It's all about the big three.
That's the consensus around Trevor Browne these days. This team will go as far as Ty Morrison, Kaleo Kino and Daren Jordan can take them. Guess what folks, you're wrong. As much as Kino and Jordan do, it all comes down to one guy, the man among boys himself, Ty Morrison.
But not for the reasons you think.
Tuesday night against Hamilton Morrison had another incredible performance, but he wasn't even the team's leading scorer. His line, 20 points, 20 rebounds, and depending on your source, eight to ten blocked shots. In the paint, Morrison is a vacuum. Possession after possession I watched Hamilton players get past their defender, into the paint, and then throw up wild, off balance, rushed shots from every conceivable angle trying to get the ball past the outstretched arms of Morrison.
It was quite a sight. Sportswriters often talk of a player "taking over a game" but rarely is the statement true in the literal sense.
Morrison does that in a way I've never seen before. We'll start with the offensive end of the floor. After the game someone asked Morrison how many points he ended up with. His response, "Twenty, and I have no idea how." I'll break it down for him, 14 were put backs, he hit a three from the wing, drove baseline once and hit a free throw. That was his twenty. During the entirety of the game I saw TB run exactly two plays for Morrison. One was a simple clear out, which was when he drove baseline. The other was a wing extended pick, which he decided not to use and instead stepped back and hit the three.
Trevor Browne does not run their offense through Ty Morrison. Often it appears they don't run an offense at all. During their first six possessions, there were five passes. On possessions three, four, and five Kaleo Kina brought the ball up the court and either launched threes or took two dribbles and put up a 17-foot jumper. In any other offense these would be bad possessions. In any other offense this would be poor ball rotation and poor shot selection.
But when Morrison is down low it simply looks like a pass. He was all over the boards. He was everywhere. Bad shots aren't bad shots when Morrison is in the paint. He dominated so thoroughly that he erased every mistake his teammates tried to make. And we didn't even see him at his full potential. Mid way through the 3rd quarter Morrison gobbled a rebound but came down off balance and thus wasn't in prime position to put the ball back up. No problem, a smooth no-look pass to a cutting Jordan McIntosh resulted in an easy layup. Why? That's not hard to figure out. It was a great pass from the player everyone on the court was watching. If he hadn't gone to McIntosh Daren Jordan was open in the corner for three. Kina was sitting at the top of the circle ready to shoot as well. When Morrison has the ball the anticipation for what he might do is so great that Hamilton simply stopped and watched. They were waiting for the next highlight.
The bottom-line? Jordan and Kino, while very nice players, become great players when Morrison is on the court, because no one pays attention to them.
Defensively the Morrison effect is even greater. TB plays man to man. It is an aggressive, over playing man to man. Virtually no pass is uncontested; there is always a hand in the defender's face. While Jordan is certainly one of the premier defensive point guards in the state and Kino is tough as nails, neither was quick enough to stay with Hamilton's Innocent Wells or Brian Schaeffer respectively. Virtually any time Wells or Schaeffer wanted to they could blow by their man and take the ball to the hoop. Wells took Jordan off the dribble at least ten times in the first half.
He finished with six points.
Morrison was again erasing mistakes. TB can afford to overplay, afford to take chances, because even when you beat your man, you?ve still got to deal with Morrison down low. In the second half Wells stopped taking the ball to the basket. He was settling for threes, for 18 foot jumpers, and I'm sure Innocent would be the first to tell you his outside shot is not the strength of his game.
But how many times can you have your shot blocked, check that thrown (Morrison literally put one of Schaeffer's attempts in the fourth row) before you become demoralized. In particular when playing at Trevor Browne it must be degrading. Morrison is so quick off his feet, and has such control of his body once he's up in the air, that often it looks as if he's not even trying. Like it is an afterthought for him. "Oh, you're going to drive? Well, I guess I should probably block your shot then." Credit absolutely must go to Schaeffer. At least four of Morrison's blocks were against Schaeffer, but the Hamilton guard kept taking the ball to the hoop. Schaeffer drew three of the four fouls Morrison would finish with, and TB Coach Mike Ellsworth is certainly aware that his big man is his team. With 2:55 left in the first Morrison picked up his second foul on a Schaeffer drive and was immediately pulled.
Without Morrison in the middle, there is no change in the defensive style of Trevor Browne. They still attack, they still take chances, and the difference is that when they do over commit the back door play is now open, with Morrison in the game is simply is not available.
The bottom-line? TB's defense is haphazard and risky, but when Morrison is down low you can afford to take risks.
Jordan and Kino can score. There is some nice complimentary talent coming off the bench (in particular Duane Winston impressed with his skills, though his mouth nearly cost TB the game), but this team will live and die with Ty Morrison. It was my first opportunity to watch Trevor Browne this year, it won't be my last, but I can tell you something right now, Trevor Browne is overrated. The Republic has them ranked #1. I don't even think they are top 5.
Disciplined teams with any kind of height will cause fits for TB. Teams with good outside shooting (Hamilton didn't hit a three point shot until there was less than five minutes left in the game) will be able to challenge them. And anyone who can get Morrison in foul trouble early will own them. You don't have to beat Trevor Browne. All you have to do is beat Ty Morrison.