2009 KU-CU Jan. 31
Barry Hinson, that guy wearing glasses who sits next to Jeremy Case on the baseline at Allen Fieldhouse, spoke to an alumni group recently and sprinkled the air with a dose of reality.
“One thing you really want to do is take freshmen, and you want to shove them into a microwave, and you want to speed the process up,” Hinson, the former Missouri State coach now working in external relations in the athletic department, told the alumni. “That’s one of the things you just can’t do in basketball. As much as you want to microwave maturation, it doesn’t happen.”
Freshmen progress and regress, progress and regress, progress and regress, and the best you can hope for is that the forward steps tend to be longer than the backward ones. The best you can hope for when three freshmen get significant minutes on the same team is that all three don’t regress on the same day.
Thanks to Markieff Morris, the 6-foot-9 freshman from Philadelphia, that wasn’t a problem Saturday in a scary, 66-61 survival act in Allen Fieldhouse against a Colorado team that will fight all season to stay out of the Big 12 basement.
It’s not that Morris didn’t have his freshman moments, such as when he gave up an easy bucket late in the shot clock and when he threw a bad pass under the basket, but overall he made more positive contributions than negative ones. Sure, he committed three fouls in 12 minutes, but not even a nuclear reactor, much less a microwave, is going to bring about quick change there.
He played with a sense of purpose, with an energetic step and love for the game that doesn’t always show itself. Morris contributed four offensive rebounds and 10 points, both career highs. His two-game totals: 15 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots in 19 minutes. That’s progress, which of course isn’t to stay that the days or regression are behind him.
Against Nebraska, his twin, Marcus, made a couple of mistakes, and was limited to seven minutes for his lack of effort. Markieff played seven minutes, the same total, though it was a productive seven minutes. When it was suggested he might have been paying for the sins of his brother, Markieff smiled.
“We’re always grouped together, no matter what,” Markieff said. “Coach tried not to group us together, but then he came back to grouping us together. ... It’s just like that. That’s how coach groups us.”
If the words seem critical in print, they didn’t come off that way when spoken. Kansas coach Bill Self had acknowledged in the past that he needed to do a better job of talking about them separately. Markieff said he has talked to Self about it.
“Sometimes I do, but then he always gets back to it,” he said. “He always gets off it a couple days, then he’s back on it. I just try to do what he tells me to do. Both of us try to have good days so he can always put us together in the same category.”
It’s human nature to tend to view identical twins as one, and in fact, the twins themselves tend to refer to themselves as “we” far more than “I.”
Marcus, by the way, also had four offensive rebounds and seven boards total to go with six points. Combined, they had 16 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots in 32 minutes. That adds up to one very productive player.