Be right with you, just as soon as I open up some space in my e-mail inbox. If history repeats itself, it is about to get bombarded with angry charges of favoritism filed against me. That’s what happens whenever nice words are written about Brady Morningstar.
Strangely, so many supporters of Kansas basketball just don’t seem to want to believe Morningstar, a 6-foot-3 junior from Free State High, has significant value to a basketball team loaded with so much highly recruited, athletically gifted talent.
Why is that? Could it be that he reminds some of those supporters too much of themselves in that he doesn’t have a sculpted body and looks more like a cast member from a Brady Bunch episode than a key contributor to the nation’s top-ranked college basketball team? If they didn’t get to play on the big stage, why should he?
Whatever the source of the Brady-bashing, it inevitably leads to love letters that go something like this: “You’re giving him the home-town treatment. You’re grading him on a completely different curve than the rest of the players because he played for a Lawrence high school.”
And: “You’re just sucking up to Roger Morningstar. And the coach is just playing him because he’s buttering up Roger Morningstar.”
Am I missing something? Is Roger Morningstar somehow the most powerful man in town and nobody ever bothered to explain to me why that is, so powerful as to shackle a free press and intimidate a coach who two years ago won a national championship into not only recruiting his son, but making him part of the rotation?
In truth, Roger, who keeps his mouth shut and enjoys watching his son play for the school he once played for, is powerless in influencing coverage and playing time, and he would have it no other way.
Brady Morningstar has a spot in Bill Self’s rotation because the team plays better with him in it than with him watching from the bench, where he was first semester while serving a suspension for driving while polluted.
Perhaps Morningstar’s tremendous second-half play in Tuesday night’s home-court victory against California finally will silence the critics. Despite playing poorly for most of the first half, Morningstar finished with seven points, seven assists, two steals and just one turnover. Defensively, he again slowed down the opposition’s hot scorer, making him two for two thus far in that chore. Using quick, efficient footwork and hyper-active hands, Morningstar cooled off Cal’s Patrick Christopher, just as he did Michigan’s Manny Harris.
Against Cal, Morningstar scored on all three second-half field goal attempts, a long jumper he shot off the dribble, a pull-up short jumper on the baseline on which he got hammered and drew no whistle, and on a three-point shot. His best work was done passing. He threw a rainbow pass to Markieff Morris for one bucket, a bullet pass for another. Morningstar earned the 21 minutes he played and he earned the respect of those who know the most about basketball, the coaches and players.
Unprompted, Cal coach Mike Montgomery started his postgame remarks talking about thusly: “Brady Morningstar being back is huge for them. He comes in and has seven assists, makes some key buckets and moves some people around.”
Sophomore guard Tyshawn Taylor, KU’s star of the game, said, “I love playing with Brady, man. He takes so much pressure off everybody else because he can defend and he can shoot. People have to be honest with him. He had seven assists, too. He can see the floor real well.”
Sophomore forward Marcus Morris, who had yet another big game, said, “Brady Morningstar was the key. Brady is an unbelievable defender and I feel like he makes all the right plays. I know no one’s perfect, but I feel like Brady makes the right plays. Coach told us at halftime, ‘Get it down low,’ and I feel like Brady was making sure they got it down low. He got ‘Kieff (sophomore forward Markieff Morris) for a dunk and then he came back and got ‘Kieff for another layup. I feel like Brady is making our team a whole lot better.”
Morningstar is not without his drawbacks. He’s a deficient rebounder and he’s not particularly hard to guard, but star-studded teams need complementary players. Morningstar, such a precise passer and pesky defender, knows how to punch his ticket for playing time and has turned his glue-guy role into an art form.
Sometimes, even in great programs, it’s not as important to have another great player on the floor as it is to have a great fit on the floor.