KU's Unsung Hero

Phog.net explains why Brady Morningstar may fly under the radar for most of the season but his contributions are critical for this KU team.

It was easy to forget about Kansas junior guard Brady Morningstar as the season commenced.

Morningstar got himself into trouble and suspended for a semester for getting behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol. In the meantime, his teammates garnered all the preseason attention. Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins were hyped as preseason All-Americans and frosh Xavier Henry was labeled one of the best new faces in the country.

KU took care of business without Morningstar posting an unblemished record during his absence but there's no doubt the Jayhawks got even better when Brady returned. With two games in the 2009-2010 season under his belt Morningstar's impact has already been felt.

It isn't just the 21.5 minutes per game he's averaging or the 4.5 points or even the 5.0 assists. It's a combination of all of the above.

Maybe only the basketball purists will point to Morningstar's contributions. He doesn't have eye-popping athleticism. He isn't going to rise above the crowd for a high-flying dunk. He isn't going to soar above the crowd and rip down rebounds with reckless abandon. But he knows what it takes to win and that's why those who know the game well know the worth of the 6-3 guard who started every game but one just a season ago.

"Brady Morningstar being back is huge for them," said Cal coach Mike Montgomery after his team lost to KU 84-69. "He comes in and has seven assists, makes some key buckets and moves some people around."

Even with Aldrich seeing limited action due to fouls Morningstar posted seven assists and helped KU exploit mismatches and get the ball inside during an impressive second half against Cal.

"Guys are open we just have to have some confidence to throw it in there and he has a better feel feeding the post than anybody else on our team," said KU head coach Bill Self. "He did a good job. He got us some easy baskets."

"That's just what (Brady was trying to do). I know he's a smart player, he knows when it's time to get the ball inside. Coach (Self) was telling us that we needed to get the big guys some touches," senior Sherron Collins said after the Cal game.

It is easy for those close to the program to recognize what Self has known for quite a while now – Brady is an important cog in the wheel.

"He showed up and his stats were great.  He plays 21 minutes and has seven points on four shots. He has seven assists, two steals, and he did the best job on (Patrick) Christopher hands down," Self told reporters after the Cal victory.

A year ago Brady led the team in three-point shooting (44.4 pct from three) and was second in the Big 12. He logged over 30 minutes a game and the offseason talk often centered on how the arrival of Xavier Henry and Co. would spell less playing time for Brady. He may not start and he may play less minutes but rest-assured his head coach's confidence in him is sky high.

Offensively Self will tell you Brady knows the system and knows what he wants. Brady knows what he's capable of, plays within himself, and knows what he has to do in order to earn quality playing time on this team. He doesn't have blow by ability, but he's a solid shooter and a terrific and smart passer. The ball simply doesn't "stick" when Morningstar is in the game. Some analysts have called the 23-year old junior a "glue guy" for KU but Self labels him a bit differently.

"He's a blend guy," Self told Phog.net on Tuesday. "He makes everyone better because he can play."

On the defensive end Self frequently relies on Brady to help shut down the opponent's top threat. His first task was to help shut down Michigan's Manny Harris, a 20-plus point scorer per game for the Wolverines. Next game out Self utilized Morningstar to help slow down a super performance by California's Patrick Christopher.

On the surface it appears Brady lacks the lateral ability and the vertical ability to stop some of these top performers but watch him and he frequently puts on a clinic on how to disrupt a guy's rhythm. He can guard away from the ball and on the ball. Self said on Tuesday he is still KU's best defensive stopper.

The bottom line is don't underestimate Brady's importance on either end of the floor he makes a talented Kansas team even better.

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