Lottery-bound Keegan Murray wasn’t recruited after high school: 'I’ve been slighted my whole life'

Iowa Hawkeyes sophomore Keegan Murray is a 6-foot-8 forward who is projected to be a top-five pick in the 2022 NBA draft.

With the draft approaching Thursday, the NCAA Power Forward of the Year and First Team All-American spoke to Yahoo Sports about:

  • the draft process

  • where he’s expected to go

  • being overlooked in high school and why he has a chip on his shoulder

  • almost going the JUCO route

  • his college rise

  • NBA teams he has met with

  • the craziest question he was asked

  • his age being criticized

  • what teams can expect from him

The Sacramento Kings — owners of the No. 4 pick — are high on Murray and even arranged for the prospect to have dinner with team stars De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

If Murray slips outside of the top five, sources said he likely wouldn’t make it past Portland at No. 7.

Chris Haynes: Through the workouts, the interviews, the entire process, what have these past two months been like for you?

Keegan Murray: “It's been kind of chaotic, but in a good way. I feel like these two months have flown by. I’ve just been getting in the gym with my trainer every day up in Chicago. I’m training with a bunch of different guys, college guys and NBA players. I’ve worked out with teams, visited teams, but it’s been good. I’ve had fun with it.”

CH: Set the record straight for me. I’ve got you down as having worked out for Detroit, Orlando and Indiana.

KM: “I’ve also been to Sacramento.”

CH: Was that a workout or just a meeting with them?

KG: “That was a meeting.”

CH: OK. Do you have any more workouts or meetings scheduled with teams before the draft?

KM: “No, I have no further workouts planned but I’ve pretty much met with, or at least talked to pretty much all the teams in the lottery.”

Iowa's Keegan Murray celebrates against Purdue during the Big Ten championship game on March 13, 2022 in Indianapolis. (Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
Iowa's Keegan Murray celebrates against Purdue during the Big Ten championship game on March 13, 2022 in Indianapolis. (Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

CH: Now take me through your story a little bit. Your path reminds me of Ja Morant where he wasn’t really recruited out of high school. I know you chose to go to prep school after high school. Why?

KM: “I only had one offer after high school and it was from Western Illinois. The coach left and most of their team left to the transfer portal. So for me, I was gonna go to a junior college in Iowa. I was pretty much set on it. And then my dad came up with the idea of going to a post-grad school. I had no idea about it. I didn’t want to go because it was down in Florida and I felt like it was the same opportunity that I would have had with JUCO. So my dad ended up convincing me that this is probably the best decision to have another year to grow up because I was a late bloomer. I grew 8 inches from my sophomore year to senior year of high school. So it was like another year for my body to grow and not have a year of college eligibility taken off.”

CH: There are not many players who go the JUCO route who have a realistic opportunity to play in the NBA. When you had decided to go down that path, was playing in the NBA in your line of thinking?

KM: “To be honest, I just wanted to go to college at the highest level that I could play at and get a scholarship so I could go to school for free. That was kind of my main thing at that point. But then my game elevated that prep school year. That’s when I knew I had a chance.”

CH: So after your prep school year, what offers came after that?

KM: “The only offer I had was Iowa. That was my first offer, and I took it. I committed a couple of days later, so I didn’t really give any other schools a chance.”

CH: Your freshman year at Iowa, you had a solid year, but you were not a starter. Did you have any doubts about how impactful you might be at the collegiate level?

KM: “So my freshman year, we had Luka Garza on our team who was the National Player of the Year averaging 26 points a game. For me, I wanted to go in there and learn and find a role on the team. I knew it wasn’t going to be scoring, so it was going to be something else. I’ve always had a really good offensive skill set. It just wasn’t really my job to use it during that season. But I knew that in my sophomore season, I could have a really good year and have the ball in my hands more. Everyone on my team trusted me and I went from there.”

CH: You obviously had your breakout sophomore season, averaging 23.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and shooting 39.8% from 3-point range. Did you exceed your expectations?

KM: “I felt like my sophomore year was an example of my hard work. I knew I could be the best player in college basketball, and I knew that going through that offseason, going through those workouts leading up to that season. Individually, I felt like it was a really good year. I expected that of myself.”

CH: What NBA players are you working out with right now?

KM: Isaiah Roby from Oklahoma City, Admiral Schofield from Orlando. There’s a guy that plays in the Euro League named Alec Peters who used to play with the Suns. And also Patrick Baldwin Jr.”

CH: During the pre-draft process, players are asked a million questions. What was the oddest question a team asked you?

KM: “I didn’t get any weird, over-the-top questions. But the one that sticks out is a team asked [me] if would you rather live for 500 years, or live for a hundred years, but every 10 years you forget about the last 10 years.”

CH: [Laughing] Wow. How did you respond to that?

KM: “I think I went with the 500 years, for sure. [Laughing]”

CH: Five hundred years is a long time. You’d be watching your loved-ones die pretty frequently.

KM: “Yeah, that’s the downside, but you’d get to 50 and don’t age from there. So, you’d look pretty good at 500. [Laughing]”

Keegan Murray talks to the media during the 2022 NBA draft combine at Wintrust Arena in Chicago on May 19, 2022. (David Banks/USA TODAY Sports)
Keegan Murray talks to the media during the 2022 NBA draft combine at Wintrust Arena in Chicago on May 19, 2022. (David Banks/USA TODAY Sports)

CH: One thing mentioned among most lottery prospects is do they have upside? You’ll be 22 when the NBA season starts. What do you say to executives if they ask about your upside potential?

KM: “In high school, I was under 6-foot my sophomore year and then I had a growth spurt to my senior year of high school. So, I’ve been a late bloomer in that respect. I grew half an inch from last season to now. But for me, once you get in between those lines, measurements, age and intangibles all goes out the window because what matters is, can you compete? And no one cares about how old you are when you’re playing basketball. It’s just a matter of what you can do on the court. That’s what I think about that.”

CH: You’re projected as a prospect that can go as high as No. 3 and as low as No. 10. Do you have a gut feeling where you might land?

KM: “I mean, anywhere on the lottery for me. I don’t care how high I go. I just want to be in the right, right place where I can build a career out of it. I want to be in one spot my whole career and give spirit to that team. So for me, it’s fit over pick.”

CH: What’s your natural position?

KM: “I’d probably say the three-four position.”

CH: And obviously for today’s game, versatility on both ends are key. Do you feel you can be an immediate impact on a team your rookie season?

KM: “I feel I can definitely contribute right away, especially because teams pretty much have stars they’re trying to build it around. I don’t have to have the ball in my hands to be successful. I can do different things, but if you need me to score, I can put the ball in the basket. I feel like I can guard multiple positions and be at different places on offense. I definitely think that’ll help me from Day 1.”

CH: Who in the NBA would you compare your game to?

KM: “I’d say the guy I’ve watched mostly is Khris Middleton. I feel like we’ve had that same story path. He went from the G League, to a star and became an NBA champ. I came from being unranked to whatever I am now. I feel like he’s not the most athletic guy in the world and plays a really smooth game. He just plays with really good pace. That’s a guy that I’ve been watching a lot.”

CH: Defensively, how many different positions are you comfortable guarding on the court?

KM: “In the NBA, you see a lot of switching. I feel like I can guard one through four. Guards, big wings, guys in the post, I can defend them all.”

CH: Do you think defense will be how you make your name in the league?

KM: “I think I can be a guy that I can dip in the pot both ways offensively and defensively. I know defense is a big thing that I’ve been working on because you see defense has taken over the game a little bit. It’s not about how much you can put the ball in the basket, but how you can defend the other team. Defense is a big focus of mine right now. I feel like I can be an all-around player.”

CH: Your twin brother, Kris, tested the draft waters and ultimately decided to return to school. You and him have been inseparable your whole life and have attended every school together. What will it be like to be without your brother on this new journey?

KM: “I feel like it’s just another opportunity to expand my life in a way. It’s been three weeks since he left our workouts to go back to school. I think it is good for both of us to grow ourselves personally. I think we’re both excited for it.”

CH: You’ve got a few days remaining before the NBA draft. What will you do leading up to that day?

KM: “I’ll continue working out every day. I was in Chicago and I came back to Iowa [Saturday]. I just finished up a workout now. I’m just keeping myself in shape and staying in the weight room to get ready for the draft. I leave on Tuesday for New York, I’ll be in the green room. I’m just looking forward to it all.”

CH: What is one thing you want people to know about you that most might not know?

KM: “I want people to know that I’m probably as competitive of a guy that you’ll ever get. I keep my demeanor pretty even keel throughout the game. I don’t want to get too high or too low, but some people mistake that for he’s not competitive or he doesn’t care about the game and things like that. I’m one of the more competitive guys you’ll meet.”

CH: Have you been keeping an eye on mock drafts?

KM: “No, not at all. I turned my phone off social media for the whole college season so I wouldn’t have to worry about that kind of stuff.”

CH: Your story is amazing of how you climbed the ranks from being someone who was recruited. Do you feel you were always overlooked or do you think you just developed later?

KM: “I feel like I’ve always had that chip on my shoulder since my senior year of high school because I felt like I was still a good player. I averaged 20 a game, I was first team All-State and still didn’t get the looks. I’ve always had that chip. When I got to Iowa, I remember the first question I got from a media guy was, ‘Are you going to be a walk-on?’ So, I’ve been slighted my whole life. Fans thought I was only at Iowa because my dad played there. Even this draft, I know that people think I’m too old, I won’t be a good NBA player and things like that. But for me, I feel like criticism is better than praise because you know you got doubters to prove wrong. I feel like that just helps me.”

CH: And lastly, I have to put you on the spot. Do you feel you’re the best defensive prospect out there?

KM: “I feel like defense is about effort and I give a hundred percent effort every time. I feel like I’m up there, up there with the best.”