Emotional Morant reflects on No. 12 jersey retirement

EDWARD MARLOWE | The Sun

Former Murray State Racer Ja Morant stands with his family and reacts as his jersey, No. 12, unfurls during Saturday's retirement ceremony at the CFSB Center in Murray.

MURRAY -- With an arena piled full of people wearing his jersey, Ja Morant got to watch his unfurl from the rafters of the CFSB Center on Saturday night.

There, next to Isaiah Canaan's No. 3, No. 12 will forever remain his and no one else's in Murray State men's basketball history.

He even looked to the sideline and joked to his former teammates: "Y'all can't wear it no more."

But just as he's always done in his brief -- but extremely bright -- college and NBA career, he credited his teammates, his family and his coaches for this moment. This surreal cap to a whirlwind three years from under-the-radar high school senior to two-time OVC champion to NBA supernova bound for February's NBA All-Star Weekend "Rising Stars" Challenge and, likely, an NBA Rookie of the Year trophy.

And then, he brought them out for the team's signature dance from the 2018-19 season, screaming "whoop!whoop!whoop!" with sophomore forward KJ Williams breaking down in the middle.

"It was very important," Morant said, about involving his "brothers." "Those guys deserve this moment as much as I do. This couldn't happen without them. I wasn't out there playing 1-on-5. I had teammates."

His voice cracked.

"If I could've had all of them from my freshman year and sophomore year here, I would. But that last moment was just something special that we carried on my whole season last year. The dance at the beginning of the game. We even did it sometimes in the locker room. Just to go out one more time on a special night with that dance? It just felt good, and hopefully made them feel good."

A near sell-out crowd roared for 15 minutes, as a tribute video played in Morant's honor.

Fifth-year MSU head coach Matt McMahon had a touching soliloquy, closing by saying "the best is yet to come."

And perhaps it is.

But what's already transpired was enough to cement his history.

"Definitely crazy," Morant said. "It just feels like everything happened so fast. My parents and my family talk to me every day, almost every day, and say, 'Yo, I don't know how you handle this at 20 years old.' Especially with how everything just came so fast. It wasn't spaced out or anything.

"These past two years have been crazy. A lot of accolades. Winning. The draft. Having my daughter. Now I'm one of the most talked about rookies in the NBA. Feels like I was just talking to you guys about going from a nobody to one of the most talked about players in college. And now it's like that in the NBA. And it's definitely crazy.

"But I feel like what I'm going through is just keeping me humble. Keeping me hungry. And just lets me go out there and play with a chip on my shoulder."

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