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'Late bloomer': Iowa's Keegan Murray on Pistons' radar with No. 5 pick

Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News on

Published in Basketball

CHICAGO — Keegan Murray is used to being doubted.

Shoot, he’s not entirely unsure he hasn’t been part of the crowd casting the doubt.

So, the notion the All-America selection from Iowa is on the verge of being a lottery pick in next month’s NBA draft might have seemed a tad farfetched at one point.

“If you told me three years (ago) I’d be in this position, I'd kind of smirk at you and laugh,” Murray said from the NBA combine on Thursday. “So, for me, I'm just honored and grateful.”

Of course, any lingering doubt of Murray’s game has all but disappeared, thanks to a breakout sophomore season at Iowa, when the 6-foot-8 forward earned All-America honors, was up for nearly every award for national player of the year and almost singlehandedly led the Hawkeyes to the Big Ten tournament championship, scoring a record 103 points in four tournament games.

Emerging from the shadows of former teammate and current Pistons big man Luka Garza, Murray averaged 23.5 points and 8.7 rebounds a game for the Hawkeyes, establishing program records in points (822) and field goals made (307). He also became only the second player in Division I history to amass more than 800 points, 60 blocks and 60 3-pointers in a single season, joining Kevin Durant, who did it at Texas in 2007.

 

Not bad for a guy who had one Division I scholarship offer coming out of high school in Cedar Rapids and headed to Florida with his twin brother, Kris, for a year at a prep school before landing a scholarship at Iowa, a place he was once mistaken as a walk-on when he first arrived.

“Yeah, I say I’m a 21-year-old in an 18-year-old’s body,” Murray said with a laugh. “In high school, I was a 5-foot-10 as a sophomore and then I grew. I grew to 6-foot-8 my senior year of high school. So I'm a late bloomer in that sense.”

Late or not, Murray — who left Iowa after his sophomore season — is projected to go in the top 10 and is lining up to be an attractive option for the Pistons, who have the No. 5 pick after dropping in Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery.

Slipping a couple of spots was a blow to some, but general manager Troy Weaver is confident there is plenty of value where the Pistons are picking. And while dynamic, athletic guards like Purdue’s Jaden Ivey, Kentucky’s Shaedon Sharpe and Arizona’s Ben Mathurin could pair well with Cade Cunningham, who was just named to the NBA’s All-Rookie first team, a wing with Murray’s skill could be the way to go.

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