Marcus similar to Pierce

Kansas forward Marcus Morris puts up a shot prior to tipoff against Missouri, March, 6, 2010 at Mizzou Arena.

Sherron Collins is gone, having walked down The Hill Sunday, a trip most figured he never would make when he arrived in college basketball as such a hard-to-guard point guard from the rough, talent-stocked Chicago Public League.

His NBA prospects remain a mystery, hinging in part on whether he can get himself into peak physical condition and stay there.

Collins improved during his career, playing more under control as the years went on, but he didn’t make strides as significant in four years as his teammate who has a chance to become Kansas University’s next great senior did in one season.

Most NBA Draft websites have Marcus Morris making himself eligible for the NBA after his junior season, but it’s not a reach to believe Morris will play four years for Kansas. For one thing, the NBA labor situation is such that players might be scared to leave early after next season, for fear players will be locked out. For another, Markieff Morris isn’t likely to be ready for the NBA after his junior season, and the twins are extremely close, so much so that it’s easy to see Marcus delaying his professional career in order to room with Markieff for one more year.

Watching Paul Pierce hunt his second NBA championship ring for the Boston Celtics, it’s difficult not to think of Marcus Morris. They are about the same size. Pierce is 6-foot-7, 235 pounds. Morris is 6-8, 225. Pierce has much deeper shooting range, but Morris will keep extending his. Pierce is a little more explosive, but both players show excellent basketball savvy.

In his third and final season at Kansas, Pierce earned first-team All-American honors. If Morris, entering his junior year, stays for four years, he might match Pierce’s final-year honor.

Both players made huge improvements after their freshman seasons. That’s when they learned the value of hard work.

Morris doesn’t exhibit any obvious weakness as a basketball player and never seems to have an ego problem with doing what’s needed of him. Not nearly as flashy as he is smart, Morris moves his feet well on defense, has a nice knack for passing and so seldom took a bad shot he made 57 percent of his field-goal attempts as a sophomore.

Once, when asked if he saw any similarity to Pierce, including the way he improved after his freshman season, Morris answered, “I never saw Paul Pierce as a freshman. Paul Pierce is Paul Pierce. I can never say who I’m going to be like. I’d love to be like Paul Pierce and improve like that.”

In his second season for KU, Morris averaged 12.8 points and 6.1 rebounds. As a freshman, Pierce averaged 11.9 and 5.3, numbers that steadily improved to 16.3, 6.8 and 20.4, 6.7.

Morris is capable of making similar strides in his final two years. If Josh Selby is the player many think he is, it’s possible Morris never will be the top player on his college team. To talk to Morris is to get the feeling that wouldn’t bother him. Maybe that’s the twin in him in that he always has rooted harder for his brother than himself.

Seeing how disappointed Marcus was when Kansas was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament by Michigan State and then Northern Iowa revealed he’s more driven by team goals than personal ones.