Hi, folks. Let's talk basketball recruiting.
The 2020 Iowa MBB recruiting class seemed a bit underwhelming at the time when it was signed. Ahron Ulis had an offer from DePaul. Josh Ogundele had offers from Cincinnati, Providence, Rhode Island and Rutgers. Tony Perkins' other offers were Ball State, Bradley, Miami (OH) and Toledo. And Keegan and Kris Murray's only other D1 offer was from Western Illinois. This was concerning. This class looked a lot like the 2015 class, which, frankly, set the program back to square one after the relatively successful Marble-White-Uthoff teams. A lot has happened over the last three months, though, and I am a lot more optimistic about this recruiting class than I was in the fall, mostly due to the improvements that the Murray twins and Tony Perkins have shown.
Tony Perkins plays for Lawrence North, which is the same high school that Mike Conley and Greg Oden once played for. They play in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference (i.e., the big Indianapolis schools), which is the best league in Indiana. Last season, Lawrence North finished 4th in their conference and went 17-7 overall. Perkins played second fiddle to Indiana State ’19 recruit Jared Hankins and did not make the all-conference team despite scoring 15.9 PPG on 59% / 38% shooting (2 point percentage / 3 point percentage).
This season, Perkins has broken out. Lawrence North is 18-1, they lead their conference, and are currently the #2 ranked team in the state. They were the undefeated #1-ranked team in the state before being upset by North Central on January 20th. Tony Perkins is the best player on the team, averaging 19 PPG on 60% shooting (33% on three pointers) and is picking up buzz for the Indiana Mr. Basketball award. Kyle Neddenriep, of The Indianapolis Star, wrote an article on February 5th about the top candidates for Mr. Basketball in Indiana and Perkins was one of the six guys he wrote about. The other five were:
- D’Andre Davis (4* Rivals, Louisville)
- Trey Galloway (3* Rivals, Indiana)
- Anthony Leal (4* Rivals, Indiana)
- Sincere McMahon (Unranked Rivals, Western Illinois)
- Nijel Pack (4* Rivals, Kansas State)
Nijel Pack and D’Andre Davis both play for Lawrence Central, the pre-season #1 team in the state. Lawrence Central is 17-2 on the season, with both of their losses coming against Lawrence North. Perkins scored 30 in the first game against Lawrence Central and 18 in the rematch. They will probably play each other at least one more time this season. It will be interesting to see how that goes.
There are a lot of videos on Twitter and Youtube of Perkins dunking. Here is a subset (he is #12 for the team in green and red):
Here are some more:
And here are some of his highlights from last season:
This article, published in The Indianapolis Star on January 19th, is behind a paywall but it contains the following excerpt on Perkins:
“I am not ready to get too caught up in the moment and proclaim Tony Perkins the IndyStar Mr. Basketball frontrunner. There is too much season remaining and the race is too tight — let’s take a closer look at the candidates in February.
But I think we can proclaim the 6-4 Perkins the unofficial MVP of the season through mid-January. I have covered five Lawrence North games this season and I do not think I have seen the Iowa recruit have an off-half, let alone an off-game. He rarely forces shots, encourages his teammates to do their thing and still ends up with his numbers in the end.
On Saturday night, Perkins finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds. He had a big assist to Omar Cooper in the fourth quarter for a 3-pointer to put the Wildcats ahead to stay and a putback after his own miss a minute later. Huge plays.
If you want to find out about a player, it is often found in what his teammates say — or don’t say. I asked D.J. Hughes, Shamar Avance and Cooper about Perkins in the past couple days. They all relay the same message of Perkins’ unselfish play. I asked Perkins about that Saturday night as he held the Marion County championship trophy.
“I try to look out for my teammates and trust in them,” he said. “That’s always been my game. I think that helps. I think they boost their energy off of me. If I’m out there dishing, they are going to reflect off me. I love playing like that and helping my teammates out.”
Lawrence North is 14-0 and coming off a run of six wins in nine days. Perkins is the biggest reason why — just ask his teammates.
Perkins doesn't seem like as much of a reach anymore.
Remarkably, his improvement isn't even the biggest of the class because the Murray twins have been tearing it up at the DME Academy in Florida. Here's a primer on them: they're the sons of former Iowa player Kenyon Murray and they played at Cedar Rapids Prairie in high school, graduating in Spring 2019. They didn't attract much interest as high school players (Western Illinois was their only D1 offer) so they decided to play as post-graduates at the DME Academy. During the Spring/Summer of 2019, they both hit a major growth spurt which improved their prospects dramatically. After some workouts and showcases, they were starting to receive interest from D1 schools. Iowa assistant coach Kirk Speraw went down to Florida to watch them play and decided they were Big Ten-worthy. Iowa offered, they accepted, and that was that. This was before the season started and before they could really get much exposure and offers from other high major programs. At the time it seemed like a reach -- Iowa offering two guys whose only other offers were from Western Illinois. Since then, though, well let's look at the stats:
Keegan Murray is listed at 6'8". His father has tweeted that he was measured at 6'7.5" without shoes, which would actually be a quarter inch taller than what Tyler Cook measured at the NBA combine. Kris Murray is also listed at 6'8" but looks to be about an inch shorter than Keegan. Keegan is right-handed while Kris is a lefty.
Keegan Murray is averaging 21.9 PPG and 7.2 RPG while Kris Murray is putting up 17 PPG and 10.4 RPG. Keegan is shooting 62% on two-pointers and 38% from three-point range. Kris's outside shooting hasn't been as accurate as his brother (31% from three) but is also making 61% of his two pointers. The bottom line is that both of these guys have been putting up huge numbers. What kind of competition are they playing against? Well, it's uneven. Most of their games are blowout wins against hopelessly overmatched opponents but they have played at least three games against very high level competition: two games against IMG Academy's post-grad team (which was reported to be the #1 post-grad team in the country) and another game against #9-ranked Woodstock Academy.
DME Academy got blown out by 30+ in their first game against IMG (although Keegan still put up 18 points), but they won their rematch against IMG, a game in which Keegan scored 36 points and Kris had 25 points. They beat Woodstock on a game-winning shot by Keegan; he finished that game with 32 points and 10 rebounds, while Kris had 23 points and 9 rebounds. So, yeah, they seem to be getting it done against quality competition. Also, many of their games are present on YouTube in their entirety, so you can watch them. Just search for "dme pg blue" -- and pay attention to the date because there are games from last season on there as well. There are three DME post-grad teams: blue, white, and black. The Murrays play for the blue team. Here are a few clips from their win against IMG that highlight the Murrays' impressive offensive skill set. Keegan is #31. Kris is #25. They are going up against very good IMG players:
- #4 is Kenyon Martin Jr, a 4* prospect and the #50 overall recruit in the 2020 class (and also the son of that Kenyon Martin)
- #2 is Darius Miles, a 4* prospect and the #112 overall recruit in the 2020 class (but not related to that Darius Miles).
- #24 is Nick Blake, a 4* prospect and the #107 overall recruit in the 2020 class (but not related to either Steve Blake the basketball player, or William Blake the Romantic Era poet).
Here's Keegan Murray making a step back 3 over Kenyon Martin Jr:
And another one:
Here's Kris doing it:
Here's Keegan fooling his defenders on the block:
Here's Keegan making a nice move but missing the shot:
I have watched 6-10 of DME's games, in their entirety, on YouTube this season and feel comfortable making the following statement: the Murray twins are the two best players on that team.
They look like a couple of guys who have played guard their entire lives and then suddenly grew to be the size of forwards. Their offensive skills are impressive. Keegan, in particular, can really put the ball in the basket. I get a Uthoff vibe when watching him play. Kris hasn't shown quite the same scoring prowess as Keegan while at DME, but he is also a good player. He's an inch shorter, looks to be somewhat quicker, and is also the better defender of the two, from what I've seen. Both guys are smooth but neither have stunning athleticism or physicality. If you watch more of that video, you'll see Kenyon Martin Jr. display stunning athleticism and physicality. But the Murrays scored 61 points in that game and their team won.
In terms of how they will do in the Big Ten, well, I'm not a scout but here's what I see: they have an impressive combination of height, length, and skills. I don't think they are Big Ten-ready from a physicality standpoint. But if they put in the work in the weight room, they could get there. They are clearly late-bloomers and their ceilings are very high. It's just a question of where they can get physique-wise.
In terms of ridiculous best-case scenarios, it is worth noting that two of the biggest stories in college basketball this season are Obi Toppin of Dayton and Freddie Gillespie of Baylor. Obi Toppin was a pretty good 6'4" high school player who went to prep-school for a post grad year, hit a huge growth spurt, and was suddenly a 6'8"-6'9" player with guard skills. He's being projected in the NBA Draft lottery now. Freddie Gillespie (a 6'9" forward) is now a key piece for #1-ranked Baylor after originally being a reserve at DIII Carleton College. Are the Murrays going to be as good as Toppin or Gillespie? The odds say "no" -- but that doesn't mean they couldn't still be pretty good. Every year, there are guys who come out of nowhere to surprise people. Often, it's big men who develop late (or hit a late growth spurt). We might have found a couple guys like that in the Murray twins.
I don't mean to hype this class up or put unrealistic expectations on these players. But when this class was signed, I wasn't very excited about it. But I am excited about it now and I wanted to explain why that's changed. This recruiting class doesn't have a lot to offer in terms of star rankings or offer sheets -- but this class is starting to look pretty intriguing all the same.