Kansas University’s leading scorer sat on the bench, waiting patiently for his name to be called in Wednesday’s nonconference basketball game against Texas Arlington.
Finally, with 11:53 left in the first half, Marcus Morris became the 10th KU player to take the court.
“That was a first. Since my freshman year, I’ve been in before then,” said Morris, who has faced discipline — coach Bill Self-style — since getting kicked out of the Cal game on Dec. 22.
“But I’m happy to even get in that game, because the thing I did (elbowing Cal’s Harper Kamp) was low-class of me and not really showing good sportsmanship in a Kansas uniform. I probably didn’t even deserve to play, but I’m happy I got in.”
It’s not yet known whether the 6-foot-9, 235-pound junior forward will reclaim his starting spot for today’s 5 p.m. home game against Miami (Ohio) University.
What is known is Morris has accepted the punishment thrown his way.
“Of course. I’m the leader of his team,” Morris said, asked if he’s had one-on-one discussions with Self concerning his ejection. “If one of his guys does something like that, then that’s just a reflection of him. Of course he was upset. Of course he told me I couldn’t do that. And I respect that. I never said anything back. I took my punishment, and I just went on with it.”
Morris was playful during a New Year’s Eve exchange with a reporter, who first asked if there had been sanctions dished out in practice.
“No, there was no punishment at practice. None at all,” Morris said, laughing.
“So are your legs OK, then?” he was asked.
“No comment. No comment,” Morris said.
“You and the treadmill got together, didn’t you?”
“No, I got really acquainted with the lines on the court (during sprints up and back).”
“Was that you running by yourself?”
“No, it was everybody.”
“Was it (running) because of you?”
“No, just a team thing,” he responded.
Self has expressed disappointment in the Jayhawks’ defensive play of late in addition to Morris’ ejection from the Cal game.
“The thing about it,” Self said, “is I have a short memory. He (Morris) knows he shouldn’t start (last game). It’s a big deal to him, and so that’s over. Whether or not he starts again — when he starts again — he will if he plays the best.
“I’m fine with all our guys. I’m not so fine with them (that) they cannot give great effort and be rewarded by starting. I think we’ve got some guys that can play with a little higher energy.”
Morris — he averages 15.3 points and 6.1 boards a game — scored 13 points and grabbed six boards in 20 minutes versus UT Arlington. Prior to that, he had eight points in 12 minutes versus Cal, 11 points in 25 minutes versus USC and eight points in 18 minutes against Colorado State, a game in which he sprained his ankle in the first half.
“You have your peaks and valleys in basketball through the course of a season — hopefully not big valleys,” Self said. “Everybody goes through stuff. He is not performing at a level he was the first three or four games (in scoring 18, 22, 20, 12, 26), but I’m not sure anybody could have sustained that over the course of a season.”
Morris — who has been playing both inside and out — hit two of five three-pointers and two of two twos on Wednesday.
“Teams are sagging a whole lot. I expected that,” Morris said. “I really haven’t seen too many double-teams, but I expect teams to sag because they’d rather other people kill them than their best players. Because if your best players go, that means everybody else goes.
“I expected things that are happening, but I probably could get a few more touches down there, play inside-out a little bit more. I think we’re going to get back to that anyway. I think that we’re going to be good.”
KU hit eight of 24 three-pointers versus UT Arlington after making seven of 19 versus Cal, seven of 18 versus USC and eight of 23 versus Colorado State.
“No, because we have good shooters,” Morris said, asked if the Jayhawks were shooting too many threes. KU has made 84 of 214 treys for 39.3 percent, compared to opponents’ 60 of 227 for 26.4 percent.
“If you hesitate now, you hesitate later. I tell the shooters, Josh (Selby), Tyrel (Reed) and Brady (Morningstar), ‘Keep shooting. If you stop shooting, that’s what’s really going to hurt us more than not shooting.’ If they continue to shoot, one of them is going to go down because Tyrel is a great shooter (20-of-61 from three, 32.8 percent). Josh (8-of-17, 47.1 percent) is going to be a great shooter. And Brady, (7-for-21, 33.3) as we’ve seen in the past, is a great shooter. We need those guys to get on a roll, because if they shoot well, it opens it up for us, too.”
Morris has made 60.2 percent of his shots overall — 13 of 29 threes for 44.8 percent.
“I could be going through a bit of a bumpy road, but every player is never perfect,” Morris said. “You get your little bumpy times, but I’ll tell you this: I’m happy it’s happening now instead of later into the season. I think I’m learning more and seeing where I can really fit in and get my points and help the team. I’m happy I’m going through that now, so later in the season I don’t have to.”
His recent stay in the coach’s doghouse has given him time to reflect.
“Last year, I was going through a little valley (heading) into the conference (season),” Morris said. “I’m not going to jinx myself or anything like that, but it happens. Hopefully I’ll break out of it soon.”