Markieff Morris (6-10, 235 pounds, PF/C, Pennsauken (N.J.) Apex)
Class of 2008
Originally members of the Class of 2007 from Philadelphia, the Morris twins re-classified to the Class of 2008 in order to enhance their overall status. They made their first commitment to Memphis, then reopened to explore other options. In the end, they chose KU over co-finalist Villanova. Because there are relatively few skilled and athletic big men in the senior class, the Morris twins deservedly became hot commodities over the course of last summer, and both project as potential impact players in the Big 12.
The more perimeter-oriented of the pair, Marcus has become a legitimate scorer from 21 feet. He shoots a smooth three-pointer, and at the National Prep Invitational he also showed improved scoring ability off the dribble. In one instance, he used a quick crossover to lose a smaller and quicker defender, stepping back into a three. He's also a good passer both on the perimeter and on drives, and he is a capable for such a tall wing. He's able to provide solid help defense because of his height, and he's a dangerous offensive rebounder for the same reason along with his good athleticism.
Markieff also likes to set up away from the rim, but he's aware that his college future will consist of more dedicated interior play. Facing the basket, he also is a good shooter, though his release is more off his shoulder and not quite as wing-ready as that of Marcus. That said, he's slightly taller and stronger, and the turnaround jumpers he nailed from 8-15 feet are ready-made for college. In that respect, he could take and make many of the same shots that Darrell Arthur drills now. He's a superior rebounder to his brother and also possesses excellent mobility changing ends of the court. Additionally, he's a fine, very aware and unselfish interior passer.
Still Working. …
Both twins need to become more physical on the interior. Neither gets the most out of his body defensively, preferring to rely on athleticism (for shot-blocking) to recover from their own mistakes. Marcus, in particular, may experience difficulties in certain matchups when he's on the wing, because his feet not surprisingly aren't as quick and nimble as some of the better wing scorers in the Big 12. He also needs to mix in more drives -- and improve his already-okay dribbling along with that -- to force defenders to play him honestly.
Markieff's interior defense has improved, but he still allows position too easily and doesn't always play close enough to the rim on offense to make an impact as a post scorer and offensive rebounder. He'll need to improve his decision-making with the ball.
The first question to be answered is position. Both twins are listed at two different spots, because for physical and mentality reasons, it's difficult to gauge where they'll be utilized best. Having said that, it's a testament to the versatility of both that they can legitimately spend time at a high-major at two spots -- lots of guys try it, but few can do it in college.
My opinion is that Marcus is likely to spend a year cultivating his wing skills before he is trusted out there full-time. In the future, he'll be able to cause severe matchup difficulties for opponents. He's already too good of a shooter to back away, yet a smaller defender won't be able to handle him in the post. On the other hand, in KU's offensive system, he's such an effective driver, shooter and passer from the high post, that it might make sense to play him predominantly as a power forward.
Meanwhile, Markieff will begin his career as a power forward as well, and with Cole Aldrich and Quintrell Thomas providing beef and interior presence, he likely slots as a face-up four. Like Marcus, he should be very effective scoring from the high post, although his additional size also should enable him to power his way to baskets as well.
In short, both players are "combos" rather than "tweeners," and that's why they are blue-chip prospects rather than projects.
Because Bill Self places such a great emphasis on toughness, adding a pair of Philadelphia kids makes a lot of sense. While it's true that the Morris twins don't yet possess the style to bang on a consistent basis, neither guy shies from contact and neither lacks the willingness to stand up to confrontation.
Case in point: Marcus came down with leg cramps in Providence and needed a few minutes to recover, and a fan sitting courtside shouted, "Hey, this is a basketball tournament, if a guy is hurt you get him off the floor and deal with him on the bench!"
Markieff, hearing this, turned and fired back, "Mind your business!" and then proceeded to walk away to avoid any escalation. He then played perhaps his two roughest minutes of that game, making a quick look at his brother's heckler in the process. In the end, there's a synergy between these twins as there is between most twins, and playing them together at times could result in some very sharp and intuitive teamwork.