Murrays: Chriss, Keegan, Kenyon (back); Demetrius Harper, Michelle, McKenna (front). (Photo courtesy of Kenyon Murray)
CEDAR RAPIDS – where women meet men. They get married here and raise their children here.
Not an extraordinary story so far, right? Well, one of the sons of Michelle and Kenyon Murray will be the University of Iowa’s first-ever NBA lottery pick. He has stood out more than any basketball player his hometown has sent to the world.
Cedar Rapids-born and raised Keegan Murray could be a top-five pick in the June 23 draft. Twin brother Chris Murray is a junior from Iowa State and will likely be selected in the 2023 NBA draft.
“Cedar Rapids has been very good for the life we want to build,” Kenyon said.
Kenyon had a great basketball career in Iowa, scoring 1,230 points and 200 steals in 1992-96. But his sons weren’t born with silver basketball spoons in their mouths. Western Illinois is the only Tier 1 program that offers scholarships to Prairie High School seniors when they are seniors.
“I think we’ve all had moments of doubt when it comes to what their basketball future is going to look like,” Kenyon said.
Still pinning their hopes on acceptance from the big convention school, the twins went to DME Academy in Florida for a year. They get bigger and better. Then, they got a scholarship from Iowa’s Fran McCaffery, which was questioned by many outsiders who didn’t know McCaffery hit a pair of recruiting home runs.
Keegan was a first-team All-American in his second season in college, and Chriss will have the opportunity to be a forward in the following season.
The story begins shortly 2,000 years ago, when Kenyon and Michelle of the Anamosa met in Cedar Rapids. They got married and then moved to Ottumwa after Kenyon got a job as an assistant basketball coach at Indian Hills Community College.
Michelle gave birth to the twins in Cedar Rapids in 2000 and returned to Cedar Rapids with the boys from Othamwa in 2002. Kenyon followed after the school completed the final months of his contract.
“We knew we might end up having to move (from Cedar Rapids),” Kenyon said. “I’m still chasing my dream of becoming a First Division head coach.
“But things lined up where I got into a career in pharmaceutical sales. My job and hers (then at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids) kept us here.”
“I’m not against moving,” said Michelle, who has worked at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinic for the past seven years. “Kenyon was thinking about coaching college basketball, and we thought that was where he was going. But it worked out well for us and we were able to really take root here.
“We bought the house in 2004 when the boy was 4. They started in Prairie when they were at AK (alternative kindergarten). We love being part of the University Community School District.”
The couple have a daughter, McKenna, who will become a junior multisport athlete on the Prairie this year. In 2008, the Murrays brought then-teenage Demetrius Harper to their home and eventually adopted him.
Keegan and Kris were very good high school players but moved quietly in Iowa’s test prep scene as the others were more sought after by college coaches. Still, from their childhood to their rise in basketball popularity in Florida, they’ve become rich.
“Most NBA teams call and ask about when they were kids,” Kenyon said. “They work, they volunteer, they’re in the student union. They’re very, very ingrained in the college community. They love camping and working with kids.
“They were very good students. Chris was considered talented and gifted throughout the school, but he never wanted that because he didn’t want to stand out. He just wanted to be like the other kids.”
The twins’ desire to learn dates back to an early age.
“I’m grateful that God chose us to raise them,” Michelle said. “We spend a lot of time with the kids, reading to them. We’ve been using the flashcards they made. I taught them sign language when they were little.
“We’ll have family movie nights, family game nights. We just love being together. We’re grateful for the time we can be together. We’ve been peaceful at home.
“Over the years, we’ve needed to replace the carpet in the house. But when we get a little extra money, it’s always like, ‘Okay, where can we go as a family and what can we do together? “
“We haven’t replaced the carpet in the house.”
Even during the year Chris and Kegan were in Florida, Michelle lived with them in an apartment and worked remotely for UIHC, while Kenyon and McKenna traveled frequently. Now, Keegan is going to NBA City while Kris is in Iowa City.
If Keegan’s team played in the Midwest, his parents might have seen McKenna play Friday night, Kris on Saturday and Keegan on Sunday.
“We’re going to go with the flow,” Michelle said, “playing as many games as possible.”
This spring, Keegan and Chris have been through a lot of whirlwinds as they train in Chicago. Their parents put together a team for them that included an agent, a trainer, a performance coach and a financial planner.
Michelle said this time of their lives was “a great time.” “We choose gratitude over anxiety.”
All six members of the Murray family will be at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, in the green room of the NBA draft.
“We talk about pinching ourselves,” Kenyon said. “Every day we say ‘Can you believe it?
“The best is yet to come. Keegan and Kris have a platform to touch the lives of so many people. As a family, we feel it is our responsibility to give back.”
There are plans for a draft watch party in the Prairie.
“Just as we love the college community,” Kenyon said, “I think the college community loves them too.”
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