Kris Murray understands why there are assumptions. It’s natural for people to think he and his twin brother are exactly alike. In many ways, they are.
But when it comes to basketball, he and Keegan Murray differ quite a bit. The Cedar Rapids Prairie graduates complement each other on the court.
While Keegan, a righty, thrives shooting from deep, Kris, a lefty, attacks the rim with authority. He’s also capable of hitting from the outside but does more damage in the lane and on the backboards.
“He’s a better shooter than I am and his mid-range game is ahead of mine,” Kris told HN. “I’m a pretty consistent shooter but he’s more consistent. I can get to the basket and am a really good finisher in traffic. My defense has gotten a lot better. My coach (in Florida) really helped me with that and had me guarding the best players on the other teams.”
Kris improved his leadership skills when he and his brother spent last winter at DME Academy prep school in Daytona Beach, Fla. They continued feeding off each other on the floor and parlayed that into accepting scholarships from Iowa, where they will be freshmen next season.
“Our games complement each other is the best way to say it. We just do things on the court that help each other out. We know where each other are at all times,” Kris said.
The Murrays helped Prairie to a 17-4 record during their senior seasons of 2018-19. Kris averaged 18.4 points and 6.3 rebounds. He shot 76.6 percent from the foul line and 34.8 on three-pointers.
Like with his brother, Keegan, high-major programs didn’t see him as a Power 6 player then. Kris accepted the challenge of proving that he was capable of playing at the top college level.
He weighed 175 pounds at the end of his senior season for Prairie. He bulked up to 187 by the time he arrived at DME. He added 20 more pounds to his 6-foot-8 frame in Florida.
Longtime NFL strength and conditioning coach Tom Shaw worked with the athletes at DME. He’s trained
Michael Vick, Deion Sanders, Tom Brady, Reggie Bush, Peyton Manning and Eli Manning, among others. Brady called him “the best in the business.”
Shaw helped Kris gain the muscle mass necessary for him becoming a more well-rounded player.
“It’s helped with my aggressiveness. When I was lighter, I would kind of stand around the outside. I didn’t go inside much at all and if I did I would get pushed around. But since gaining weight, I’ve been much more aggressive to the basket, getting rebounds. I’m able to out-strengthen defenders down there. I felt like I could get the basket mostly whenever I wanted to,” he said.
Kris paced DME with 9.7 rebounds a game to go with 16.8 points, second on the team to Keegan’s 22.3. Kris led the squad with 106 free throws made on 139 attempts (76.3 percent).
The Murrays returned from DME shortly after losing in the national prep tournament back in March. The school closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve been training in Cedar Rapids since then.
“I’ve been trying to stay in shape as best as I can under the circumstances. I usually go on runs in the morning. I’m doing a lot of sprints and trying to keep all of the muscle on my body. I’m lifting regularly. I’m keeping up with the nutrition, eating four or five meals a day,” Kris said.
The twins are being trained by their father, Kenyon Murray, who competed at Iowa from ’92-96 after being named a McDonald’s All-American at Battle Creek (MI) Central High. He scored 1,230 points, playing in all 122 games of his Hawkeye career and starting 95.
“He’s proud of us, especially with how far we’ve come the last few years. He’s happy to see us go to Iowa, but he let us choose our own path. He’s a great dad to have. He’s a great role model,” Kris said.
Kenyon is helping Kris in preparing his game for college competition.
“I’m trying to get my jump shot consistent and work on my first step. I’m working on my footwork and being more precise with that. I watched a lot of the Big Ten this year and you could see how much that helped (Iowa all-American) Luka (Garza). So much of basketball is about footwork. I’ve really tried to hone in on that,” Kris said.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery sold the Murrays on fitting into the program as versatile playmakers able to play multiple positions.
“It’s having guys that can play the one through four, can bring the ball of the court,” Kris said of a system comprised largely of position-less players. “We did that in high school and at DME. I played some one there but played two, three and four there, basically.
“That’s what Fran sold us on when he saw us in his program. It should be a smooth transition to fit into their offense.”
Kris proved he belonged in the Big Ten with his play at prep school after moderate interest following his Prairie career. He’s taken satisfaction in earning his place.
“It took a lot of hard work. I’m glad Iowa took a chance on us. It was a huge deal for us and just a huge weight off our shoulders. We worked even harder after knowing we were going to go there and just focused on basketball,” said Kris, who will be majoring in Communications.
Iowa returns all five starters and most of its production from last season. It adds in three players who sat out with injury. Earning minutes could be tough for the five incoming freshmen.
That doesn’t mean they won’t try.
“My mindset of being a freshman is to just work as hard as I can and compete with everybody on the team. I’m just going to try and improve every single day and just fill my role, whatever that may be. I want to be a team player and help my team win however I can,” Kris said.
“I’m open to red shirting because the minutes are probably going to be scarce this year. But I’m going to go in there and see what happens. I want to compete.”