In three years, Murray went from a high school senior with one Division I scholarship offer to a top-five NBA draft selection.
Two days after the Sacramento Kings took former Iowa men’s basketball star Keegan Murray with the fourth pick in the 2022 NBA Draft on Thursday, the Kings held Murray’s introductory press conference Saturday afternoon.
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Alongside Sacramento General Manager Monte McNair, Murray took questions about his fit with his new team, what he can bring to the floor, his burger joint rankings (the Sacramento media had a special interest in where IN-N-Out Burger would fall on that list, it is number three), and his journey to the NBA.
After four seasons at Prairie High School in Cedar Rapids, Murray spent a year at DME Sports Academy in Florida because he only had one Division I scholarship offer — from Western Illinois.
Murray said he still thinks about being overlooked after high school and that motivates him. He said being undervalued by recruiting ranking systems helped him love basketball.
“I think what shaped my love for the game of basketball is just how I’ve been unappreciated my whole life,” Murray said Saturday. “I felt like coming out of high school unranked, one Division I [scholarship] offer, thinking about going the [junior college] route — I think that just built my love for basketball even more.”
Even though Murray racked up interest from multiple schools after his season in the Sunshine State, and ultimately the offer he had always dreamed of — one from his hometown team — it wasn’t easy breaking into the Hawkeyes’ rotation as a freshman in 2020- 21.
Murray said his role changed from a scorer, which he’d been his whole career, to more of a rebounding and defense guy to earn his nearly 18 minutes of playing time.
His scoring average went from around 20 points per game as a high school senior to 7.2 during his first season in Iowa City.
“I’ve always grown up being a scorer, so that was kind of different in that aspect,” Murray said of his freshman season. “I remember I had an offseason meeting with one of our assistants and he pretty much told me, ‘your job is not to score the ball, we’ve got guys to do that. So what are you going to do to find your role, find your playing time on the court?'”
Murray decided he was going to gain playing time by working on his rebounding and defending.
“I tried to out rebound Luka [Garza] at every single practice and we had a little stat sheet that we’d have after every single practice. My goal was to have more rebounds… I think just having that hardship when I got there, knowing that nothing was guaranteed, I had to earn everything I got, I just kept that mindset throughout the whole year.”
From his freshman to sophomore season, although Murray’s jump in all statistical categories 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 nobody better than him.
“I knew I had to play 35-40 minutes going into my sophomore year because I was gonna have a bigger role,” Murray said. “I knew that for me to be able to have those numbers and to have my team have the best possible outcome every night was for me to be on the court. So I had to be able to get in shape to play 35-40 minutes a game.”
While Murray honed his offensive skills during the offseason, he said his biggest transformation was mental.
Murray said Saturday that the past 48 hours have been the best of his life.
“It means a lot just knowing three years ago, where I was at in my life just trying to find a scholarship to go to school and play basketball to being where I’m at today, It’s been a dream-come-true,” Murray said.