IOWA CITY, Iowa - Twins carry a special bond. Last season, that togetherness was tested. Freshman forward Keegan Murray had a breakthrough season for Iowa’s basketball team. Kris Murray spent most of his time taking Luka Garza’s elbows in practice, cheering for his twin brother and sharing his perspective from his seat on the bench.
“I’d say that a lot of people in that position might sulk or not be too happy with the situation,” Kris said. “But I kind of took it as a learning experience. I was happy for him. The only thing you could do was cheer for him, because he played great and made a name for himself.”
Keegan Murray is expected to play a significant role for the Hawkeyes this season. Kris is ready to step up and join him.
“Kris is going to be a major factor on this team, and he needs to be,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “That was sort of the plan for him. And he’s worked really hard. He’s a versatile guy. He’s long. He can guard different positions. He can rebound. He can shoot the ball and put it on the deck. He just needs some time to gain his confidence by getting out there and performing the way he’s capable of in games. But that’s going to happen for him.”
Kris, who played a total of 41 minutes in 13 games last season, is confident he can step out of his brother’s shadow and give his team a major lift.
“I will not be Keegan’s brother this year,” Kris said. “You will know me as Kris Murray. You’ll be able to see, on the court, the different types of players we are. But I’m looking forward to making a name for myself this year.”
Kris is a better shooter than Keegan, who does most of his work on drives to the basket and on the glass. They’ve played the game together forever. Their dad, former Hawkeye Kenyon Murray, was often their coach. Neither give the other an inch when it comes to basketball.
“Things were really heated when we were younger because we weren’t as mature,” Kris said. “As we’ve gotten older, it’s gotten a lot more constructive. We really use each other to learn. We hold each other accountable.”
Kris will tell you he beats his brother more often than not when they play one-on-one. “He wouldn’t tell you that, but I beat him pretty good one-on-one,” Kris said. The bottom line could pay dividends for the Hawkeyes.
“We’re really competitive with each other,” Kris said. “He’s going to get the best out of me and I’m going to get the best out of him.”
As Keegan got more and more playing time last season, Kenyon and Michelle Murray worried about Kris. They finally called him and asked if everything was okay.
"They were worried, but it was all good,” Kris said. “I’m glad they called, though.”
Keegan also tried to lift his brother’s spirits throughout the course of the season.
“It was a situation we’d been in before,” Kris said. “As sophomores (at Cedar Rapids Prairie) he started and I came off the bench for some spot minutes. The year after that I had a pretty big role. He did, too.”
Turning the page to this season, Kris is anxious to show what he can do.
“I just want to be someone who can fill what we lost from last year,” said Kris, whio grew half an inch (to 6-81/2) over the offseason and added 10 pounds to his frame (to 225). I’ve been shooting the ball well, and my 3-point shot has gotten a lot more consistent. I can play multiple positions and defend.”
McCaffery sees Kris playing forward on offense, with the versatility to guard a center at the defensive end.
Going against the national player of the year in practice last season will help Kris a season later.
“I caught a couple of Luka’s elbows,” Kris said. “I got a black eye once. I just had to watch his elbows and do the best I could to contain him, because there’s not a lot to do to stop him. But he really helped me a lot. Just seeing the type of person he was really rubbed off.”
Kris was named for the late Chris Street, a former Hawkeye standout who lost his life in an auto accident in 1993. Street, a junior, was a friend and teammate of Kenyon Murray.
“The Street family means a lot to me and my family,” Kris said. “It’s really cool, just to try and embody him.”
A commemorative plaque of Street hangs outside the Iowa locker room, along with the poem, “Don’t Quit.”
“I see that every day,” Kris said. “I have (the poem) on my phone, too. I read it every single day. It’s just motivation to get better.”