By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Kris Murray doesn’t have to look hard for motivation.
He sees it every time he writes his first name, and hears it every time he says his first name, or when somebody else says his first name.
And that’s just how his father, former Iowa basketball player Kenyon Murray, wanted it to be.
Kenyon Murray chose to honor his former Iowa teammate and close friend, Chris Street, by naming one of his twin sons after him.
And now Murray’s twin sons, Kris and Keegan Murray, are freshmen on the Iowa men’s basketball team.
Iowa’s five freshmen all had zoom conferences with the media on Wednesday and the first question asked to Kris Murray was how early in his life did he realize the meaning and the importance of his first name.
Kris thought back to his middle-school days when he and his brother would participate in the annual Chris Street Basketball Tournament, which is held in Street’s hometown of Indianola.
That’s when the Murray twins both met Street’s parents, Mike and Patty Street, for the first time.
“When I was in middle school, we used to go to Indianola to the Chris Street Tournament like yearly and that’s when I met Mike and Patty and I kind of started to realize, and (my dad) told me what it meant and kind of who Chris was,” Kris Murray said. “And ever since then, I’ve just being trying to embody that and kind of look up to him as a role model.”
Kenyon Murray only knew Chris Street barely for a year, but that was enough time for them to have built a close relationship.
Murray, as one of the top recruits in the nation, had his choice of schools, but he chose Iowa, partly because of Street’s impact. They became friends right away during the recruiting process as Street treated Kenyon Murray almost like a little brother.
Their bond continued to grow after Murray joined the Iowa team as 6-5 freshman forward in 1992. But that world was shattered when Street was killed in an automobile accident on Jan. 19, 1993 on the outskirts of Iowa City.
Hawkeyes fans, and fans from all over, were devastated by Street’s death, but few took it harder than Kenyon Murray.
He had lost a friend, a teammate, and a mentor, and not even halfway through his freshman season.
Street was an outstanding player as a multi-skilled 6-foot-8 power forward with a motor that never stopped. He played with energy, emotion and passion, and his teammates fed of those things.
Street was an emerging star when he was killed during his junior season.
His legacy now lives on nearly 30 years later, thanks to people like Kenyon Murray, who have come up with unique ways to honor Street, and to keep his name fresh in our minds.
It would’ve been a cool story even if Kris Murray hadn’t developed into an Iowa basketball player. But the fact that he and his twin brother both get to live out this dream together takes it to a new level.
The Murray twins grew up in Cedar Rapids, and they both grew to about 6-8, and they both also play forward.
Their playing styles are different, and Street’s game was different from how the Murray twins play. But the twins also have much in common with the Hawkeye legend.
Kris and Keegan are part of a deep and experienced Iowa team that is ranked fifth in the Associated Press preseason poll, and that features 6-11 senior center Luka Garza, who is the preseason favorite for National Player of the Year.
Iowa’s schedule finally became official on Wednesday and just a few hours after the five freshmen had met with the media.
The uncertainty and the fears caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic is something the players have to deal with on a daily basis, but Kris Murry doesn’t have to look far for perspective.
In fact, he sees it every time he walks in or out of the Iowa locker room at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. A plaque in honor of Chris Street hangs on the wall outside the locker room and serves as inspiration for all of the players, but especially for Kris Murray.
“When I first got here, the first day of practice I didn’t even know it was up there and when I saw that it kind of took me back and made me realize, wow, he had this huge impact here,” Kris Murray said. “I just want to be someone like who he was and just look at him as a role model.”
Kenyon Murray asked Street’s parents for permission to name one of his twin sons after Chris Street, the only difference being that it would be spelled with a K.
The Streets were honored by Kenyon Murray’s tribute, and now nearly two decades later, Kris Murray is determined to honor Chris Street by the way he conducts himself on and off the court.
“Chris Street took my dad under his wing when was a freshman and just him being a leader to my dad taught my dad a lot in the short time he had with him,” Kris Murray said. “And he’s tried to pass that on to me.”
Evan as identical twins, Kris and Keegan Murray have different skill sets and different playing styles.
“I’d say Keegan is more of a shooter and I’d rather get to the basket than spot up for a three,” Kris Murray said. “I take more pride in my defense than offensively.”
Keegan Murray gave a similar scouting report just minutes after his brother had met with the media.
“He’s usually more of a driver I would say, and they usually kick out to me for a three,” Keegan Murray said. “We both developed our games so that we’re multi-dimensional.”
Kris and Keegan Murray graduated from Cedar Rapids Prairie and then spent last year attending a prep school in Florida where they developed into Big Ten-caliber recruits.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery liked what he saw enough to have offered both of them a scholarship, and now the Murray twins are just days from experiencing their first game as Hawkeyes together.
“That feeling running out, especially being with my brother, will be one of the things I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Keegan Murray said.