Marcus Morris sat in the Thomas and Mack Center stands on Saturday night on the outskirts of UNLV’s campus in Las Vegas.
The 6-foot-8 Kansas University junior forward was a spellbound spectator at the USA Basketball Showcase, a glorified intrasquad scrimmage between members of the U.S. National team.
Morris and 19 other members of the U.S. Collegiate Select Squad spent the past week in Glitter City practicing against the U.S. squad, which is made up of top NBA players.
“It’s been fun to be around all these guys,” Morris told lasvegassun.com at halftime of the Showcase, which was televised on ESPN2. “To get to know them as people instead of players and have them as teammates has been great.”
His Select squad teammates included Jacob Pullen (Kansas State) and LaceDarius Dunn (Baylor), as well as Lavoy Allen (Temple), William Buford (Ohio State), Jimmer Fredette (BYU), Scotty Hopson (Tennessee), Scoop Jardine (Syracuse), JaJuan Johnson (Purdue), Jon Leuer (Wisconsin), Shelvin Mack (Butler), John Shurna (Northwestern), Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith (Duke), Chris Singleton (Florida State), Howard Thompkins (Georgia), Mike Tisdale (Illinois), Kemba Walker (UConn), Chris Wright (Dayton) and Tyler Zeller (North Carolina).
“I’ll remember being around the pros,” Morris said of the week’s highlight. “Being around the pros is different. To see how they act and their lifestyles makes me want to work hard and get what they’ve got.”
Morris scrimmaged daily against members of the national team: Chauncey Billups, Tyson Chandler, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Tyreke Evans, Rudy Gay, Eric Gordon, Danny Granger, Jeff Green, Andre Iguodala, David Lee, Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez, Kevin Love, O.J. Mayo, Lamar Odom, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Gerald Wallace and Russell Westbrook.
“Rudy Gay is about my height and plays the same style, so it’s been nice to guard him,” Morris said of the Memphis Grizzlies standout. “I’ve talked to him, and he’s a cool guy, real down-to-earth. He’s around my same age, and he’s funny and from Baltimore, so it’s not too far from Philly.”
Morris — he competed earlier this summer at the Amar’e Stoudemire camp in Chicago and LeBron James camp in Ohio — won’t soon forget his week in Vegas.
“I’m ready to go back (to KU) and get to work. I’m tired, but I want to work out and get ready for the season to start,” said Morris, recently named to Dick Vitale’s second-team preseason All-America squad.
The U.S. National team is headed to the world championships next month in Turkey. In Saturday’s scrimmage, the White team beat the Blue, 114-96. Durant was the MVP with 28 points.
— KU graduate Case Keefer of lasvegassun.com contributed to this report.