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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Morris twins adding bounce to their step

Kansas University forwards Marcus Morris, left, and Markieff Morris made the extra effort to hit the weights in the offseason. They have added muscle, they’re more aggressive, and they’re dunking with regularity, parts of their games that lacked at times last year.

Kansas University forwards Marcus Morris, left, and Markieff Morris made the extra effort to hit the weights in the offseason. They have added muscle, they’re more aggressive, and they’re dunking with regularity, parts of their games that lacked at times last year.

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There was a time last season when Markieff and Marcus Morris left members of the Kansas University basketball team wondering if they actually could dunk.

The two post presences from Philadelphia — Markieff at 6-foot-9 and Marcus 6-8 — rarely announced their presence with an authoritative throwdown last year in games.

This season, the Morris twins’ assertiveness above the rim figures to be more noticeable.

They’re dunking in practice now with regularity. After a vigorous offseason regimen in which the Morris twins worked their tails off in the weight room, the results are speaking for themselves. Marcus even mentioned a signature jam that he has developed in the process.

“If I ever get a chance, I could do a reverse-windmill,” Marcus said. “I haven’t gotten a chance on a (fast) break, so I haven’t showed it yet.”

The better dunker?

“I would say I am,” Marcus said, laughing. “Off one leg, I can jump higher. Off two feet, he can jump higher. Off one foot, you can do a little more.”

Markieff agreed.

“When we were in high school, we had a lot of dunk-offs,” Markieff said. “I won a lot in high school, but he’s kind of stepped his dunking game up. He’s probably got me now. He can do all different types of back dunks. I feel like since he’s got here, he’s had a little more tricks up his sleeve.”

If it’s up to the sophomore forwards, the 2009-10 season will be significantly different from their rookie campaigns.

Speaking this month at KU’s Media Day, the Morris twins went over how much had changed in their lives since March 27, when the Jayhawks fell to Michigan State in the Sweet 16.

Their eating habits. Their weight. Their strength and conditioning. Their work ethic.

“I saw how hard it was last year. I think if I would have been a lot stronger and a lot tougher on the court, we could have gone further than we did,” Markieff said.

No more than a week after KU’s NCAA Tournament loss, the twins hit the gym six days a week — “I’ve never worked that hard,” Markieff said — and the results were obvious.

Marcus said he weighed about 214 pounds at this time last year. He’s now up to 230.

Markieff weighed 212 pounds in October 2008. Fast forward a year, and he’s up to 243.

The twins credited several people for the results: KU strength and conditioning coach Andrea Hudy, whom Markieff said pushed them to give a second wind they never knew they had; their mom, Angel, for cooking a variety of dinners that much of the time included pasta, chicken or steak; and most importantly, themselves.

“We pushed each other,” Marcus said. “There were some days in the morning where I was like, ‘Man, I can’t get up this morning.’ (Markieff) would come in and be like, ‘Come on, we gotta do it.’ That comes with being a twin, you know what I mean? You always have someone right there to talk to and push you that extra step that you need to go. When you wake up in the morning, and it’s 6 a.m. and you’re like, ‘I can’t do it,’ he’ll always say we need to.”

Marcus, who averaged 7.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 18.5 minutes per game last year, wants to be a dual threat from the perimeter and the post. He’ll play the 3 (small forward) and 4 (power forward) spots this year.

He mainly played the 4 last year.

“He’s a skilled 4 man or he’s a big 3,” Kansas coach Bill Self said of Marcus. “The way we play our perimeters is pretty much interchangeable, but I could see putting a big team out there some. A really big team. And then I could see playing small with him at the 4. He’ll be much more consistent and much more improved.”

Marcus said he’s been mainly working on the little things: putbacks, rebounding and extending the possession with his hustle and newfound desire.

“I want to give coach quality minutes,” Marcus said. “If I don’t start, I want to be a good teammate off the bench. As a starter, I’d play my hardest in whatever role he gives me, whether it’s being the trash man or shooting when I’m open.”

Markieff’s game figures to change this season as well. With his 31 pounds of added weight, he’s hoping to be more of a post presence at the 4 spot than he was a year ago.

Markieff averaged 4.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 15.6 minutes per game last year. He only registered double-digit rebounds in one game — the first of the season.

“I’m going to battle inside more,” Markieff said. “Not get pushed around. Be able to catch the ball in the post and finish more. Finish above the rim more. Things like that. Coach told me he needs me to be an energy man. He needs me to be a double-double man. And that’s what I’m trying to give him.”

Markieff also emphasized a propensity in his game to shoot more from the outside this season. In practice, he’ll bring a rebounding machine to the gym and put up jumpers and threes until he’s tired and can’t shoot anymore. Markieff made only three shots from long range last season.

“I think shooting threes is going to be a big strength of mine this year,” he said. “Being able to stretch the defense more.”

A lot has changed for the Morris brothers in the past seven months. They hope it translates to the court when Kansas opens its season Tuesday with an exhibition game against Fort Hays State in Allen Fieldhouse.

“Mainly, I think work ethic,” Marcus said, asked what’s changed for him the most. “I was starting to buy into what coach Self was saying, and I knew I had to have a big offseason and come back ready for this season.”

Comments

Lance Hobson 10 years, 3 months ago

Yeah, I'll tell you what's changed. TRob showed up. He's not going to make excuses about not getting a rebound like "Cole is taking them all."

Dale Kroening 10 years, 3 months ago

I couldnt agree more strikewso. Its good to hear they have been and still are working hard though. That being said I still think TRob starts over the two. Ive never seen HCBS gush over a player like he has Robinson. Either way its going to be a great season and I cant wait. RCJH !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Martin Rosenblum 10 years, 3 months ago

I think the Lawrence-basrd team moms should have a cook-off! They're all being given credit, along with Hudy, for "beefing up" these guys. Maybe they could get their own concession booth and share their cuisine.

All I can say at this point about this year's team is.. we're Deeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!!

John Brown 10 years, 3 months ago

2 points are 2 points. If they dunk, they better make it. I hope they don't screw up sure shots attempting a slam when a lay up will lead to the same result. 2 points.

Matt1958 10 years, 3 months ago

Can you imagine the defensive pressure this team will be able to exert, especially with the depth? I'm really excited about the attitude of the Morris twins. Thomas Robinson is a powerhouse, Elijah is a sensational athlete, X is X. I predict that Tyrel Reed will make a MUCH bigger impact than people expect. He will push Tyshawn hard. Cole, Sherron, need I say more? Two more words for ya, Travis Releford.

Jangaroo 10 years, 3 months ago

jbrownjib

Agreed. But playing above the rim is important. This work is gonna result in more rebounds, more put backs, and finishing stronger which draws fouls.

panalytic 10 years, 3 months ago

This is the second article in the last two months about a similar topic with the twins. I hope that means that means the twins workout habits are something really important for the team.

The information from these last two articles, and most other articles, is that these guys do seem to be working real hard and do say all the right things for supporting the team, such as a willingness to come off the bench and play any role the coach wants. They played well as freshman last year and seemed to learn a lot. I’m not sure there was enough news or information to warrant two such similar articles in two months, but it does highlight how the twins are willing to work and be good teammates.

I like how the players’ mothers get a lot of credit. Maybe that could be our new recruiting tool, having the moms cook for the visiting recruits, show them how good they will have it here.

Jeff Hargate 10 years, 3 months ago

Can you imagine if they can hit some three's playing the 4 and draw the defense out? Cole will have his way and X can slash all day. I hope they are right!

Tom Gillaspie 10 years, 3 months ago

To Matt 1958 - What type of impact to you think Reed is going to make from the bench? I love the kid's grit and attitude, but face it, he just doesn't have D1 skills - especially on the defensive end. Maybe by the time he is a senior he can make a strong contribution, but not this year, not with the talent that we have (at least on paper).

jayhawkintexas 10 years, 3 months ago

I'm impressed with the twins' attitudes and work ethics. The added weight and conditioning should help. My concern, however, are the FOULS they kept getting last year. They need to move their feet on defense and not use their hands to grab, hack and push the opponent. If they haven't become lighter and quicker on their feet, the conditioning is only going to mean they are in better shape to sit on the bench.

DoubleDD 10 years, 3 months ago

Ah good ideal panalytic but next year that will be an NCAA infraction. Can't hire any of the recruits' family. Nice real Nice just what the doctor ordered. I love to hear that these kids are working above and beyond their limitations. This is what champions are made of. Its nice to know that KU has a lot of talent, but it gets the heart pumping hearing that these kids are laying it all on the line trying to get better. With all this hungry talent this KU team is dangerous.

dylans 10 years, 3 months ago

Being in better shape means better play on the defensive end of the court, an ability to finish games strong, and less fouls. The twins lacked explosiveness last year I'm hoping they do play above the rim more this year. While a dunk is only 2 points it can be a catalyst for our team and demoralizing to the opposition.

Steve Brown 10 years, 3 months ago

JHTex you are correct, last year the twins showed promise yet too many hack fouls, time to move the feet. well said. the team is so deep, we should consider a play in game of red vs. blue for charity with refs and real clock. SC capt. one team and Cole capt. the other. It would sell out for fun and charity.

Sherronimo 10 years, 3 months ago

TRob is pushing these guys, especially kief who could see his minutes really slip if he doesn't show up in practice. Competition is a fabulous thing because missed on Payne, and looks like Barnes is leaning ACC, so next year will need kief badly. Just not sure if Whithey has the frame to gain the weight necessary to bang for 30 minutes next year.

Sherronimo 10 years, 3 months ago

If Barnes goes Duke. Sherron, X, Cole gone. Looks like next yr is 1= Knight or Selby/johnson 2= Ty 3= CJ/Marcus 4= TRob/Marcus/Kief 5= Whithey/Kief.

Sherronimo 10 years, 3 months ago

But can he gain 20 - 30 more this year? The 30 is great, but he's still real skinny below the waist. 30 pounds on a seven footer is the equivalent of 5 pounds on my 5'10" frame.

Hawks82 10 years, 3 months ago

Who are you talking about? neither of these guys are even close to 7ft...30 pounds on anyone is significant, 30 pounds on a 6'8 frame is still a huge improvement....you dont want these guys looking like adrian peterson, its takes away from their vertical game...they'll be fine.

....and 31 pounds in 8 months is actually kinda moderate...thats 32 weaks, gaining a pound a week is pretty normal if your working out correctly.

jaybate 10 years, 3 months ago

Trick or Treat:

Only two really new bits of info in this story:

  1. Kieff says he's playing the 4 (thought he'd back up Cole).

  2. Self says there's not going to be a difference between the three and the four this year.

Self appears to be aiming toward playing Eddie/Bill Ball two ways: big and small.

Big means 3 bigs and two perimeters.

Small means 2 bigs and three perimeters.

I'm anticipating a lot of Michigan State like minutes this season, where the 3 man is actually a third big starting on the perimeter, but quickly crashing inside to run cuts, set picks and generally overpower teams with size inside. Practically a triple post, though not the old Tex Winters triple post aka triangle. More of a designated picker/screener/rebounder as the third big.

When going big is not indicated, suddenly its back to a PG and 2 combos on the perimeter and two bigs inside and a lot of pick and roll.

So who is going to be Cole's back-up?

First semester: Looks like TRob is such a stud rebounder, he will be spelling Cole until Withey arrives. Implication: Marcus and Kieff handle garbage man role at the four with some step out and trifectate thrown in.

Second semester: maybe Withey begins to backup Cole and a seasoned Robinson then moves to more time in the 4 role. Or maybe TRob is just such a monster that he stays backup to Cole and Withey brings alot more offense to the 4, while in a cascade, Marcus moves to more time on the perimeter, leaving the three more to TRob and Kieff. This is the three big set with two guards, maybe even Quantum T and Xavier at guards, so the 1 and 2 get big,also.

Size matters. :-)

FWIW, the 4 and 5 positions are interchangeable, but only on paper. Who plays the 4 and 5 largely shapes how the roles of the 4 and 5 actually are played on the floor. Cole is the 5 not because the 4 and 5 positions are fundamentally different on paper, but because he can do the things a 5 can do.

Kieff is a 4, because that is what his skill set leans to.

And so on.

Dale Kroening 10 years, 3 months ago

tomhawk26 (anonymous) says... To Matt 1958 - What type of impact to you think Reed is going to make from the bench? I love the kid's grit and attitude, but face it, he just doesn't have D1 skills - especially on the defensive end.

Hey tomhawk26 did you watch this team last season ? Reed by far was our best clutch shooter last year. While theres no way he'll start (we just have too much talent), he will be in the rotation. Its been said many times he is the fastest player on the team and one of the most athletic. I would agree he needs work on the defensive end yes as so do several other players on this team, but to say he doesnt have div 1 skills is just rediculous IMO. I dont think anyone is saying he's a star or a should be a starter and as I recall he was recruited by KU, Stanford, Oklahoma, Kansas State, Misery, Missouri State and I could be wrong but for a short time early in his recruitment UNC.

Dan Pawlowski 10 years, 3 months ago

Yea tomhawk26 is just wrong. Reed was Mr. Basketball his senior season. He was recruited by Kansas, Kansas State, Misery, Missouri State, Oklahoma and Stanford. He was ranked the #16 point guard prospect in 2007 in a class that was topped by Derrick Rose and O. J. Mayo.

jaybate 10 years, 3 months ago

I recall Roy Williams wanted Tyrel to come to UNC for quite some time, before he filled his cupboard with some higher ranked players and perhaps decided that raiding Kansas was not in his best public relations interest.

Robin Smith 10 years, 3 months ago

Reed is the man. I think everyone is forgetting he was a only Sophomore last year! He's a great shooter and I feel comfortable when he has the ball. He could be the starting PG next year even with Knight or Selby coming to town.

emillasap 10 years, 3 months ago

Tomhawk26:

Are you kidding me?

"I love the kid's grit and attitude, but face it, he just doesn't have D1 skills - especially on the defensive end" referring to Reed.

He is not the best defender on the court; however, Reed can guard a normal level D-1 guard at the 1 or 2 all day long. He is also more skilled and athletic than an average D-1 guard. If you honestly think Tyrel Reed " just doesn't have D1 skills", then you have no credibility in my eyes. I would urge others to echo my sentiment if you reply to the contrary.

David Howell 10 years, 3 months ago

TomHawk,

Not sure if he is right, but Reed has improved his defensive skills and if he is hitting his 3's no one can match his shooting prowess. Last year it was hard to get him to shoot the ball on a regular basis. With the rebounders we have this year it should be bombs away unless you are just cold.

He is in great shape, plays smart (he is a coaches son) and will provide a spark when needed. Short of a redshirt he adds more then Elijah since we already have Collins and Taylor manning the ball.

The Morris's can talk all day about hitting the 3 point shot, but I'd take Reed in a shootout any day.

John Brown 10 years, 3 months ago

jangaroo,

I agree, I am a big believer in strength training and very impressed by their motivation to get into the gym. I hope to see them more active and stronger around the rim and in the paint. I think that their summer progress should lead to more rebounds and put backs and this is where the good players really establish themselves. It is always fun if a player shows the flash and makes great dunk. However, if that dunk spectacularily bounces off of the back of the rim and back into the hands of the opponents, it's sad.

Dirk Medema 10 years, 3 months ago

2 things worry me about the article:

  1. Talk about spectacular dunks. I didn't remember TT, but memory of JuJu's abysmal attempt was much too vivid.

  2. Talk about improved rebounding and shooting 3's. It would seem that rebounding is going to be tough from beyond the 3 pt line. Contrast this with the Cole article - His greatest strength is that he doesn't want to be a 5 that plays like a 4, or 4 like a 3. While it is great to be able to hit the open jumper to keep teams honest when they start to sag on Cole, that seems more like the exception and not particularly a 3.

Glad that they have been dedicated to their conditioning, and believing that what Coach says is best, but still a little worried about comments that don't line up well. It is easy to talk, but all too easy to talk sophistically.

jayhawker97 10 years, 3 months ago

keep it up! i totally admire you twins being a motivator for each other! we need you guys to grow and sharpen those snarling teeth, too! don't let other teams intimidate KU players, dawgs.. yeah.. let's get the dunk-party started, boyz..

i can't wait.. can't wait.. go Jayhawks!!!

Joe Baker 10 years, 3 months ago

Morris twins, TRob and the twin towers are absolutely going to dominate. I don't see who will compete very well. All I hear is Texas! Dexter the Ox Pittman and a guy named Chapman? We'll wind the Ox, he won't hang with our rotation. Rick Barnes better have his oxygen tank ready with a mask. The Ox will pass out flying with the hawks!!

Lastly, I'm already tired of the msu cry babies. Their claim is they return all starters from last year's team and beat us "three times." They forget they lost Suton and Walton. Many others are simply hating b/c we're KU. They can't formulate an intelligent thought on why or give specifics on how KU will not be 2010 NC! This season truly belongs to the Hawks.

I want to play all the big mouths that keep bashing KU: including msu and kensucky!
We all definitely know rank means nothing and Self is aware of the huge target on our back. Each team we play will want to knock us down!

I'm dying for some hoops and want to see a might hungry Jayhawk team take the court each and every time they play! I don't want to take any team for granted. Each team is treated like they are competing for a NC!! I don't care if it's Fort Hays State, Texas, B12 tourney team or a March Madness team! They need to play like a bunch starved, ravenous pitbull dogs. They take no prisoners, period!! It's time to send a message to these KU haters and doubters that say we'll choke or disappoint!

RCJHKU

Sherronimo 10 years, 3 months ago

Hawks82, I was referring to Whithey, he is 7 ft. marcus is 6'8" and kief is 6'9" we all know that. I'm just bein honest about Whithey. Hear he's a fabulous athlete for his size, but even HCBS is concerned about his weight, thus the stringent weight gain this summer. Of course the twins weight gain is positive. I agree much more would limit them in athleticism. I'm just thinking of the 5 next year, and who we plug if Whithey is struggling.

emillasap 10 years, 3 months ago

The "5" only exists when someone is around who can play it. Cole can do such. Next year Kansas probably won"t have a "5". No big deal. Most teams don't.

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