By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Keegan Murray’s improbable rise to stardom reads more like fiction, but as we know, it’s all fact.
How in just year two years the son of former Iowa basketball player Kenyon Murray has gone from attending a prep school with his twin brother to being a potential NBA lottery pick.
Danny Manning is the latest to jump on Keegan Murray’s bandwagon, calling him a lottery pick after Monday’s game in which Murray scored 35 points in Iowa’s 80-75 victory over Maryland at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Manning knows something about lottery picks having been one himself coming out of Kansas in 1988.
He is now the interim head coach for Maryland, so he got an up-close look at the 6-foot-8 Keegan Murray Monday night and liked what he saw, although, it came at his team’s expense.
“Keegan Murray is a first-round draft pick. He’s a lottery pick,” Manning said. “That’s what one looks like. We got a chance to see it up close and personal today.”
In just one year, Keegan Murray has gone from being a top reserve for Iowa to the nation’s leading scorer.
He played in the shadow of 2020-21 National Player of the Year Luka Garza last season, but you still could see Keegan Murray’s vast potential and upside.
But nobody could’ve expected this kind of stat-sheet stuffing performance.
Keegan Murray figured to be one of Iowa’s go-to players on offense this season, but now he has chance to be a first-team All-American if he keeps playing at this level, and that would mark three consecutive seasons in which Iowa had a first-team All-America selection as Garza made it in each of the past two seasons.
“He can score from anywhere — from three, mid-range, lobs, layups, dunks,” Iowa point guard Joe Toussaint said of Keegan Murray. “You name it, he scores from anywhere.
“It’s really easy when you have someone like that.”
Keegan Murray is proof that you don’t have to be a mega-recruit to achieve stardom in college.
Some kids develop slower than others, and Keegan and his twin brother Kris, who is also a 6-8 forward for Iowa, needed more time to develop coming out of Cedar Rapids Prairie High School.
Western Illinois was the only school to offer them both a scholarship in high school.
So, they attended prep school for one year in Florida at the encouragement of Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery, and McCaffery then saw enough improvement from both Murray twins in prep school and offered them both scholarships.
Patience, persistence and hard work has helped to lift Keegan Murray to an elite level.
Instead of being discouraged by a lack of scholarship offers in high school, he and his brother used it as motivation and then formed a plan.
Of course, it also helps that Keegan Murray has grown to 6-8 and that he weighs about 225 pounds, which is about 40 pounds more than he weighed in high school.
Height is one thing that can’t be controlled or developed. You either have it or you don’t.
Keegan Murray’s height, coupled with his length and his versatility has made him a force in college and attractive to NBA talent evaluators.
He also has high character and no personal baggage, and the fact that he attended prep school for one year to work on his game speaks volumes about his work ethic and his vision.
This is an incredible story that’s unfolding right before our eyes with each jaw-dropping performance.
Keegan Murray speaks softly and shows little emotion, but his game speaks loudly.
He will undoubtedly be a marked man when Iowa plays at Wisconsin on Thursday, and in every game that he plays in college for that matter.
This will likely be Keegan Murray’s last season in college because he clearly looks ready for a bigger stage and a bigger challenge
So, Iowa fans will have to enjoy his greatness while they still can.