Just days before a life-changing moment, former Iowa basketball star Keegan Murray leaves everything to fate.
Murray, a top-10 NBA draft pick, has spent the past three months training in Chicago and visiting various NBA teams in between. On Thursday, he and his father, Kenyon, took his things back to their Cedar Rapids home. On June 23, Murray will find out where he will go for the foreseeable future as a projected first-round pick.
The pre-draft process is officially complete. Now it’s a waiting game.
“I think there’s a calm,” Murray told The Register. “Just because I know I’ve been through the process and it’s pretty much fate and all that. There’s also a level of excitement, because you don’t know where you’re going to go and everything can arrive on draft night. But I’m looking forward to the future.”
The latest ForTheWin draft projects Murray as the Indiana Pacers’ No. 6 pick. Other fictional projects have him up to No. 3 on the Houston Rockets. It’s a seismic shift in focus for Murray, whose extraordinary talent remained under the radar until about the middle of his freshman season at Iowa. After a spectacular second season, the 6-foot-8 forward decided to enter the draft.
After: How Keegan Murray and Kris Murray went from high school underdogs to exceptional for Iowa basketball
His days of being overlooked are over. Murray will be one of several dozen selected prospects who will participate in the draft in person, and he should be an impact rookie from day one. Despite his new reality, Murray said he hasn’t changed much. He hopes the same approach that has brought him this far will help him thrive professionally.
“I come in with the same mentality,” Murray said. “Obviously now there’s a lot of attention and my name is going around in a lot of different places. But I have to come in and treat myself like I’m an undrafted rookie. Just like I do when I’m happened to (Iowa), just come and earn my position and know that I have to earn it. Nothing will change in that regard.
Murray compared his pre-draft process to his preparatory school year at DME Academy in Florida, where his schedule was filled with basketball-related activities. His workouts featured other draft hopefuls, but NBA veterans could also be found at the facility.
Perhaps more than what he learned on the pitch, Murray’s greatest growth has come from absorbing knowledge from professional players. Her biggest lesson was how important it is to take care of your body as a professional. He admitted he was “always in pain” during the first few weeks of training, but over time he began to master recovery and changed his eating habits with the help of his strength coach and conditioning.
“I think the biggest thing I learned was the recovery part,” Murray said. “It’s obviously different, you play 82 games in a season, maybe more if you’re in the playoffs. So it’s very different from college, so that’s probably the biggest adjustment. Life on the road, the road trips, the west coast road trips, things like that. So it was cool to hear their version of things from that point of view.
On the court, Murray’s coaches identified areas of his game that needed to be refined and would be critical to the rookie’s success. He probably won’t have as many games called for him offensively (at least early on) as he did in Iowa, so being able to create on his own and knock down shooting opportunities when they come presented themselves was his objective.
One particular drill Murray remembers is “21,” in which he had to make 21 of 25 three-pointers but couldn’t miss two in a row. Moreover, he played in many one-on-one situations and expanded his ball handling skills by performing several two-ball drills among others.
“I was really getting more creative with the ball in my hands,” Murray said. “That was probably the biggest point of emphasis, just doing different things off of dribbling, tightening my grip, and things like that. I feel like it’s really come a long way since the end of the season. And also consistency with my shot every time. (The) key thing was ‘Don’t miss two shots in a row.’ Throughout the process, I really became (more) consistent with my jump shot.”
Murray met with many NBA teams throughout the process. He did a bit of everything for Iowa last season, and he said teams didn’t rank him one position. With his size and ability to shoot and defend, teams are projecting him as a player who can adapt to multiple lineup variations.
In addition to his physical gifts, Murray takes on the challenge of helping transform a franchise. He’s won at every level of basketball he’s played so far, most recently with a Big Ten championship in Iowa. One of the most exciting parts of his new journey is the idea of joining a core group of youngsters and helping fight for the playoffs and beyond.
“I think it’s just kind of a vibe that I bring,” Murray said. “I’m a guy who likes to win. So obviously that winning mentality comes with it and being a professional on and off the pitch is something I feel like I bring too.”
One notable visit Murray made during the process was to the Detroit Pistons, who hold the No. 5 pick. His former Iowa teammate, Luka Garza, just finished his rookie season with the Pistons, and he and Murray spent a lot of time together during Murray’s visit. Topics of conversation included advice from Garza on how to navigate the draft process and the NBA.
Meanwhile, the idea of what Murray’s upcoming selection means for Iowa basketball hasn’t escaped his notice. Only three Hawkeyes were drafted between 2000 and 2020. Now the program will have three in the past two years with Murray, Garza (No. 52 in 2021) and another former teammate, San Antonio Spurs forward Joe Wieskamp (#41 in 2021). Murray could become the top draft pick in school history (Fred Brown became No. 6 overall in 1971). Going forward, he hopes Hawkeye’s draft picks will become the norm.
“I feel like with Luka and Joe last year and me this year, it sets a precedent for Iowa basketball,” Murray said. “It shows rookies that Iowa isn’t the greatest basketball school in the world, but you can come here and be successful. So I feel like we’ve set that standard and raised that level for which Iowa should be known.”
Murray plans to spend some quality family time over the weekend before the entire Murray family heads to New York on Tuesday for draft week. It’s a special moment for Keegan to share with his family, especially his twin brother, Kris, who went through the pre-draft process with him and hopes to have a similar experience next year.
After: Why Iowa basketball’s Kris Murray bypassed the NBA for his junior season: ‘It’s a great situation’
“I always had a close circle around me,” Murray said. “It’s not really going to change from here on out. I think that will definitely help me because there are a lot of distractions once you get to the NBA. A lot of people are going to come out of the woodwork and talk to you about who doesn’t. haven’t talked to you before. I think just having people around me that I trust and know I can trust will help me in the future and for the rest of me. of my career.
Murray said he feels as physically and mentally ready as he can be. And if history is any indication, that means he’s set for another breakout campaign this coming year.
“I feel like my game has just started,” Murray said. “I feel like I still have a long way to go to get to where I want to be as a basketball player, so it’s an exciting time for me and my development.”