Keegan Murray discusses being ‘under-recruited’ ahead of NBA draft
Former Iowa star and All-American forward Keegan Murray is expected to be a top-10 pick in Thursday’s NBA draft, but first he took a shot at some Q&A with The Post’s Steve Serby.
Q: You once said, “I’ve been an underdog my whole life.”
A: In high school I wasn’t a high-ranked recruit. I had one Division I offer (Western Illinois) but the coach left and the players went in the transfer portal, so I had a bunch of Division-II offers, and two junior college offers. … I felt underappreciated, under-recruited my whole life. And when I got to Iowa, a lot of fans didn’t think that I earned a scholarship to go there just ’cause my dad went there in the ’90s.
Q: How did that motivate you?
A: It just made me work harder and earn whatever I was given.
Q: How did you deal with that kind of disrespect at that time?
A: I just focused on myself. I had a good circle of people around me who have supported me, so I really didn’t have any negativity coming my way. I knew that my hard work would take care of itself at some point but I didn’t know when it would.
Q: The criticism that you thought was most unfair or bothered you the most?
A: I wasn’t ready to play college basketball, I think that was probably the biggest thing. I had the height, but physically I wasn’t ready. But I played my freshman year, so I guess I did that.
Q: Do you still have a chip on your shoulder to this day?
A: Yeah I think so. I mean, I don’t really care who I play, I’m gonna give 100 percent. I don’t really care what anybody says about me, I think criticism is better than praise because that means you have to work on stuff, so yeah, I have a chip on my shoulder for sure.
Q: Do you root for underdogs?
A: I think so. I feel like it’s just a cool thing to see, people that aren’t expected to win or do good, end up surprising or end up having great careers. Steph Curry came from Davidson, no one thought he’d be a good NBA player, and now he’s one of the best players in the world.
Q: What is it about the big moment in games that you like?
A: I just think having the ball in my hands in the big moment, I know I can rely on myself. … I just like to have the ball in my hand and have the opportunity to win the game, tie the game or lose the game. And I’ll take whatever the outcome is. I don’t really care if I miss a shot to end the game, I’ll just get it back next game or next opportunity.
Q: Have you always been that way?
A: Yeah, I kinda have an I-don’t-care mindset. I feel like I can win a lot of games down the stretch. That’s kind of my mindset going into those final minutes.
Q: So you’ve never had a fear of failure.
A: No. Never.
Q: The biggest obstacle you had to overcome.
A: I think that was probably my senior year when I wasn’t getting recruited as much, and it was like April of that year, I had no clue what I was gonna do for college or anything after high school. I think that was probably the biggest hurdle just because of the unknown aspect of what I was gonna do next.
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Q: Adjectives that describe you on the court.
A: Confident … competitive … relentless.
Q: Give me a relentless example.
A: I always try to be the aggressor on the court … never back down from anyone … always go full speed.
Q: Do you have the Mamba mentality?
A: That’s kinda sacred to Kobe, so I wouldn’t describe myself as that.
Q: Your on-court mentality?
A: I think it’s confident, I’m never gonna shy away from anyone, I’m not scared of anyone. I always just give my all, try to outwork everyone else on the court, be the best player on the court.
Q: NBA players you like to watch?
A: Khris Middleton, I like watching him a lot. … Devin Booker, I think he has a smooth game. … Jayson Tatum, he has a smooth game.
Q: Which one of them is most like you?
A: I think Khris Middleton just because he came from the G-League and became an NBA champ. He’s not the most athletic guy in the world but he uses a change of pace, change of speed, and does that really well.
Q: Your father (Kenyon) coached you for a long time, right?
A: Yeah, he was my only trainer growing up throughout elementary, middle school, high school. He played Division-I basketball, McDonald’s All-American, so he knows what he’s talking about. I feel like he put a good skill set in me and established fundamentals at an early age.
Q: Did you have a hoop in your driveway?
A: Yeah, it was like a slanted driveway, but it got the job done. It just kinda went downhill, not severe but …
Q: You played one-on-one with your dad?
A: Yeah I did, ’til he thought that we could beat him, so he never wanted to lose against us, so he stopped playing us when we were about like seventh, eighth grade.
Q: You and your twin Kris.
A: Yeah, yeah, yeah, me and my brother, we played one-on-one against my dad.
Q: How did your dad’s game compare to your game?
A: I’d say athleticism-wise, we’re about the same. He was more defense-minded, he wasn’t the best offensive player. More of midrange, get to the basket. Didn’t really have a 3-point shot. But I think we compare athleticism-wise, toughness-wise.
Q: Give me an example of your toughness.
A: After the end of the season loss, the last game at Illinois which was kind of a heartbreaker for us, I went to the Big Ten tournament and I broke almost every offensive record, led our team to a championship, so …
Q: Was your dream to play at Iowa?
A: No, it wasn’t my dream to play at Iowa. I was just close to home and stuff like that, but I just wanted to play college basketball at the highest level, and be able to go to school for free.
Q: What’s it been like having a twin brother?
A: It’s been fun. It’s easy, because it’s kind of like you have a built-in workout partner, so that was pretty cool.
Q: Did you ever play practical jokes on people?
A: No, we never switched positions or anything like that with people, no.
Q: Wouldn’t that be a fun thing to do?
A: I think people from the outside, people who aren’t twins think it’ll be, I guess, a funny thing to do … but back in school I was always smarter than Kris, but there was no point in like switching spots in class, something like that, so …
Q: Would I be able to tell the difference between you two?
A: No you wouldn’t. There’s no chance (laugh).
Q: Personality-wise, how are you different?
A: He’s probably a little more outgoing than me.
Q: Adjectives to describe yourself off the court.
A: Humble … easygoing.
Q: What drives you?
A: I’d probably say creating generational wealth in my family. Just being able to know that I can improve on different things on the court and off the court.
Q: Favorite inspirational sayings?
A: My mom always told me to go hard and have fun.
Q: Tell me about Demetrius Harper.
A: That’s my older brother. He came into our family when I was in middle school. He was a sophomore in college. So we took him in as one of our own, and he’s been with us ever since.
Q: What was that adjustment like for you?
A: It was a pretty smooth adjustment for me. It was cool to have someone older than me and Kris to be a part of our family. We welcomed him with open arms, and he just kinda fit in like a glove. It was really cool.
Q: You can pick the brain of any NBA player in history.
A: Kobe Bryant. Just about what he did on a day-to-day basis and how he made himself so great.
Q: You can go one-on-one with any player in NBA history.
A: Michael Jordan.
Q: What were your emotions after losing to Richmond in the first round of March Madness?
A: Roller coaster of emotions ’cause three days before that we won the Big Ten Championship, so wasn’t the best in the world.
Q: (Iowa coach) Fran McCaffrey.
A: He’s a really good coach, really cared about his guys, really cared about me, still calls and texts me all the time to this day. So he really brought a family atmosphere to the University of Iowa. I’m forever grateful that he was able to give me an opportunity to play there.
Q: DME Sports Academy.
A: I went down there (Daytona Beach) and it was really just basketball. I was able to work on my game all the time, seven days a week, and mature physically, so I think that was kind of a blessing in disguise, and I just owe them everything. It was a really cool year for me.
Q: Favorite high school basketball memory.
A: Winning the conference championship my senior year.
Q: Boyhood idol.
A: Kevin Hart.
Q: Why did you choose Priority Sports as your representation?
A: They’re just a really good agency. My freshman year I played with Joe Wieskamp and he signed with Priority Sports, he’s with the Spurs now. I got a lot of intel from him. Mark Bartelstein has built a really good organization, and I felt like it was just a perfect fit for me.
A: Golf, hanging out with friends.
A: Listen to the same song before I go out on the floor.
Q: Three dinner guests.
A: Tiger Woods; Barack Obama; Oprah Winfrey.
Q: Favorite movie.
A: Step Brothers.
Q: Favorite actor.
A: Steve Carell.
Q: Favorite actress.
A: Sandra Bullock.
Q: Favorite singer/entertainer.
A: Rod Wave.
Q: Favorite meal.
A: Chicken and rice.
Q: How would you describe your fashion game?
A: I like wearing comfortable clothes, what I’m wearing for draft night is clean and fits me well.
Q: Personal goals as a rookie.
A: Get to the playoffs.
Q: Career goals.
A: Win a championship.
Q: I deserve to be a lottery pick because …
A: The work I put in to be in the position I’m in today.
Q: What kind of an impact do you think you can make as a rookie?
A: I think I can bring a winning mentality to whatever team. Everything else will take care of itself. Obviously it’s 82 games in a season, so it’s a long year, and you’re gonna be able to do things every night, so for me it’s just to learn from the older guys, better myself as a player and just … be a winner.
Q: You’ve never been to New York. When do you head to New York for the draft?
Q: Tell an NBA GM why he should draft Keegan Murray.
A: I’m a versatile player, I can play a lot of different positions, fill any role you need me to do, and also I bring a winning mentality, and I proved that throughout my college years.
Q: What do you want or hope your legacy will be one day?
A: Be known as a winner and a role model to other athletes.