In both the Temple and Arizona games, Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self gave sophomore Brady Morningstar the most difficult defensive assignment and simplified it for him.
Morningstar’s job was to stick on Temple’s Dionte Christmas and Arizona’s Chase Budinger and forget about helping out on defense. Morningstar carried out both assignments so terrifically that little attention has been paid to how he’s done at the other end.
On one hand, Morningstar deserves credit for being such an efficient offensive player. His 2.2-to-1 assists-to-turnover ratio is the team’s best and so is his .463 three-point percentage among players who have attempted more than three long-range shots. On the other hand, he’s averaging just 7.4 points per game on a team that could benefit from a player emerging as a reliable third scorer to complement Sherron Collins (16.9 points per game) and Cole Aldrich (14.9).
Should Morningstar be more assertive offensively?
“No, Brady’s playing the way he needs to play to give us the best chance,” KU coach Bill Self said. “I always want our guys to be more aggressive, but more aggressive doesn’t necessarily mean putting up more shots. More aggressive, in my mind, means to make plays for yourself and for your teammates. I think our whole team can be more aggressive in that regard, but as far as his production and his efficiency, I think he’s doing a nice job on both ends.”
Sherron Collins, who plays a big part in distributing the shots, concurred.
“We ask him to hit open shots and be aggressive and he’s doing that,” Collins said.
Tennessee, loaded with so many long, quick, high-flying athletes, does such a good job of clogging the lane, even a finisher as accomplished as Collins might find himself having to drive and dish more today than usual, which makes shooters such as Morningstar and Tyrel Reed knocking down their threes even more important.
As a high-scoring senior at Free State High, Morningstar was the one driving and deciding who took the shots, often himself.
“Each year his shot has gotten better and better,” said Jack Schreiner, Morningstar’s high school coach. “I didn’t think it was bad in high school, but most of his scoring was going to the hole. I’m probably more impressed with his defense. He’s really improved that. He did a great job on Budinger.”
Morningstar said the competition he faced at prep school, compared to high school, was, “night and day. ... If I had it to do over again, I probably would have played two years of prep school (bypassing his senior year at Free State), just because after a year I know how much it helped me playing against that level of competition.”
Morningstar said that while waiting his turn riding the bench as a freshman and redshirting last season he always believed his time would come. Even if Mario Little, who could return to action as soon as today, eventually bumps him from the starting lineup, Morningstar has earned a spot in the rotation. As for getting more shots, he’ll take those when they come.
“I’m mostly looking to get other guys the ball and have them key on them and when they key on them, that’s when I’ll get my shots,” Morningstar said.