CEDAR RAPIDS – It has come down to this.
“I’ve started doing puzzles, actually, to pass the time,” Kris Murray said Monday.
Puzzles instead of non-stop video games actually is refreshing to hear from a teenager, as they sit at home riding out this crazy period.
Kris Murray and his twin brother, Keegan, are still finding time to get some individual running work in, and some shots up on their own at a local gym. There’s no stopping now for the former Cedar Rapids Prairie preps as they prepare to play for the Iowa Hawkeyes next season.
One post-graduate year at DME Sports Academy in Daytona Beach, Fla., helped them grow physically, mentally and emotionally and led to Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery offering them scholarships. The versatile 6-foot-8 twins are considered to have high upside.
They are legacies, of course, sons of former Hawkeye Kenyon Murray.
“We went down there for a visit and loved it,” Keegan Murray said. “When we first got there, it was just as we expected. There were a lot of high-level coaches that worked with us … My experience down there was everything I could have asked for. Just being able to play against college players and D-I players every single week, just having that high level of competition before going into college, I think, was everything I could have hoped for. Ultimately it just helped developed me as a basketball player.”
“I was kind of skeptical at first,” Kris Murray said. “I didn’t know what to expect. But just going down and visiting kind of made me want to go there. I didn’t know where I could be at in a year, and I think that year helped me as a player and a person. So if anyone is thinking about doing this, I would definitely tell them to give it a shot, at least. It was worth it.”
Mom, Michelle, moved south with her boys for seven months, which eased their transition. Michelle Murray was able to do her work at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics remotely.
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The three lived in an apartment while Kenyon Murray stayed back in Iowa with younger daughter, McKenna, and rode out the fall and winter.
“You walk, and you’re five minutes from the beach,” Kris Murray said. “Just a different lifestyle, but I got used to it at the end. My mom being down there, too, made it easier for us. She loved it. It still felt like home for us, her being able to cook and things like that.”
DME was founded four years ago by Dan and Matt Panaggio to serve junior high, high school and post-grad players. Dan Panaggio was a former CBA head coach and Division I college and NBA assistant coach and scout.
DME provided the Murrays with an intensive basketball experience. A typical day at the academy was weight training in the morning, followed by a two to three-hour practice.
After lunch, it was myriad shooting drills in the afternoon. Nights allowed for more weight training and open gym time, if players desired.
DME’s “Blue” team played games against Division II colleges, junior colleges and other academies and prep schools.
“I improved just being more consistent, I think,” Keegan Murray said. “Just my jump shot, I became more consistent with that. Being able to have the ball in my hands in crucial moments and not being afraid to take a tough shot, a game-winning shot. Just ultimately being more comfortable with the ball in my hands, playing with the rest of my teammates was how I improved the most, I think.”
“Our coach, he helped me slow the game down, how to think the game through,” Kris Murray said. “Not make rush decisions, stuff like that. My ball-handling skills have gotten a lot better from day one there. Bringing up the ball, making good passes in the open court, stuff like that.”
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Keegan led DME’s 10-member “Blue” team in scoring at 22.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in 26 games. Kris averaged 17.1 and 10.1.
The team had players from Italy, China, Montenegro and Spain. One of the program’s strength and conditioning coaches was Tom Shaw, a former Oakland Raiders strength and conditioning coach who has worked with NFL players like Tom Brady and Saquon Barkley, as well as others in multiple sports.
Both boys said their bodies changed in their half-year or so at DME. They lost fat, gained muscle and feel ready for the rigors of the Big Ten Conference.
“I feel like if I hadn’t have taken this prep year, I would have struggled in college, I really think,” Keegan Murray said. “I’ve been up against college players and have had a year of experience against that kind of competition. So just that will help me a lot going into my first year at Iowa.”
“Definitely the experience we got, playing against so many Division I guys … it was a good experience playing against college-level talent like we’ll be playing against in the future,” Kris Murray said. “That is going to help a lot when we get ready to take the court at Iowa.”
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