If there was any doubt as the depth of the rebuilding project that faces Stanford Basketball this off-season, after graduating its three leading scorers, a fourth loss can now be added to the list. The 2006-07 season for the Cardinal looked to Tim Morris as its leading returning scorer, but he is taking his 5.0 points and 3.8 rebounds per game elsewhere. He asked Stanford for his release on Wednesday, and it was granted. The redshirt sophomore will finish out this spring quarter at Stanford before making his transfer.
"I would like to find a place that is a better fit for me," Morris comments.
He asked, and Stanford complied, for his release to be sent to five schools - most or all of which were also active with him when he was recruited four years ago out of Whitefield Academy outside of Atlanta (Ga.). Morris had his release sent to Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, Georgia, North Carolina State and Florida. All of those schools now have permission to speak with him, though no official visits have yet been scheduled.
In his final decision in the spring of 2002, Morris chose Stanford over Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. While the other four schools are closer to home, the early money is on the Irish. Morris was very fond of Mike Brey and had a hard time saying no to Notre Dame when he was originally recruited out of high school.
"I wish the best for him," says Stanford head coach Trent Johnson.
The decision will be a hard one for many to understand. Tim Morris looked to benefit as much as anybody on the roster with the abundance of playing time and scoring opportunities at the wing positions, now that Dan Grunfeld and Chris Hernandez have graduated. Morris made great strides in the past year with his shooting stroke, though his final 39.0% accuracy from the field in 2005-06 may suggest otherwise. His challenge on offense was decision-making as well as being able to finish around the basket, but he was an exceptional athlete with vertical and lateral explosiveness. The high-flyer at times showed the ability to rebound like few, if any, guards in the program's history.
Morris took a voluntary redshirt his first year at Stanford, waiting in the wings while a senior Matt Lottich ruled the shooting guard position in the Cardinal's fabled 30-2 season. After the passing of the last two seasons, that leaves only two years for Morris to play Division I college basketball. He would ostensibly lose one of those years while he sits out as a transfer in the 2006-07 season due to NCAA rules, only able to play 2007-08. Morris plans to petition the NCAA for a sixth year, though there is not much precedent for such a decision without a hardship circumstance. Morris did miss over half of the 2003-04 season due to academic ineligibility, when the pre-med hopeful failed to pass his Human Biology core classes fall quarter of his academic sophomore year.
For the Cardinal and Trent Johnson, rebuilding mode is now in full force. The new-look lineup you see at Maples Pavilion next year will include eight of its 12 scholarship players in just their first or second year of college, including a five-man freshman class. The silver lining in Morris transfer comes for Fred Washington, Anthony Goods, Lawrence Hill and Landry Fields. That quartet of wing players will now find more minutes at the shooting guard and small forward positions for Stanford next year in Morris' absence. The perimeter will have a very different look for Stanford next year than what we saw this past winter. Morris started eight games this year and was the primary reserve behind Grunfeld and Hernandez, while Hill played as a power forward and Washington had season-ending patellar tendon surgery after playing just six games. Fields was a high school senior this winter. Goods as a freshman came on strong at the end of the season, playing 20-plus minutes in three of Stanford's last four games including 30 minutes in a start against UCLA in the regular season finale.
While one face leaves, two familiar faces have returned to The Farm. Stanford has hired former Idaho State head coach Doug Oliver as an assistant coach, bringing back to Cardinal Basketball one of the most important architects of its ascension in the 1990s and late 1980s. Oliver was the top assistant under Mike Montgomery for 12 years (1986-87 to 1997-98). Oliver was considered by many observers to be the genius bench coach that engineered a number of Stanford's "upset" wins during its rise to national prominence. This hire also reunites the trio of assistant coaches on Stanford's Final Four team: Oliver, Trent Johnson and Eric Reveno. Johnson and Oliver coached together two years at Stanford. That triumvirate may not remain together for long, with Reveno currently a leading candidate for the University of Portland head coaching job.
Oliver's return to Stanford reminds us of the Blaine Taylor hire by Mike Montgomery in 1998. Taylor, currently the head coach at Old Dominion, was the head coach at Montana for seven years and brought to Montgomery's staff an incredible richness of experience as a teacher, bench coach and recruit. The two also had chemistry and experience together from when Taylor played and coached under Montgomery at Montana. Ironically, Taylor's hire at Stanford came in the spring of 1998 as a result of Oliver taking the Idaho State head coaching job, where he served the last eight season. Oliver announced in January that he would step down as the Bengals' head coach at the end of the season.
Also back on The Farm is Nick Robinson, who graduated a year ago after his five-year career with Stanford Basketball. Robinson was a beloved "glue" player and athlete on the Pac-10 Champion squad of three seasons ago that started the year 26-0. His most famous highlight stands as one of the most famous plays in the history of Stanford Athletics, when during that magical 2003-04 season he hit a running 35-foot jumper as time expired to beat Arizona at Maples Pavilion and keep the Cardinal's unbeaten season alive. Robinson is the new Director of Men's Basketball Operations, replacing JT Batson, who departed in January for a corporate marketing position. He assists the coaching staff in a number of capacities, while also interacting with alumni and the community. This job in the Cardinal basketball office may be transparent to many fans, but it is a very public-facing position. It is hard to imagine a better face for Stanford Basketball than Nick Robinson, whose academic achievements and moral fiber at Stanford matched if not exceeded his athletic abilities.
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our website, as well as our full-length feature articles in our glossy magazine. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up) and The Bootleg Magazine (sign-up)!