116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Woman meets man here. They get married here, raise their children here.
Not an extraordinary story so far, right? Well, one of Michelle and Kenyon Murray’s sons will become the first-ever NBA draft lottery pick from the University of Iowa. He already is more prominent than any basketball player his hometown has sent into the world.
Cedar Rapids born-and-raised Keegan Murray could be taken in the first five picks of the June 23 draft. Twin brother Kris Murray is a junior-to-be at Iowa who may very well be picked in the NBA’s 2023 draft.
“Cedar Rapids has always just been really good for the life we wanted to build,” Kenyon said.
Kenyon had a terrific basketball career at Iowa with 1,230 points and 200 steals from 1992-96. But his sons weren’t born with basketball silver spoons in their mouths. Western Illinois was the only Division I program to offer scholarships to both when they were seniors at Prairie High School.
“There’s been moments of doubt for all of us, I think, when it comes to what their basketball futures would look like,” Kenyon said.
Still harboring hopes of offers from major-conference schools, the twins went to DME Academy in Florida for a year. They got bigger and better. They then got scholarship offers from Iowa’s Fran McCaffery that were questioned by many outsiders who didn’t know McCaffery had hit a pair of recruiting home runs.
Keegan became a first-team All-America forward in his second college season and Kris will have the opportunity to be one in the season ahead.
This story started shortly before 2000 when Kenyon and Michelle, an Anamosa native, met in Cedar Rapids. They married, then moved to Ottumwa after Kenyon got a basketball assistant coaching job at Indian Hills Community College.
Michelle gave birth to the twins in Cedar Rapids in 2000, and returned to Cedar Rapids from Ottumwa with the boys in 2002. Kenyon followed after serving out the final months of his contract at the school.
“We knew we might have to end up moving (from Cedar Rapids),” Kenyon said. “I was still chasing the dream of being a Division I head coach.
“But things lined up where I got into a pharmaceutical medical sales career. My job and her job (then at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids) kept us here.”
“I wasn’t opposed to moving,” said Michelle, who has worked for University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics the last seven years. “Kenyon was looking at coaching college basketball and we thought that’s where he was going to go. But it worked out very well for us that we were able to really grow some roots here.
“In 2004 we bought a house when the boys were 4 years old. They started at Prairie when they were in AK (Alternative Kindergarten). We loved being part of the College Community School District.”
The couple had a daughter, McKenna, who will be a junior multisport athlete at Prairie this year. In 2008, the Murrays brought then-teenager Demetrius Harper into their home and eventually adopted him.
Keegan and Kris were very good high school players, but sort of moved quietly across the Iowa prep scene as others were more-sought by college coaches. From childhood through the time they had raised their basketball profiles in Florida, though, they had become people of substance.
“Most NBA teams call and asked how they were as kids,” Kenyon said. “They worked, they volunteered, they were on Student Council. They were very, very ingrained in the College Community district. They loved doing camps and working with kids.
“They were really good students. Kris was identified as talented and gifted all the way through school, but he never wanted that because he didn’t want to stand out. He just wanted to be like the other kids.”
The twins’ thirst for learning dates to a very young age.
“I’m so grateful that God chose us to raise them,” Michelle said. “We spent a lot of time with the kids, reading to them. We had flashcards that we did with them all the time. I taught them sign language when they were little.
“We would have family movie night, family game night. We just loved being together. We appreciated the times that we could be together. We've always had like a calmness in our home.
“For years, we’ve needed to replace the carpet in the house. But when we got a little extra money it was always ‘OK, where can we go as a family, what can we do together?’
“We still haven’t replaced the carpet in the house.”
Even the year Kris and Keegan were in Florida, Michelle lived with them in an apartment and worked remotely for UIHC, and Kenyon and McKenna made frequent trips to visit. Now Keegan will be off to an NBA city while Kris is in Iowa City.
If Keegan’s team is playing in a game in the Midwest, it’s possible his parents could see McKenna play on a Friday night, Kris on a Saturday, and Keegan on a Sunday.
“We’ll take it as it comes,” Michelle said, “and get to as many games as we can.”
They’ve had plenty of whirlwind this spring with Keegan and Kris training in Chicago. Their parents assembled a team for them, with an agent, a trainer, a performance coach and a financial planner.
This time in their lives has been “exhaustingly awesome,” Michelle said. “We choose gratitude over anxiety.”
All six members of the Murray family will be at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., in the green room at the NBA draft.
“We talk about pinching ourselves,” Kenyon said. “Every day we say stuff like ‘Can you believe it?’
“The best is yet to come. Keegan and Kris have a platform to be able to touch so many people’s lives. As a family, we feel it’s our duty to give back.”
There are plans afoot for a draft-watch party back at Prairie.
“As much as we love College Community,” Kenyon said, “I think College Community loves them, too.”
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