Versatility key to Morris' game

As the cornerstone of a talented young post rotation for Head Coach Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks, junior power forward Marcus Morris is doing a little bit of everything in a young 2010-2011 season.

At the University of Kansas, Marcus Morris is a great many things.

On the basketball court, 6-foot-9 junior is one of the nation's elite collegiate talents. He's big, he's physical, he's versatile. He's a match-up nightmare for any post player in the country with his ability to shoot from range and do damage in the paint, to score and distribute with equal effectiveness.

In the Nov. 12 season opener versus Longwood University, Morris scored the Jayhawks with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including a pair of three pointers. He followed up that performance Monday night with a double-double; 22 points on 10-of-12 shooting, 11 rebounds, four assists and a steal, as Kansas trounced Valparaiso 79-44.

Off the court, Morris is humble and soft-spoken, even looking slightly uncomfortable at times as reporters crowd around him at press conferences.

So when asked what what area of his game still needed the most work in the aftermath of the Jayhawks' victory over the Crusaders, his response was characteristically self-effacing.

"Just my all around game," Morris said, diplomatically. "It's never enough. I could have had more rebounds tonight than what I had. I think I had seven at half and I ended with 11. I could have had a lot more."

It's hard to imagine that there are two players anywhere in the United States who have transformed themselves as much as Marcus and his twin brother Markieff. Late additions to KU's recruiting Class of 2008, the Philadelphia natives came to Lawrence, Kan. undersized and with a penchant for letting their emotions get the best of them at times on the hardwood.

Today, they are almost unrecognizable from those brash youth of two years ago. Filled-out physically and far more athletic, they let their games do their talking for them – and they say plenty.

Marcus in particular has caught the attention of not just Jayhawk Nation and the college basketball world, but also that of pro scouts enamored with his diverse skill set.

For Head Coach Bill Self's money, he's the most complete player he's coached during his tenure at the University of Kansas – and maybe during his entire coaching career.

"There's nobody that I've coached who does more things," Self said Tuesday, during his weekly press conference. "He's a guard that can post, he can play with his back to the basket, he can step off the block, he can drive it, he's got great vision, he's got range. I mean, he's a good player."

Which isn't to say, of course, there remains no room for growth. A coach's critical eye can always find something, and to those familiar with Self's approach to the game it should come as no surprise that he immediately looks to defense as an area in need of improvement. And not just for Marcus, but Markieff and Thomas Robinson, the team's primary post rotation to date.

"Statues guard better at times," he said Monday night, smiling slightly and shaking his head. "Those three obviously need to get better in that area."

Still, it's hard for Kansas fans to look at that group and not see the potential for something special – particularly within Marcus Morris. At a program with a history of churning out quality big men, he has all the tools to be one of the best.

"You've just gotta keep going, keep fighting at it," Morris said. "Anything I've gotta do to put me and the team over the edge is what's best for us.


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