The Iowan Daily | ‘A best friend built in:’ Identical twins Keegan and Kris Murray are living their basketball dream together in Iowa

“Should I do the Memorial Day one?” Keegan Murray asked his brother with a smile.

“Oh yeah,” Kris replied.

We just asked the Murrays something Iowa fans might not know about them. The first story that came to mind was painful. Literally. It was Memorial Day weekend in fifth grade, a weekend that was supposed to be all about competing in neighborhood sporting events. This was interrupted when, during a backyard football game, Keegan landed on his arm and broke both bones. The next day, Kris went to play street baseball and was caught right in the eye. Keegan and Kris left school for the weekend in perfect health, but returned with one in a sling and the other with a swollen, closed black eye.

“Our principal was wondering what happened,” Keegan said, holding back a laugh behind a sharp smile. “Our mom is like, ‘I swear, nothing.'”

Their classmates and teachers assumed that Keegan and Kris had a fight. Not surprising.

Everything between the twins is a competition. They just assumed that during one of them a fight ensued. This was not the case. The normally mild-mannered Murrays limit themselves to small talk. Many. And during various activities. Who has the best trash talk?

“Kris,” Fran McCaffery said before the question was even fully asked.

“It’s explicit language,” Keegan said, prompting laughter from both twins. “It’s usually just to start a fire under the other person to make them compete more. It’s more useful than putting yourself down.

“Yeah, I’d say I’m more vocal if I’m talking badly to someone, but Keegan will just stare at you or something,” Kris said, mimicking her brother as she stared at him.

“I can [trash talk] if I want,” Keegan said.

“People might think we’re fighting,” Kris said. “But it’s really just how we communicate with each other that we respond to.”

Both of these kids are phenomenal players. The jump they made in their second year, you can tell they love the game. They have size and athleticism. [Keegan] is the most versatile player in our league.

— Fred Hoiberg, Nebraska head coach

Following Iowa’s home win over Michigan State in February, Keegan described his bend in celebration after one and one. Kris, seated next to him at the press conference, said it was “his only celebration”, prompting laughs.

Trash talk is not limited to the other. Kenyon and the twins’ mother, Michelle – who was a four-sport athlete at Anamosa High School and played golf at Mount Mercy – are not exempt. Neither Mckenna, their 16-year-old sister, nor Demetrius Harper, their older brother whom the Murrays adopted in 2012. The Murrays are avid players of board games and card games. Cards Against Humanity fights with the family together over holidays or long weekends can get slightly hostile.

“It can get a little testy,” Kenyon said. “There are a few words I prefer not to hear them say at the table. They are just ultra-competitive in all areas. And they also take their little sister there. She’s like, ‘I want to be the first Murray to graduate with a 4.0.’ »

“They do everything together,” Fran McCaffery said of the twins. “They are sitting together. They are so close. And you can tell they love each other so much. But they constantly give each other a hard time. And the players are just hysterical laughing at whatever they say to each other. It’s a fun thing to watch. But nobody else better say anything about one of them with the other around, I’ll tell you.

Hawkeye fans have had the chance to see this fiery spirit up close this season.

After Nebraska scored against Iowa inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena earlier this season, Keegan and Kris yelled at each other as they ran across the court, prompting their mother to scream. “Stop fighting”. The Murray twins know their mother’s voice among the crowd. Hard for them to miss. These are the types of interactions Keegan and Kris regularly have with each other during team meals and in training, but with both players receiving significant minutes this season, it is also showing in front of thousands of fans.

Kris was mostly restricted to sitting on the bench in first grade. Iowa was loaded with wings and had a roster that included two current NBA players: Garza and Joe Wieskamp. Kenyon felt like the older twin was going redshirt, but he was given limited minutes here and there, instead.

Keegan, however, played straight away. Between injuries to CJ Fredrick and Jack Nunge throughout the season, as well as Keegan demonstrating his ability to bounce back and defend even as a rookie, the No.15 has occasionally made it into the starting lineup and been part of of the Big Ten All-Freshman team in his first season. like Hawkeye.

Both Murrays knew they would take on bigger roles heading into the 2021-22 campaign – especially Keegan. They should. Iowa lost Garza, a two-time national player of the year and the program’s all-time leading scorer, and three other players with starting experience from last season’s team. McCaffery approached Keegan last summer and told him he was “the guy” for the Hawkeyes. This meant that he would be one of the team’s leaders, but also its star.

This role suits Keegan perfectly.

The Big Ten announced on Tuesday that Keegan had been unanimously named to the All-Big Ten first team, making him the first Hawkeye to earn that honor as a sophomore since Ronnie Lester in 1978. Keegan is only one 50 points to beat Garza’s score in a single season. record at Iowa (747 points) and leads Power Five players in points per game while shooting 55.4 percent from the floor and 38 percent from 3-point range.

Infographic by Kelsey Harrell/The Daily Iowan

“He’s amazing,” said Tom Izzo, Michigan State’s head coach and all-time leader in wins in a Big Ten program. “He’s as good as any player I’ve seen in this league in a while. Keegan is a special talent. They have a star. He’s a star, don’t kid yourself.

“[Iowa’s] has something special. Enjoy it.

At the start of the season, the Murray twins were regularly found on open ground somewhere between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. They played one-on-one. And not the basement version.

Kris steps in first to say that head-to-head matches are usually pretty even. One brother will win a series of games and then the other will, he said. Keegan agrees and smiles.

If he thinks differently, he doesn’t say so.

“If you’re looking for offense, it’s not much fun to watch,” Kris said. “We both know each other’s moves very well. You really have to be creative in what you do to score on the other person, and I think that’s helped a lot over the past two offseasons.

Keegan’s emergence led an Iowa team that was picked to finish ninth in the Big Ten in the preseason by ESPN to a 22-win season and an upcoming playoff appearance.

Both twins knew they were going to see some major playing time this season. They liked it. Playing at the same time is comfortable for them. But there was still a lot to improve in the offseason. Keegan wanted to improve his ability to create shots heading into the season – to make moves off the dribble and be more versatile on offense. Mission accomplished. Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg called Keegan “the Big Ten’s most versatile player.” Kris wanted to use their one-on-one games to his advantage. He wanted a more consistent jump shot to improve his effectiveness from deep. Kris leads Iowa with a 40.2 percent 3-point conversion rate this season.

This is somewhat surprising for Rickertsen. Keegan was the top marksman in high school, he said, and now that’s Kris’ strength. Kris has always been the superior inner presence, but that’s where Keegan thrives now. Keegan had a better sophomore in high school, then Kris was better in junior. As for Rickertsen, Kris could also be an All-Big Ten player next year.

“They kind of fed off of each other,” he said. “One of their strengths, the other tried to match it, and vice versa.”

When the twins arrived in Iowa City, they were often assigned to train with Garza. They had the bruises and scrapes to prove it. But more importantly, they got to see how a two-time consensus All-American worked every day.

As a sophomore, Keegan has a similar impact.

“When I got here in the summer, I was going against him every day in practice,” rookie Payton Sandfort said after Keegan scored 37 points against Nebraska on Feb. 14. “I would come home and call my dad and I’d be like, ‘This guy is kicking my ass. I don’t know if I’m cut out for this. I started to improve a bit playing against him. And then I see him here and he does a lot worse than he did to me. It makes me feel a lot better.

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