116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Note: A little of this material is repeated from my Sunday night Hlog post about the Michigan-Iowa matchups of the "Fab Five" era. That's because this is the newspaper column, and that material didn't appear in the Gazette. I don't think there's enough duplication to be annoying. Let's proceed.
If you saw ESPN Films' "Fab Five" documentary Sunday night, you saw something compelling.
The two-year run of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King at Michigan produced two NCAA title-game losses and a lot of attention.
As Rose said in the film he produced, people can't tell you who won the national-championship three years ago, and can't name the lineup of the North Carolina team that beat Michigan in the 1993 title game. But they remember the Fab Five.
A Cedar Rapids resident and former Iowa Hawkeyes player had a chance to ride along in that circus, but declined. Kenyon Murray was recruited by Michigan, and made an official visit to the school. Which was logical since the Battle Creek native was Michigan's prep "Mr. Basketball" in 1992, the year the Fab Five were Wolverine freshmen.
"The first school I got a recruiting letter from was Michigan," Murray said Monday. "I wanted to go to Michigan, and I was a big Michigan fan in 1989 when they won the championship game with Glen Rice and Rumeal Robinson.
"(Then-Michigan assistant) Brian Dutcher was an unbelievable recruiter of me. But ultimately it was a matter of the playing style and playing time. I loved Iowa and had an unbelievable visit there my senior year. My visit to Michigan didn't go as well as I would have liked."
When the players at your positions (small-forward and big-guard) are freshmen who start, it's a tough sell to a high school senior. Murray said those players, King and Jackson, weren't exactly enthused by the thought of Murray coming in to challenge for some of their playing time.
"I never really felt very welcome from those two guys on my visit," Murray said.
"I knew Jalen and Chris (Webber). I played against Chris when he was a senior in high school and I was a junior, and they came to Battle Creek. They snuck past us.
"I always liked Jalen Rose. When I played against him in college he always said ‘You should be wearing the maize-and-blue.' I grew up playing against him and Chris in AAU ball."
While the Fab Five were the show everywhere else they played those two years, they were mere props on a Sunday afternoon in Iowa City in January 1993.
Michigan was ranked fifth in the nation and Iowa 11th. It was a CBS national game. Iowa used to play in those.
It was the kind of emotional atmosphere Carver-Hawkeye Arena had never seen before and may never see again. Given the reason for it, let's hope that's true. For it was 12 days and Iowa's first home game after Iowa junior forward Chris Street died in a car accident.
"We said one thing before the game: Let's try to take the crowd out of it," said Michigan sub James Voskuil. "The thing that hit me as soon as we said that: I don't know if it's possible."
Michigan scored the first nine points of the game. All that did was make the Hawkeyes more determined to prevail. And they did, 88-80. Guard Val Barnes had 27 points. Center Acie Earl and forward Russ Millard more than held Michigan big men Webber and Howard to a standoff. Freshman Murray came off the bench to amass 13 points, three steals and two blocked shots in 21 minutes.
Over 18 years later, the game still resonates in Hawkeye hearts. Whether anyone in Iowa can remember a single thing the Fab Five did that day is doubtful.
Murray has stayed in Eastern Iowa. He is a territory manager for a dental equipment company, owns Legacy Basketball Academy, and does basketball color commentary for the Big Ten Network and on NBA D-League games on Versus.
He watched "Fab Five" Sunday night with interest, having gone head-to-head with those guys at college basketball's highest level. He had 11 more points as a sub when the Wolverines held off the Hawkeyes 79-74 in Ann Arbor a month after the meeting in Iowa City, and battled against Michigan six more times over the next three seasons.
With clear satisfaction in his voice, he said "I think I averaged more points against Michigan than any other team."