Morris Improving

Marcus Morris arrived at Kansas this fall as the marquee player in KU's talented seven-man recruiting class. He was viewed as a can't miss prospect and compared to former Jayhawk great Julian Wright for his versatility and do-everything skills.

A 6-8 forward who could shoot the three, play inside, and crash the boards, Marcus Morris was expected to make an immediate impact.

But major college basketball is a big adjustment from high school, and Morris was no exception. He struggled in KU’s opening exhibition game against Washburn on Nov. 4, fouling out in seven minutes with just two points.

Coach Bill Self said the game would be a humbling and learning experience for Morris.

The Philadelphia native took his lessons and rebounded with 11 points (5-6 FG) and six boards in 16 minutes during KU’s 103-58 victory over Emporia State on Tuesday. He also committed just one foul. Morris showed flashes of his great scoring potential, although his defense wasn't quite sound.

“I think I played well,” Morris said. “I could have played a little better rebounding. I have to cut dow on turnovers (two). Defense wise, I think I could have got up on my man a little harder.”

Morris admitted he got tired in the first half  and “didn’t hedge over certain screens.”

“I know (Self) sees it so when I come to the sideline, he’ll whisper in my hear, ‘You know what you did?’ I just say, ‘Next time, I’ll make sure I get over the screen.’”

“That takes a little while for the second wind to kick in,” Morris added. “When you first start out, I get winded real fast. Once I come out and see how the game and tempo’s going, that’s when I (start) playing ... (and)  the offense part just comes to me automatically.”

Self was pleased with Morris’s improvement from game one.

“He had a rough stretch defensively in the first half when he got tired, but he was better,” Self said. “I guess the best thing about his line was the fact he made sure he didn’t foul out. He and (twin brother) Markieff combined for one foul. That may have been one of the most positive things we did.”

With two exhibition games under his belt, Morris is ready to start the regular season against UMKC on Sunday. Tipoff is 7:30 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse.

“I’m excited to play in my first real game,” he said. “I’m excited to finally get out there and see how it really is to play at the Phog and just be part of the tradition now.”

“I got my feet wet as coach said,” Morris added about the exhibition season. “There should be no more excuses now. We should just go out and play hard and show why (Self) recruited us.”

Junior point guard Sherron Collins expect big things from Morris this season.

“He can be (really) good,” Collins said. “Once he gets himself going and keeps his hands off people (on defense) ... He’s so versatile (with his) inside and outside game. I think he’s showed glimpses of it, but he’s still got more to offer.”

Morris said it’s been a big leap from high school to major college hoops.

“The transition is amazing,” he said. “You have to prepare yourself before you get here. It’ s just not going in the gym and shooting. It’s more conditioning.

“It gets a little better each time. It’s hard to just keep following someone around screens, but if you want to win, that’s the sacrifice you have to make.”

For Morris, the transition to college has been easier rooming with Markieff.

“He’s like my best friend,” Marcus said. “He’s always there.”

Marcus said he’s made a special effort to “really focus on being closer to my teammates because we (twins) know we’re real close to each other. As far as I’m concerned, we’re all brothers. It’s just one big family.”

Self believes Marcus will eventually make his mark on the Jayhawk basketball family. Despite his early struggles on defense, Self sees much brighter days ahead.

“Marcus Morris could be a terrific defender,” Self said. “You guys (media) can look at me at the end of the season and make a case he could be your best defender from a physical standpoint.”

In time, Morris could also become the next Julian Wright (with a better jump shot and minus Wright’s extraordinary passing skills). He’ll just keep working hard and progressing until he reaches his goals.

“I think I’m going to start coming around as the season goes,” Morris said.

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