Some basketball players, such as Kansas University’s Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar, are shooters. They go to their spot on the floor, wait for the defense to collapse on the driving guard or the posting-up center and wait to step into a pass for an open shot. Their baskets tend to be swishes.
Other basketball players are better described as scorers. They find different ways to put points on the board. They create for themselves. They improvise, which makes them difficult to scout, tough to guard, frustrating to see play against the team for which you’re rooting. Sometimes their shots hit nothing but net. Other times they use the backboard. Often, their shots bounce softly around the rim and fall through the net. Defining them as shooters is too limiting, but they do get the shooter’s bounce, more often than not.
Marcus Morris, once he becomes accustomed to the speed of the college game and gets a better feel for knowing the difference between speeding up and hurrying, could develop into a scorer. He’s a threat posting up, has great hands, good feet and has shown flashes of three-point shooting range. As his penchant for firing airballs reveals, he hasn’t arrived as a scorer yet, which gives him something in common with most freshmen.
Seven games into his Div. I career, Mario Little already can be defined accurately as a scorer. He scores on a post-up here, a duck-and-drive there, a one-handed runner now and then, and with a signature move that’s darn-near impossible to defend. That would be his fade-away jumper.
In his past two games, Little, a junior from Chicago, has played a combined 26 minutes and scored 24 points. He has made his last 11 field-goal attempts and generally has shown why red-shirting this season would have been a big mistake. Kansas needs him now, in part because he’s what the Jayhawks have lacked all year, a consistent third scoring threat to complement 5-foot-11 Sherron Collins and 6-11 Cole Aldrich. Split the difference and what you get is the 6-5 Little, a mid-range marvel.
After scoring nine points in 12 foul-plagued minutes against Iowa State, Little talked about what made Cyclones power forward Craig Brackins so tough on his way to a 42-point game.
“He’s big,” Little said. “He’s like 6-10, and he’s skilled. He can put it on the deck, he can face up, jab and go, face you up and go right over the top of you. He’s a tough matchup problem.”
Except for the big part, Little just as easily could have been talking about himself, minus five inches.
Ideally, he would play small forward, but the greater need at the moment for Kansas is at power forward, where nobody has performed consistently enough to win the job. Playing alongside Aldrich means the center has to take on the assignment of checking the best big man, but it’s not as if any of the big players on the roster can come close to doing that as well as Aldrich anyway.
A number of Big 12 power forwards can pose matchup problems for Little, but in each case, he returns the favor, pulling them away from the basket and either releasing a jumper before they can get to him or driving around him.
Little’s return to health gives Kansas the look of a team schools are going to want to avoid on Selection Sunday.