When Keegan Murray walks into the Green Room at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., for Thursday’s 2022 NBA Draft, he’ll be wearing a new suit.
Black and gray are the colors of choice. Keegan’s twin brother, Kris, and dad, Kenyon, will have on new suits, too. His mom, Michelle, and sister, McKenna, will have new dresses that will play off Keegan’s duds.
“Black and gray,” Kenyon said. “That’s how we roll. We’ll all be color coordinated, based on what Keegan’s going to wear. So Keegan will look very good with his family around him.”
The Murrays, along with Keegan’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, and his player development coach, Kyle McAlarney, will sit at one of the tables and wait for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to call the former Hawkeye’s name.
It’s not expected to be a long wait, and it could be a historic night for Iowa’s basketball program. Keegan, who exploded onto the national scene to become a consensus all-American in 2021-22, is in the Top 10 of nearly every mock draft out there. Most of them have him in the top five.
Only one native Iowan, Kansas all-American forward Raef LaFrentz, has been drafted in the Top Five. Denver took the former MFL MarMac star with the third pick of the 1998 draft.
Guard Fred Brown is the highest-drafted Iowa player ever, going to Seattle with the sixth pick in 1971. He was team captain of a Sonics team that won the 1979 NBA title and averaged 14.6 points in 963 career games covering 13 seasons. He was also an All-Star in 1976.
Keegan Murray finished fourth nationally in scoring last season, averaging 23.5 points. The 6-foot-8 sophomore was a finalist for the Wooden, Naismith and Lute Olson player of the year awards, was a unanimous all-Big Ten choice and scored at least 20 points in 26 of 35 games.
“It just goes to show that if you have a dream and stick to it, and you do the things that you need to do to prepare to play at the level he did, then anything can happen,” said Kenyon, a 1,000-point scorer at Iowa. “Where you get drafted, and what number you get drafted at, doesn’t matter. He’s able to realize his dream and play in the NBA and that’s the most important thing for him right now.”
Keegan is positioned to become the first first-round pick of Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery’s career. Now that he’s had time to reflect on Murray’s special season, the consistency is what sticks out to the coach.
“That’s what separates the great ones,” said McCaffery, who coached consensus national player of the year Luka Garza the year before. “You look at what Garza did and Keegan did, and everyone was doing everything they could to stop them. They’re watching film, game after game. And nothing worked (against) either one of them.”
Murray also averaged 31.9 minutes a game.
“He never looked winded, ever,” McCaffery said. “He just kept on playing. I would take him out once in awhile and think, “Why am I doing that?’ He never looked tired. But we’d get him a rest, give him a drink, towel him off, let him sit down for a second and then get him back out there.”
The last seven Hawkeyes to get drafted went in the second round. Iowa has had nine first-round picks in program history, but none since Ricky Davis went to Charlotte with the 21st pick in 1998.
Ronnie Lester is Iowa’s last Top 10 pick. He was drafted by Portland with the 10th pick in 1980, then was traded to Chicago. Lester won an NBA title as a player with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1985, and six more as a member of the franchise’s front office.
Iowa’s first Top 10 pick was Chuck Darling, taken by Rochester with the ninth pick in 1952. Darling, a consensus all-American and Big Ten player of the year after averaging 25.5 points as a senior, never played in the NBA.
He opted to play for the Phillips Oilers in the National Industrial Basketball League. That team won the Olympic qualifying tournament and captured the gold medal at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne.
John Johnson, who averaged 27.9 points as a senior in 1969-70 when the Hawkeyes went 14-0 in Big Ten play, was the seventh player selected in the 1970 draft by Cleveland. He joined Brown on Seattle’s 1979 World Championship team and was an NBA All-Star in 1971 and 1972.
Murray (Prairie of Cedar Rapids) could join Kevin Kunnert (Wahlert of Dubuque) and Davis (Davenport North) as Hawkeyes and former Iowa preps taken in the first round.
Kunnert went to Chicago with the 12th pick in 1973. The 7-foot center played for four different teams and averaged 8.3 points and 7.3 rebounds over 555 career games.
Just once has Iowa had two players selected in the first round of the same draft. It happened in 1989, when point guard B.J. Armstrong went to Chicago with the 18th pick and small forward Roy Marble was selected by Atlanta with the 23rd pick.
Armstrong had the most accomplished career of Iowa’s first-round picks. He played on three NBA World Championship teams (1991-1993) and was an NBA All-Star in 1994.
Acie Earl was Iowa’s other No. 1 pick, going to Boston with the 19th pick of the 1993 Draft. Five years later, Davis left after his freshman season at Iowa and was the 21st pick of the 1998 draft by Charlotte. He played 12 seasons with six different teams and scored 9,912 career points.
Now Keegan Murray is about to add his name to the list of first-round Hawkeyes. The road to his dream arrived faster than anyone, including his dad, expected.
“When he started getting the buzz after his freshman year, I started to think about it a little bit because people were starting to recognize his potential,” Kenyon said. “He took it to an unbelievable level this year, which is a testament to his work ethic and being able to make the jump mentally to become the go-to guy. We thought it might take one more year. But we’re really happy with the position he’s in.”
All that work will pay off when Commissioner Silver calls out Keegan’s name Thursday night.
“We’re excited for him,” Kenyon said. “I would say on a scale of one to 10, we’re about a 12.”