Keegan, Kris Murray Silence Early Critics
Keegan and Kris Murray signed letters of intent with Iowa’s basketball program in November of 2019.
They had committed to the Hawkeyes the month before, as they prepared to play one season at DME Sports Academy in Daytona Beach, Fla. The reaction to their commitment was not well received in some circles.
In fact, some people went to social media to criticize Coach Fran McCaffery for taking the twin sons of former Hawkeye Kenyon Murray.
Not three years later, Keegan looks to be a lock as a Top 10 pick at the June 23rd NBA Draft.. Kris, who also entered the draft, is still weighing whether to stay in or return to Iowa for his junior season. The deadline looms Wednesday.
Kenyon Murray heard that negative chatter that surrounded his sons in 2019. It upset him, like it would any father who had seen his children dedicate themselves to the game. Today, Kenyon could stand on a soapbox and shout, “I told you so.” He has elected not to do that.
“If you were talking to the Kenyon of four years ago, I’d probably be giving everyone the middle finger right now, standing on the rooftop and saying, “I told you so,’ ” Kenyon said. “But I also know God picks a path for everyone, right? I think what he’s done for these two guys is he’s given them a platform to show that if you believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything. I just think Fran believed in them, we believed in them and they believed in themselves. I always said to them, “Just do the work, and trust the work, because when the time comes to shine you will be ready for it.’ ”
Keegan exploded on the national scene last season. He finished fourth in the nation in scoring at 23.5 points a game, more than tripling his average as a freshman. Keegan also averaged 8.7 rebounds and 1.94 blocks in 2021-22 while earning consensus all-American laurels.
Kris didn’t have the gaudy numbers of his brother, but his rise was been equally impressive. He was invited to the NBA Combine after scoring a total of eight points in 2020-21. He averaged 9.7 points and had 16 double-figure games last season.
“I think their story is one that a lot of kids can get behind, kids that are overlooked or underappreciated,” Kenyon said.
Colleges didn’t come with scholarship offers when the Murray twins were at Prairie High School in Cedar Rapids. And Kenyon, who was an assistant coach and also coached them on the AAU circuit, wrestled with some self-doubt of his own.
Scroll to Continue
“For me, it was kind of a sobering moment, just because we were trying to get them recruited,” Kenyon reflected. “There were a lot of sleepless nights for me. I kept thinking, “Am I doing the right thing? Do I have them on the right team? Are we playing in the right tournaments?’ After their senior year, not having a scholarship offer, I blamed myself a lot. Maybe I didn’t do what was right for them.”
But Keegan and Kris had faith in their parents, Kenyon and Michelle, that they were doing what was right for them. The twins stayed the course, and continued to work hard. They continued to grow and get stronger, and were extremely coachable at both DME and Iowa.
“That was the culmination of, “OK, we did it the right way,’ ” Kenyon said. “It’s not the right way for everybody. But it was the right way for them.”
McCaffery has been touting the Murrays for several years. He, too, could say “I told you so,” to his legion of doubters.
“I took a lot of crap for taking JoBo (Jordan Bohannon), too,” McCaffery said.
Bohannon finished his career as the Big Ten’s career leader in 3-point baskets, became just the third player in program history to reach 2,000 points and left as Iowa’s career assists leader.
Kenyon, who scored 1,230 points while playing from 1992-93 to 1995-96 for Coach Tom Davis, finds the criticism of Bohannon and others misguided.
“For a lot of guys who have played or coached at that level, you can’t measure anyone’s heart,” Murray said. “Aaron White was an underrecruited guy, and he had the heart and passion to become the player that he was. Devyn Marble the same way. Luka Garza. Kris and Keegan. You can’t measure the drive if you haven’t been in the gym, in the driveway, and seen how much time hey put in. You have no room to talk about how good or bad a player is.”
McCaffery has made a career of recruiting high-character players, and that has been the foundation of a culture that seems to work for him. Murray said that last season was a prime example of that.
“When Fran made the switch at point guard (Bohannon in place of Joe Toussaint), if that was a team that didn’t love each other and didn’t care for each other, it could have splintered,” Murray said. “And they wouldn’t have had the run they did. But because of the guys he recruited, they obviously bonded together. Now Joe made a decision post season to move on (to West Virginia). And we’re happy for him. But in that moment, to galvanize as a team like that, that says a lot about the character of the kids on the roster. You’ve got to give it to Fran for that.”