IOWA CITY, Iowa - Kris Murray understood the traffic jam of experience and talent in front of him last season.
Iowa’s rotation was deep, and Murray already knew playing time was going to be limited as a freshman.
“You can’t play 12 guys,” the 6-foot-8 forward said.
But now that jam is clearing.
Center Luka Garza, the consensus national player of the year, is gone. Forward Joe Wieskamp likely is headed for a professional career. Guard CJ Fredrick transferred to Kentucky.
That’s a lot of minutes and offensive production gone.
Murray feels like he can help fill a role.
“When I was in high school, I was more of a shooter,” he said. “But I developed all kinds of different areas of my games, especially my mid-range (shooting) in the last year. It’s gotten a lot better. I’ve really developed that, especially on scout team.
“And one of the biggest parts of my game now is to get to the basket, creating for others.”
“He’s going to be a really integral part of what we do moving forward,” coach Fran McCaffery said earlier this month. “He was, I think, in a great place last year — if we needed to play him more minutes, I have no doubt that he could have.”
Last season was one big classroom for Murray, who played 41 minutes in 13 games for the 22-9 Hawkeyes. And that, he said, was OK.
“Last year was more of a learning experience for me, just because of the talent we had and the leaders that we had on the team,” Murray said. “That was something I was grateful to have.”
While his twin brother, Keegan, fit into the Hawkeyes’ rotation right away, Kris worked more on the scout team.
Playing someone else, he said, helped him develop.
“Coming into it, I kind of knew I’d be taking a learning year. So it wasn’t hard at all,” Kris said during the Hawkeyes’ media availability on Tuesday. “I got to play a lot of different players, a lot of different skill sets. I kind of took that, and translated it to my game.”
“He’s really versatile,” Keegan said. “He’s an incredibly versatile player, and a really good shooter too. He was probably a better shooter last year in practices than a lot of people on our team. I think being on the scout team last year helped him be more versatile in his game, things like that. He took that year to get better, and better himself on the court.”
“The one good thing about last year in practice was he played a lot at the ‘5’ spot,” McCaffery said. “An undersized ‘5’, but he could play there. He learned all of the positions. And he’s a really good 3-point shooter, which our team needs.”
Kris became a second set of eyes for his brother as well.
“I think just him being on the sidelines really helped me, because he saw something different than I’d see on the court,” Keegan said. “And that would really help me.”
Kris recalled his sophomore year at Cedar Rapids Prairie High School, when he was on the bench. A year later, his role grew.
“I think last year is kind of a similar situation,” he said. “I just took it as learning from the older guys.”