sure we had every opportunity available to us to be seen."
After graduating from Catholic Central, Mulder received just one NCAA Division I scholarship offer, from the University of Detroit Mercy. He opted instead to start his collegiate career at Vincennes University of the National Junior College Athletic Association.
He transferred to NCAA Division I powerhouse Kentucky after averaging a team-leading 15.7 points per game and adding 6.9 rebounds per contest in his sophomore season as Vincennes posted a 30-0 regular-season record.
Mulder struggled in his first season in Kentucky in 2015-16, averaging 3.8 points and 1.1 rebounds over 24 games off the bench, and shooting just 17 per cent from three on a team led by Canadian guard Jamal Murray. He improved significantly in his senior season, averaging 10.6 points and shooting 36 per cent from three over 32 appearances, including two starts.
Unselected in the 2017 NBA draft, Mulder joined the Windy City Bulls of the G League for the 2017-18 season.
Mulder signed with the Miami Heat on Sept. 17 but was waived a month later. He started the season with the Skyforce, Miami's G League franchise, before finally getting his first crack at the NBA with the Warriors.
Understandably, Mulder said he jumped at the opportunity with Golden State.
"They said 'we want to offer you a 10-day," Mulder told reporters after signing the contract. "I know it's late, but would you be willing to get on a flight over here at 6 a.m.?'"
"I was like 'sir, I'll get on a flight any time you want me to. I'll get on a flight right now if you want.'"
Whether the Warriors keep Mulder around once his 10-day contract expires remains to be seen, but so far his protracted journey to the NBA has proven to be worth the wait.
MARCHING ON — Wiggins has had a great start to the month as he continues to impress with his new team. The forward from Vaughan, Ont., had 22 points and 10 assists in 34 minutes in the Warriors' win at Denver. He opened March with 27 points in the Warriors' loss at Washington. Golden State acquired Wiggins from Minnesota at last month's trade deadline.
STEPPING UP — Montreal forward/centre Chris Boucher had an impressive performance in the Toronto Raptors' 123-114 win at Phoenix on Tuesday. Boucher had 19 points — including a key three-pointer late in the game — and 15 rebounds to help a Raptors team that has been struggling with top centres Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka out of the lineup with injuries.
CONSISTENT BARRETT — Knicks rookie guard RJ Barrett of Mississauga, Ont., had 27 points — including an impressive left-handed layup with 7.6 seconds remaining — in New York's surprising 125-123 win over Houston on Monday. Barrett has scored at least 15 points in seven of his last eight games. That number could increase if he could figure out his struggles from the free-throw line. Barrett was 4-for-7 from the charity stripe on Monday and is shooting just 59 per cent from there on the season.
CHECKING IN — Miami centre Kelly Olynyk made his minutes count in the Heat's 105-89 rout of league-leading Milwaukee on Monday. Olynyk, from Kamloops, B.C., had 11 points in 11 minutes and nailed all three of his three-point attempts. ... San Antonio centre Trey Lyles of Saskatoon had back-to-back 20-point outings in a 114-113 win over Orlando on Saturday and a 116-111 loss to Indiana on Monday. ... Memphis forward Dillon Brooks of Mississauga is averaging 22.7 points over his last four games.
KEEP AN EYE ON — Mulder, Wiggins and Boucher all try to build on big games when the Warriors host the Raptors on Thursday night. Wiggins traditionally has big games against his hometown club.
CanaDunks, a weekly notebook on Canadians in the NBA, is published every week.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2020.
Curtis Withers, The Canadian Press