McMorris: READY

Marcus Morris is ready. He's hyped. He's bigger. He's stronger. The 6-8 forward is arguably KU's most improved player from last season and poised for a breakout year in 2009-10.

After an inconsistent freshman year where he averaged 7.4 points and 4.7 rebounds in 35 games (22 starts),  Morris realized he had much work to do. So he spent the offseason lifting weights six times a week and honed his game in the gym every day.

Marcus Morris said at KU Media Day on October 15 that he weighed 230 pounds, up from 213 that he weighed at the same time last year. He hopes that extra strength and work will pay big dividends for himself and the Jayhawks this year.

We caught up with him during Media Day for an exclusive Q&A. Morris talked about a variety of subjects, from being a winner, hailing from the same city as Wilt Chamberlain, winning back-to-back state championships in high school, and molding his game after Carmelo Anthony.

David Garfield: "What do you think you're most improved on from last year?"

Marcus Morris: "I think I play a lot harder than what I did last year. I think I attack the rim more. I know that I don't know. I know that I need to abide by what coach (Bill) Self says. He knows how to win and I know how to win. Being in high school, I was always a winner. I come to college and I always want to be a winner, but the coach knows more than anybody. Just listening to what coach Self is saying is going to make me a better player."

DG: "Do you feel a special hunger since your season ended last year in Indianapolis (Sweet 16) to get back to Indianapolis for the Final Four?"

MM: "Definitely. In the offseason, that was one of my main goals. I felt if put more work in, it would help the team out and not just me. Coming into the gym and going into the weight room, I never just thought about me. I thought about the team and getting back to where we were last year and hopefully being successful this time."

DG: "Coach says you may play some small forward. Have you thought about that?"

MM: "I've been working on my guard skills all summer, just stepping out working on (the perimeter). Hopefully, I'll be able to show people what I can do."

DG: "I read in the media guide last year that your biggest accomplishment was winning back-to-back high school state championships. What did that mean to you?"

MM: "That meant a lot to me. My sophomore year in high school, I lost in the city championship game and I was devastated. I came back and put a lot of work in, similar to what happened last year (when) we lost in the Sweet 16. We came back and put a lot of work and won the state championship, and then the following season, we won another state championship. Hopefully, I can trade that off (for a national championship)."

DG:  "You say you mold your game after Carmelo Anthony. Can you talk about that?

MM: "I just feel like Carmelo is a  versatile player. He's a strong player. He knows when to shoot. He knows when to get inside. ... I feel that's my game. That's my full game. I know when not to go outside, I know when to post up. I know where the mismatch is. I can sense a mismatch."

DG: "You also say Kobe (Bryant) is your favorite player. What about Kobe do you like?"

MM: "He's a winner. I've always been a winner since I started playing basketball, and Kobe is a winner, too."

DG: "Is there special meaning to know (as a Philadelphia native) that Wilt Chamberlain from Philadelphia played here?"

MM: "Yeah, I tell the guys that all the time in the locker room when they talk about who's played at Kansas. I say, ‘Man, we all know who the best player that came through Kansas and we know where he came from.' You got to respect him. He's a Philadelphia native. It's just an honor backing up Wilt, or at least trying to."

DG: "When did you know Wilt played for KU?"

MM: "When I was about to come (to Kansas). They told me, ‘You know Wilt Chamberlain played here.' I was like, ‘Wilt Chamberlain played at Kansas?' They (said) yeah. I thought, ‘Ohhh.'" (smiles)

DG: "That was kind of a motivation to come here?"

MM: "Definitely. Definitely."

DG: "How's been your experience here overall, on and off the court?"

MM: "It's been well. I love KU. I love Kansas. I love Lawrence. I wouldn't trade it for another school. I just feel like it's the right fit."

DG: "You say you talk to your mom (Angel Morris lives in Lawrence) before and after every game. Can you talk about that (pregame and postgame ritual)?"

MM: "I just talk to my mom and see what she has to say. She doesn't know much about basketball, (but) I always talk to her just for her to put a smile on my face and for her to tell me something to do. It's just funny half the time. She tells me she loves me. She always tells me to go out and do my best. She says make a shot for me or dunk for me. I just like talking to her. And then after the game, I just listen to see what she had to say about it."

DG: "I know this is only your second year, but do you plan on staying all four years?

MM: "Definitely. I play on staying all four years. If that's what I need to do, then I will do it. I want to get my degree. I want to finish school."

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