116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
INDIANAPOLIS — If you paid attention to the goings-on of the Iowa men’s basketball program, you heard the question asked two years ago.
What is Fran McCaffery doing using two scholarships on these Murray brothers, Keegan and Kris? Just because they’re the sons of a former Hawkeye?
Friday was the umpteenth piece of proof McCaffery knew exactly what he was doing. Keegan Murray had 26 points and eight rebounds in Iowa’s 84-74 Big Ten tournament quarterfinal win over Rutgers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Kris Murray had nine points and five rebounds off the bench, instrumental in his team’s first-half turnaround after it fell behind 15-5.
Three years ago, the twins were lightly recruited out of Cedar Rapids Prairie though they had fine high school careers and the bloodline from being the son of former Hawkeye standout Kenyon Murray. So they went to DME Sports Academy in Florida for a school year, and grew physically and basketball-wise.
McCaffery signed them without any major-college coaches as competition. Many an armchair coach doubted his wisdom. The “gamble” turned out to be a coup.
“I don't think that I was that far ahead of the curve,” McCaffery said after Friday’s win. “Like if you watched them play, you would have come to the same conclusion that I did.
“It wasn't a favor, it wasn't a gift, it wasn't ‘Hey, we'll take a shot at two 6-8 kids.’ That's not how I operate. I have a responsibility to this program and to the institution to recruit Big Ten-caliber players.
“And we don't always get it right, you know that, but I was 100 percent convinced that those two kids were going to be really good, and so was my staff who watched them.”
But nobody could have seen this. Kris Murray is averaging 10.1 points off the bench as a sophomore, which is excellent. Especially for someone who barely played as a freshman.
Keegan Murray, meanwhile, is playing as well as any player in college ball, and maybe better than all of them. That he has reached 750 points in 32 games after being a key substitute last season is, without exaggeration, incredible.
Sometimes things happen so quickly that we don’t grasp what we’re seeing until it’s the vapor trail of a jet headed to the host city of the NBA draft. where they’re holding the NBA draft. That’s Keegan Murray this season.
It isn’t just that he’s averaging 23.4 points per game, a number Iowa hadn’t seen from a player between Fred Brown in 1971 and Luka Garza in 2020 (and 2021). It’s how Murray is doing it, with such variety, efficiency, smoothness, confidence, calm.
“He’s been unbelievable in every facet of the game,” Iowa’s Connor McCaffery said. “He runs in transition, he posts up. He posts up littles, he takes bigs off the dribble. The offensive rebounds — he gives himself points.
“I was definitely excited when we signed them, and obviously really happy with the way it’s turned out.”
Said Fran McCaffery: “Not a lot of people went to their high school games and they didn't play on a high-profile AAU team, so they didn't get the exposure or the recognition that other people got. That's not their fault.
“They took care of business and they worked on their games, and they worked on their bodies and they were dominant players when they did take the floor. So what they're doing now is not a shock to me or my staff or quite frankly anybody that watched them develop.”
Except that it is a shock. It may be forever and a day before you see the next Hawkeye get 26 and eight in back-to-back Big Ten tourney games. You’ve never before seen an NBA lottery pick emerge from Iowa’s program.
All those people wondering why Keegan and Kris Murray got scholarships may now be wondering this:
How far can those two guys help the Hawkeyes go before this season is through? Right now, assigning limitations to them seems like it would be yet another uninformed opinion.
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