The only visible signs of his playing days are the letters of his name on the record board and an 8x11 photo plaque celebrating his all-state season of 2004-05 that hangs outside the gym.
In it, former Free State High standout Brady Morningstar, now an unlikely star at Kansas University, skies above three Wichita East defenders while scooping a right-handed shot toward the rim.
It’s hardly a picture that leads one to believe the young man someday would be starting for the No. 2 team in college basketball, a squad that, without him, likely wouldn’t be in that position.
Even during his days at Free State, when he was known as a scorer, Morningstar still did the little things better than everybody else. Two of his school records are for steals — most in a season (52 in 2004-05) and most in a career (125 from 2002-05) — and the other is for points in a season (423 in 2004-05).
Although Morningstar was the hot name in town during his prep days, KU stars Kirk Hinrich, Nick Collison and others were the cream of the crop in his eyes. Today, Brady’s the cream and a whole different crop of young players look up to him.
FSHS junior Brett Frantz was nine or 10 years old the first time he saw Morningstar play.
“I remember one game, I was hanging out with Tyler Self and we went to go talk to his dad (Bill) and I just remember Bill saying, ‘Man, that guy’s good, someone needs to start recruiting him,’ Frantz said. “After hearing Bill say that, I started to pay more attention to him to see how good he actually was.”
Morningstar said the responsibility of having the current Firebirds and other young players look up to him is one he takes seriously.
“When you’re growing up in Lawrence and you see KU players and you see Kansas play, you want to follow in their footsteps and you want to be them,” Morningstar said. “But I think the main thing is, once you get there and you’re on top, you gotta not let it get to your head.”
Morningstar’s not the first player from Lawrence to play for the Jayhawks. Chris Piper did it in the late ’80s, Stephen Vinson did it from 2003-06 and Danny Manning lived in Lawrence for a year before playing for the Jayhawks. Times were different then. That Morningstar’s been able to do it — 59 starts in 107 career games heading into tonight’s Senior Night — with such smoothness makes it all the more impressive.
“I think I understand it better than if I was from the east coast or west coast because I grew up seeing it,” Morningstar said. “I truly understand how I felt when I was younger, and now that these young players look up to me, it’s pretty cool.”
The feeling’s mutual.
“He’s definitely known around here,” FSHS senior Alec Heline said. “But it’s not like he’s a hero or something. I still look up to him. He’s a fun player to watch and it’s kind of crazy that he went here.”