Morrow still committed to future at USC

Darius Morrow admitted he was surprised when South Carolina basketball coach Dave Odom announced his upcoming retirement at the end of this season. But Morrow, who signed with South Carolina during the early signing period, said he stands by his commitment to the Gamecocks and is looking forward to his future in Columbia.

That's great news for whoever takes over the Gamecocks, because Morrow is playing with broader shoulders this year.

The Columbia High School (Decatur, Ga.) senior is having the kind of season many expected from him. He's averaging 18 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks and 5 assists per game. And he's doing it as the focal point of Columbia's offense — and 20 pounds lighter.

"Coach (Phil McCrary) told me I would have to pick up the scoring," Morrow said. "I'm the main guy now on the low block."

Morrow has improved on many of the skills that made the 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward South Carolina's lone early signee last fall.

His blocking has improved, as has his defense playing the passing lanes. He perfected his medium range jumper last summer, and he's talented enough to use both hands (he's right handed). Columbia is in the Georgia state playoffs right now, aiming for a state title.

But the big improvement in his game is his weight. Morrow started working with a nutritionist last year and has shed 20 pounds. He feels the difference in his game.

"It's helped my explosiveness," Morrow said. "I lost the weight. It was a lot of body fat. It wasn't about strength. I'm still as strong as I was when I was 270. I can dunk more easily now and can run the court better. I can play on the perimeter better. It's helped my athleticism all together."

McCrary, who coaches Morrow at Columbia High, said Morrow has improved his athleticism and speed without hurting his obvious talent, a big plus for his collegiate career.

Morrow noted that the Gamecocks would like to put about 10 to 15 pounds of muscle on him during his first year of college.

Odom won't be there to oversee Morrow's growth, and the high school senior said that's disappointing, as Odom was a big reason why Morrow committed to USC shortly after his visit and signed with the Gamecocks in November.

"I can understand coach (Odom) is getting on in age and may be getting tired of the game," Morrow said. "I guess he feels it's time."

Morrow said Odom didn't inform him of his impending retirement before his announcement, and made no mention of it earlier this season when Morrow went to Columbia, S.C., to take in the Gamecocks' game against the College of Charleston. But Morrow and McCrary did sit down and discuss the situation shortly after the announcement, and Morrow has spoken to some of the Gamecock coaches since then.

"Dave leaving hurt a little bit, but we sat down and talked (about it)," McCrary said. "But coaches are going to do these things — that's just the nature of the beast. I just told him to make sure whoever they get, they have a heart to heart and find out where he fits in."

Right now, Morrow sounds as if he's going to be in Columbia in the fall.

"At first I was thinking I didn't want to go," Morrow said. "But I'm really excited about coming up to Columbia. I'm a team player, and I'll do what's best. I know I'll get along with the new coach, and I can show him my skills. I'm looking forward to finding out who they hire."

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