Iowa men’s basketball sophomore Keegan Murray takes on versatile role

Since the end of the 2020-21 men’s basketball season, Murray has put on almost 20 pounds to prepare for Big Ten play.


Kate Heston

Iowa Forward Keegan Murray (15) holds the ball under the basket during an Iowa men’s basketball game against Nebraska on Thursday, March 4, 2021 at Carver-Hawkeye arena. The Hawks beat the Cornhuskers, 102-64.

Chloe Peterson, Summer Sports Editor

Keegan Murray thought he was being pushed around on the court last season.

The 2020-21 men’s basketball freshman measured in at 6-foot-8 and 205 pounds. Now, as summer workouts roll on, Murray is weighing in at 223 pounds with the intention of gaining more.

“I just felt like to be a better basketball player I need to get stronger,” Murray said at a press conference. “I felt like sometimes, I got pushed around a little down low on the court. And the stronger I get, the better I can hold my ground.”

With the departure of center Luka Garza, the 2020-21 consensus National Player of the Year, the Hawkeye men’s basketball team is looking to fill the gap at the five-spot.

In his senior season, Garza stood at 6-foot-11 and weighed in at 265 pounds.

Sophomore forward Josh Ogundele or North Dakota State transfer Filip Rebraca — a 6-foot-9, 222 pound junior —  could see themselves in a starting position at center with the Hawkeyes.

Ogundele, at 6-foot-10, weighed in at 285 pounds during his freshman season with the Hawkeyes. Now, after some offseason conditioning in 2021, Ogundele is listed at 245 pounds.

Or, if head coach Fran McCaffery elects to utilize the small-ball offense, Keegan or Kris Murray, both at 6-foot-8, could see some time at center.

“With a smaller lineup… we’ll have 6-foot-8, 6-foot-8, 6-foot-9, 6-foot-7 across the board,” Kris Murray said. “With specific lineups, yeah, you could see Keegan and I playing the center.”

Keegan Murray had a breakout year in 2020-21 as he filled in for the injured C.J. Fredrick near the end of the season.

“I had a pretty good freshman year,” Keegan Murray said. “So, I just think the worst thing to do is be doubting yourself. So, obviously I didn’t shoot the ball real well, but the only thing I could do is improve. But I think that confidence I’m going to bring on to the next year and just throughout the offseason.”

The Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native appeared in all 31 of Iowa’s contests with four starts. Averaging 17.9 minutes per game, Keegan Murray was a defensive powerhouse, registering 39 blocks and 26 steals — second behind Garza’s 50 blocks and senior guard Joe Wieskamp’s 29 steals.

Now, with the departure of Garza, Fredrick, and Wieskamp, Keegan Murray is ready for a bigger role.

“[My role] is going to expand a lot,” Keegan Murray said of the 2021-22 season. “I’ve already talked to coach about it. I’m going to be taking more shots next year. Just this offseason, just my skill development is really going to benefit me. The more I do, the better I’ll get. I just think I’ll get an expanded role and I’m ready for that opportunity.”

RELATED: Forwards Josh Ogundele, Kris Murray ready for expanded role with Iowa men’s basketball

While Keegan Murray is slated for a bigger year on the court, Kris Murray has also put on weight to compete at the Big Ten level.

Similar to his brother, Kris Murray has put on 20 pounds since the beginning of the season. Kris Murray only appeared in 13 games for the Hawkeyes in 2020-21, averaging 3.2 minutes per game.

“[Kris] has been doing really good this offseason,” Keegan Murray said. “He’s gotten stronger too, he’s developing his game. We’ve been working together a lot this offseason so I just think that he’s ready for his moment, and I think he’ll shine once he gets it.”

But for Kris Murray, there’s no hard feelings about unequal playing time compared to Keegan in his freshman season — it’s about learning the game.

“I kind of just took it as a learning year that year, and this year too,” Kris Murray said. “It definitely makes you work harder, especially in practice. You just have to give it your all, and that’s all I can do.”

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