McMorris Big 12 Player of the Year

Marcus Morris was on a mission last summer. He got up at 6 a.m. regularly to work out with his twin brother Markieff. He also honed his skills at the LeBron James Skills Academy, the Amar'e Stoudamire big man camp, and the Adidas Nations Experience. And he participated on the U.S. Select Team scrimmaging and training against top NBA players with the USA National Team.

After losing KU stars Cole Aldrich, Xavier Henry and Sherron Collins from 2009-10, Morris felt a special obligation this season to become a go-to player and leader.

"Coming into the year, I knew I had to step up and become one of the main players on the team," the 6-9 KU junior forward said. "My entire summer was just working out and becoming better and becoming a better leader. The light came on at the beginning of the year knowing we had to perform every game."

All that hard work and dedication paid off for Morris when he was selected the Big 12 Player of the Year by the league coaches and the Associated Press.

"I'm happy," Marcus Morris said. "I give all the credit to my teammates. Without them there is no way I would have been selected. We've had a great season so far but we still have a lot of work to do heading into the Big 12 tournament and the NCAA's."

"I couldn't do it if we didn't win," Morris added. "I put it all on winning."

Morris has led KU to a 29-2 record and the outright Big 12 championship, averaging 17.3 points (No. 5 in Big 12) and 7.0 rebounds per game while shooting 59.7 percent from the field (No. 2 in league). He's upped those marks in Big 12 play with averages of 18.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per contest, while shooting 60.6 percent. Morris, who is averaging 21 points in his last four games, has also led KU in every statistical category at least once this season.

Morris, a first-team All-Big 12 pick and also a first-team All-American by Yahoo Sports!, a second-team All-American by CBSSports.com and a third-team All-American by FoxSports.com, is the sixth KU student-athlete to win Big 12 Player of the Year and first since Wayne Simien in 2004-05.

Morris has simply become a complete player and arguably the most versatile player in the country, scoring inside and out, showcasing deft passing skills, and willingness to hit the boards.

And combined with his high basketball IQ, he just may be a poor man's version of Jayhawk legend and KU assistant coach Danny Manning. Morris feels blessed to be mentored by Manning every day in practice, and credits the former All-American for his improvement.

"I have the best big man coach in the country on our staff," Morris said. "Danny Manning has taught me so much about the game. All of my development is basically because I have him and because I'm striving to be better and I'm putting in the work and the time to become better."

Morris insists he still has a lot of work to do.

"I'm not perfect by any means," he said.

KU coach Bill Self was thrilled Morris earned Big 12 Player of the Year.

"I think that he deserves it," Self said. "You can make a case for other players in our league that have had really good seasons, but his consistency over the season definitely puts him in a position where he deserved the award. I'm really happy for him, proud of him. He gets it. He knows his teammates put himself into some really favorable situations to give him a chance to win this."

With KU heading into March Madness and the Big 12 tournament Thursday at 11:30 a.m. against the winner of Wednesday's game between Nebraska and Oklahoma State, Morris isn't ready to rest on his individual accolades.

"We still have other goals to strive for fully," he said.

His ultimate goal?

"Win a national championship," he replied. "I feel we got all the right pieces to have a great run. It's all coming down to how we're going to perform and how we practice and come together as a team."

As the best player on the No. 2 ranked team in the country, Morris will likely earn more awards this season.  He's already one of 10 finalists for the Oscar Robertson Trophy and a Wooden Award and Naismith Mid-Season candidate.

While he's 100 percent focused on the team, Morris doesn't hesitate when asked about the prospects of earning first-team All-American honors.

"It would definitely be a great honor because growing up and coming to college, I never thought I'd be an All-American," Morris said.

"I would definitely be proud of myself and my teammates."

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