Basketball player

Former Iowa basketball player Keegan Murray talks about his journey to the NBA

In three years, Murray went from a high school student with a Division I scholarship offer to a top five NBA Draft selection.

Brad Penner – USA TODAY Sports

June 23, 2022; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Keegan Murray (Iowa) shakes hands with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being selected number four overall by the Sacramento Kings in the first round of the 2022 NBA Draft at Barclays Center.

Two days after the Sacramento Kings won former Iowa men’s basketball star Keegan Murray the fourth pick of the 2022 NBA draft on Thursday, the Kings held Murray’s introductory press conference Saturday afternoon.

RELATED: Kings General Manager Monte McNair Talks Keegan Murray’s Drafting

Along with Sacramento general manager Monte McNair, Murray asked about his fit with his new team, what he can bring to the ground, his joint burger rankings (Sacramento media were particularly interested in the where IN-N-Out Burger would fall on this list is number three), and his NBA run.

After four seasons at Prairie High School in Cedar Rapids, Murray spent a year at DME Sports Academy in Florida because he had only one Division I scholarship offer – from Western Illinois. .

Murray said he always thought about being neglected after high school and it drove him. He said being undervalued by recruiting ranking systems helped him love basketball.

“I think what shaped my love for basketball was how underappreciated I was all my life,” Murray said Saturday. “I felt like I came out of high school with no grades, a Division I [scholarship] offer, think about going the [junior college] road – I think it further solidified my love for basketball.

Even though Murray attracted interest from multiple schools after his season at Sunshine State, and ultimately the offer he had always dreamed of — one from his hometown team — it wasn’t easy to break into the Hawkeyes’ rotation as a rookie in 2020-21.

Murray said his role had changed from a goalscorer, which he had been his entire career, to more of a rebounding and defending guy to earn his nearly 18 minutes of playing time.

His scoring average went from about 20 points per game as a high school student to 7.2 in his freshman season at Iowa City.

“I always grew as a scorer, so it was a bit different in that regard,” Murray said of his first season. “I remember I had an off-season meeting with one of our assistants and he pretty much said to me, ‘Your job is not to score the ball, we have guys to do that. So what are you going to do to find your role, find your playing time on the pitch? »

Murray decided he was going to buy some playing time by working on his rebounds and defense.

“I tried to bounce Luka [Garza] every practice and we had a little stat sheet that we had after every practice. My goal was to get more rebounds… I think just having that struggle when I got there knowing nothing was guaranteed I had to win everything I had I just kept that state of mind throughout the year.

From his first to second season, though Murray’s leap in every statistical category was eye-catching, the 2021-22 consensus first-team All-American said his biggest transformation was mental.

Murray went from a freshman trying to earn his minutes to a player who believed there was no one better than him.

“I knew I had to play 35 to 40 minutes before my sophomore year because I was going to have a bigger role,” Murray said. “I knew that for me to be able to have those numbers and have my team have the best possible result every night was for me to be on the pitch. So I had to be able to get in shape to play 35-40 minutes per game.

While Murray honed his offensive skills this offseason, he said his biggest transformation was mental.

Murray said Saturday the past 48 hours had been the best of his life.

“It means a lot to know three years ago where I was in my life trying to find a scholarship to go to school and play basketball to be where I am today. is a dream come true,” Murray said.