Earlier this week, former high school basketball coaches Chris Davis and Jack Schreiner responded in similar, agonizing fashion after being asked which was the better high school basketball player, former Free State star Brady Morningstar or former Lawrence High standout Dorian Green.
The reaction? A loud groan, a shake of the head and a shoulder shrug that seemed to imply, “Are you really going to make me answer that?”
The reason the question applies today is because Green and Morningstar will face each other for the first time Saturday at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., when Morningstar’s fourth-ranked Jayhawks (8-0) take on Green’s up-and-coming Colorado State squad (4-2) at 5:30 p.m.
Among prep basketball fans in Lawrence, the debate about who was better has come up on an almost-daily basis during hoops season for the past three years. It’s not an easy question to answer and Davis and Schreiner were quick to point that out. As high school players, Morningstar and Green were as good as the city has seen during the past couple of decades.
Today, both are starters for their college teams, both incorporate a variety of skills into their games and both have benefited greatly from the different paths their careers have taken.
But we’re not talking about today. We’re talking about high school. So who was better? Brady, a member of Free State’s Class of 2005, or Dorian, a 2009 LHS graduate?
“Golly, I don’t know where a guy goes with this,” said Schreiner, who coached Morningstar at FSHS. “Obviously, I’ve gotta go with Brady. I think Brady’s more athletic, but I think Dorian’s a more natural basketball player, only because Dorian has a better outside shot than Brady. The thing you have to remember about Brady and Dorian is that they are different kids from different times, even though they weren’t really that far apart.”
Added Davis, a former LHS coach: “When you look at what Dorian did for the high school teams he was on, and how he carried us to the state finals. ... There were other good players on the team but, certainly, Dorian was what elevated us, just the way he took the game over. It’s tough for me to put anyone I’ve seen above that.
Davis continued: “An important thing to remember is they brought different things. And in college they do different things. It’s not like you’re comparing apples to apples here. They played different positions, they had different roles. I will say, though, that throughout the time that Brady was at Free State, we game-planned against Brady. It was, ‘OK, what’s Brady going to be doing.’ And I’m quite certain that Free State, when they played us, they game-planned against Dorian. There were other guys out there, but those two were the two you had to stop.”
That rarely happened. In fact, some of the most memorable moments from both players’ high school careers came in the intense crosstown rivalry games.
Green remembers watching Morningstar score a tip-dunk during his junior year in a game against LHS. Morningstar remembers it, too, saying, “First dunk of my high school career. At Lawrence High. It was over (former LHS and KU player) Brennan Bechard my junior year. I still tell him about it every day.”
Morningstar said he’s been to almost all of the Free State-LHS games since he graduated. That includes the game, in 2008, when Green’s three-pointer with less than 5 seconds remaining propelled the Lions to an overtime victory at FSHS.
Hearing what their former coaches had to say made both players laugh, likely because each could imagine the torture each endured while answering the question. But while Davis and Schreiner struggled, Morningstar and Green had no problem sizing up each other in anticipation of Saturday’s showdown.
“I definitely remember watching him play when I was growing up,” Green said of his Saturday opponent. “He doesn’t really make mistakes, he hits open shots and he has a high basketball IQ. He’s just a solid player and you can definitely see that when he’s playing.”
Added Morningstar of Green: “He’s unselfish, that’s the main thing. Obviously, he can score the ball and pass. He’s just always solid. He gets everyone involved and he can score. I remember back when I was in junior high (both players went to Southwest), I was a ninth grader and he was a fifth grader or a sixth grader and we’d have camps and whatnot and I’d recognize him. I could tell he could play ball.”
Whether you favor Green, 6-foot-2, 170 pounds, and his smooth skills or a jack-of-all-trades like Morningstar, 6-4, 185, the bottom line is this: “Obviously, you’d love to have either one of them on your team,” Schreiner said.
Davis, who worked with Morningstar at camps and clinics from fifth grade on before coaching Green, agreed and said that was what made answering the question so difficult.
“The goal should be to get everybody fired up about going out and watching these two guys play against each other, not deciding which guy was better,” Davis said. “Look at this stage we get. If you’re from Lawrence, this oughta be fun.”