116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Keegan Murray was no big secret in high school.
He was a Class 4A first-team all-state boys’ basketball player at Cedar Rapids Prairie as a senior, averaging 20.3 points. He was named the Metro Player of the Year.
See if this seems familiar, Iowa fans: Murray scored 34 points in a Prairie win at Cedar Rapids Kennedy that 2018-19 season, and got nine of them in a 59-second span.
“It wasn’t like he was completely under the radar,” said his Prairie head coach, Jeremy Rickertsen. “Even though he was.”
From the 2019 all-state list, DJ Carton of Bettendorf was signed by Ohio State. Patrick McCaffery of Iowa City West went to Iowa. Noah Carter of Dubuque Senior chose Northern Iowa.
Keegan and twin brother (and second-team all-state) Kris Murray had little in the way of Division I offers, so they went to DME Sports Academy in Florida for a year.
Three years later, Keegan Murray will be selected early in Thursday night’s NBA draft in New York. The first lottery pick to ever come from Eastern Iowa will be an Iowa Hawkeye and a Prairie Hawk.
“I was fortunate enough to coach Keegan and (current Hawkeye) Kris when they were in seventh- and eighth-grade and then again when they were sophomores, juniors, seniors in high school,” Rickertsen said.
“I flash back to when they were in junior high, tiny and scrawny. When we moved them to the varsity as sophomores, they were probably 6-foot tall and 130 pounds. They could shoot it, they understood the game, they made the right plays. But you just could not begin to predict where Keegan and Kris both are.
“They grew 5 inches, probably, between their sophomore and junior years and another inch or 2 the next year. So when they left they were 6-7 or 6-8. But they were still pretty slight.”
The Murrays gained size and strength in Florida, signed with Iowa, and here we are.
“I think Fran McCaffery and Iowa put Keegan in a good position,” Rickertsen said. “It just all kind of came together.”
Rocky Bennett, Prairie’s athletics director, lives a half-dozen houses from Kenyon and Michelle Murray and their family. He has seen the twin sons since they were infants.
“Kenyon and I became friends since when I got here at Prairie, 23 years ago,” Bennett said.
“I’m just elated and so happy for them. They’re a true testament of what hard work and genuineness can do for people. I think Prairie feels the same way I do.
“Everyone knows Keegan’s genuine, he’s as humble as can be, and he’s a fierce competitor. You take those three things and you mix in he’s a better human being than he is a basketball player, that’s what makes it so amazing and so awesome to cheer on.”
Prairie wouldn’t be the most-likely home of an NBA lottery pick from Eastern Iowa. It has had moments, like Justin Wessel being voted Iowa’s “Mr. Basketball” in 1996 and the Hawks winning the 4A title in 1998. This year, the Hawks reached the 4A state semifinals after ending a 24-year stretch without a berth in the tournament.
That only adds to the unlikeliness and likability of Murray’s story this week.
“It’s crazy, it’s surreal, and special at the same time,” Rickertsen said. “It’s fun and neat to see a kid who worked so hard for something have it pay off. The fact he came through us at Prairie, it’s just crazy to see how far he’s come and what he’s about to do.”
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