Marcus Morris is having fun hanging out with the rich and famous this week in Las Vegas.
“Seeing these NBA guys is amazing — guys you watch on TV and look up to,” Morris, Kansas University’s junior forward, said Tuesday from the U.S. Select Team training camp at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion.
“Now you are about to compete with them and play against them. Seeing them around the hotel, shaking their hands and getting to talk to them is pretty surreal,” Morris added in an interview with lasvegassun.com.
Morris —who on Tuesday was named second-team Preseason All-America by ESPN’s Dick Vitale — arrived in Vegas on Monday for what promises to be one of the greatest experiences of his still-young basketball career.
Morris and 19 other top college players are practicing against the U.S. National Team, which is training for the world championships later this summer in Turkey. The U.S. National squad boasts 20 NBA standouts, including Kevin Durant, Chauncey Billups, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Lamar Odom, Tyreke Evans, Rudy Gay and Andre Iguodala.
“I’ve talked to Amar’e Stoudemire (New York Knicks player who actually dropped off the national team roster Tuesday) a lot,” Morris said.
“I like Chauncey’s style,” Morris added of the Denver Nuggets’ guard. “I’m a big Durant (Oklahoma City forward) fan. He’s a good guy. I’d like a chance to guard him to see where I’m at.”
The collegians split into two teams for Tuesday morning’s practice session. Morris was a teammate of Kansas State’s Jacob Pullen. Later, Morris and the collegians practiced against the pros.
“Just being around them (pros), getting the experience in seeing how they play,” Morris said, asked what he was looking forward to the most this week. “Being on the scout team, trying to help them out.”
U.S. Select team coach Jay Wright of Villanova — who will lead the Select team versus the pros at 9 p.m., CDT, Saturday at UNLV’s Thomas and Mack Center, recruited Philadelphia native Morris out of high school.
“I follow him and root for him,” Wright said. “He’s doing a good job. One of the things we’re trying to simulate is what the international teams will do (against U.S. pros at world games). One thing he’s great at is helping us simulate how their bigs play away from the basket, shoot the ball and make plays. He’s done a very good job of that.
Wright said he’s not surprised at the great improvement Morris has made at KU.
“He has talent and I know what a good job Bill (Self, KU coach) and his staff do,” Wright said. “Knowing his basketball IQ from when he came out of Philly, he’s one of those guys who has always had a natural feel for the game, and you knew that when he got into a good system with a good coach, it was really going to explode. I think that’s what you’re seeing now.”
Vitale's complete list
ESPN announcer Vitale’s preseason All-America team consists of: Kyle Singler, Duke; Robbie Hummel and JuJuan Johnson, Purdue; Malcom Delaney, Virginia Tech and Jimmer Fredette, BYU.
KU’s Morris was joined on the second team by Pullen, KSU; Elias Harris, Gonzaga; Trey Thompkins, Georgia and Kalin Lucas, Michigan State.
“This is great and shows how hard we have been working this summer,” Morris said after learning of the honor.
He and brother Markieff have been hoisting up to 500 shots a day. “Preseason rankings and teams like this are about potential and I hope we can use this for motivation. Many of my teammates could have also been listed,” Morris added. “Tyshawn (Taylor) has started the last two years and Brady (Morningstar) started two years ago. We have a lot of upperclassmen this year and have a lot of depth.”
Select Team roster
Here’s the complete roster of the Select Team: Lavoy Allen, Temple; William Buford, Ohio State; LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor; Jimmer Fredette, BYU; Scotty Hopson, Tennessee; Scoop Jardine, Syracuse; JaJuan Johnson, Purdue; Jon Leuer, Wisconsin; Shelvin Mack, Butler; Morris, KU; Pullen, KSU; John Shurna, Northwestern; Kyle Singler, Duke; Chris Singleton, Florida State; Nolan Smith, Duke; Howard Thompkins, Georgia; Mike Tisdale, Illinois; Kemba Walker, UConn; Chris Wright, Dayton and Tyler Zeller, North Carolina.
National Team roster
Here’s the complete roster of the National Team: Chauncey Billups, Tyson Chandler, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Tyreke Evans, Rudy Gay, Eric Gordon, Danny Granger, Jeff Green, Andre Iguodala, David Lee, Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez, Kevin Love, O.J. Mayo, Lamar Odom, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Gerald Wallace, Russell Westbrook.
Chalmers tickets available
Tickets for Thursday’s Mario V. Chalmers Foundation VIP Mixer at The Oread hotel are available by calling 785-830-3944.
Players from the 2008 national title team expected to attend the 6-9 p.m. event include Chalmers, Brandon Rush, Russell Robinson, Darnell Jackson, Darrell Arthur, Jeremy Case, Matt Kleinmann, Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar. A live and silent auction will feature a multi-photo collage of Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain and autograph package from Paul Pierce.
Also, former KU forward Wayne Simien will be honored. The second-annual National Championship golf tournament will begin at 1 p.m. Friday, at Alvamar. Information is available here.
Prep pair likes KU
Rivals.com analyst Jerry Meyer says KU may be the team to beat for West coast seniors Josiah Turner and Jabari Brown.
According to Meyer, Turner, 6-3 from Sacramento (Calif.) High, favors KU and Arizona over Duke, UConn, UCLA, Oklahoma and North Carolina State. Brown, 6-5 from Oakland (Calif.) High, has received offers from KU, Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Wake Forest, Washington and New Mexico.
“Jabari wants to play with Josiah,” Turner’s mom, Doris Ward, told Rivals.com.
— Ryan Greene of lasvegassun.com contributed to this report