On Wednesday, Iowa State basketball striker Chris Murray was met with what he described as the “biggest decision of his life.”
He’s spent the past six weeks in Chicago going through the pre-NBA draft process. June 1 was the deadline for players to decide whether to stay in the draft or go back to school, and Murray’s decision came down to the last day.
“There was definitely interest (the NBA) throughout this whole process,” he said on Thursday. “I kind of had to think about both options, but eventually I go back to Iowa. I have no conscience about not staying in the draft at all. I’m so excited to be back, yeah, it was definitely a tough decision, probably the biggest one I’ve ever made. But I am happy with the decision.”
With Murray announcing his return for junior seasonis expected to emerge as the team’s first scoring option, a position his twin brother just held last season and the NBA lottery pick, Keegan Murray.
Chris indicated on Thursday that next season will be the first time he remembers that he and Keegan will not be teammates, but said it would be a good thing and would allow both to grow individually. However, there will naturally be comparisons between the Murray twins next season. These comparisons aren’t new to them, but breaking up for the first time will provide clarity on the differences in their playing styles.
Their father and former Iowa NBA player Kenyon Murray said Wednesday in an interview with The Record that Chris is the best replayer and can be in double range per game. But the biggest difference is Chris’ playmaking ability, which will be on display this coming season as he will have the ball in his hands so much more.
“Just being able to handle and be creative for other people,” Kenyon said Wednesday during the Hawk Central Radio Hour in the Register. “That’s probably the biggest difference that (people) will see between Chris and Keegan. Kris played the point guard growing up. I think there’s no punch on Keegan obviously, but Chris is more willing to passersby. I think there will be some nights where He had seven, seven or eight assists in a game.”
How was the interest of the NBA real as Decision Day approached? Very real, according to Kenyon Murray. All 30 NBA teams inquired about Chris and provided feedback in some capacity. Although not involved in the NBA combine, Chris worked with teams on the professional day of Priority Sports after the combine, the same agency that represents Keegan.
A good showing on Pro Day sparked more interest and the hype surrounding Chris reached late into the first/early second round talks. But certain circumstances prevented a guaranteed high draft pick that would have sold Murray to become a professional.
These factors included the teams’ plans for how they will use their choices, the upcoming free agency, and the commercial market. With the NBA offseason officially starting, the variables presented a lot of risks. Whereas returning to Iowa had more tangible benefits.
“The fact that he’s going to be able to come back, be the guy and show his ability to lead,” Kenyon said. “I think those are the things that the NBA teams want to see as well. I think when Keegan walks into the room, he thinks he’s the best player in the room. That comes from being a leader and performing at a high level. I think that’s one of those things that Chris will have the opportunity to do and build upon this year in returning to Iowa.”
Coming back and enjoying a solid season should help answer the remaining questions that NBA teams are asking. Chris said he and Team Iowa 2022-23 have high expectations that include trying to win the Big Ten Championship for the second time in a row. As for Chris, who will see a much greater workload than he did last season, the opportunity and challenge ahead of him is exciting.
“I want the teams to be at the helm (the scouting report),” Chris said. “I want to be like the centerpiece of their defense and I’m excited about that because I think my game can develop in different ways.
“I think you have to be excited about it just because it’s a great situation. It’s better than having low expectations or not seeing you as an outstanding player. It’s something I feel good about in myself and in my game and I’m excited about the pressures and high expectations and everything that comes with it.”
Beyond physical improvement, perhaps Chris’ greatest development during the process came from his mentality. He has gained confidence by testing himself and succeeding against other NBA draft hopefuls and professional players. He alone took ownership of the recruiting process, making what Kenyon described as the “huge” decisions of his life for the two months.
Now, and perhaps for the first time since high school, Chris won’t be an unknown commodity or underestimated player entering the basketball season. The NBA interest confirmed that he was physically ready but the process helped him mature as a person.
“I would say that making the right decision has always been something I have been able to do in my football career thus far,” Chris said. “I think I’ve matured particularly on the mental side of basketball and kind of learn what it takes to become an NBA player. I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve taken away from the process.”
Kennington Lloyd Smith III covers Iowa State hockey and men’s basketball for the Des Moines record. You can contact Kennington at TwitterSkinnyKenny_ Or email him at email@example.com.