Markieff secret weapon

Kansas teammates Tyshawn Taylor, Markieff Morris and Cole Aldrich pull together during a timeout in overtime against Kansas State, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2010 at Bramlage Coliseum.

Kansas teammates Tyshawn Taylor, Markieff Morris and Cole Aldrich pull together during a timeout in overtime against Kansas State, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2010 at Bramlage Coliseum.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Watching actors and actresses deliver lines so clumsily during the Oscars — Samantha Ryan, by the way, was skunked again — called to mind watching players from great college basketball teams play pickup basketball.

Actors need directors as much as basketball players need coaches. Still, any coach will be the first to say he can’t win without good players.

Bill Self, John Calipari and Jim Boeheim — coaches of the teams that should be ranked in the top three spots when the polls are released today — all have recruited and developed good players.

Kentucky has the most talented roster, Syracuse the most experienced one, Kansas University the deepest.

No player has done a better job off the bench for Kansas than the team’s most underrated player, 6-foot-9 sophomore post man Markieff Morris.

Measuring a reserve’s statistics per 40 minutes of playing time often is a fair indicator of productivity, and in the case of Markieff Morris, it hints at his versatility. He’s averaging 15.7 points, 12.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and two blocks per 40 minutes.

Asked to identify what has been the key to his twin’s improvement, Marcus answered with one word.

“Confidence,” he said.

What else?

“Rebounding,” he said. “Believe it or not, ’Kieff is a great rebounder. Something I do that he doesn’t is, I try to box out, and he doesn’t. He just goes and gets the ball. Something I’m trying to do is watch him for pointers to get better. And he’s a much better shot-blocker than me. In high school, ’Kieff was a great shot-blocker.”

The twins share the ability to feed the ball low from the high post.

“When we were in high school, a lot of teams used to say we had the best high-low in the country,” Markieff said. “In high school, we used to call it Memphis because that’s where we were committed to. Whoever had the mismatch would be down low.”

No statistic tracks body language, and none is needed to appreciate how much better Markieff’s has become since his freshman season. In Saturday’s victory against Missouri, he went up strong for a bucket, got slapped on the left arm and then the right, kissed the shot off the glass, turned around and hustled back in the other direction. He didn’t whine to the referee for not calling a foul.

“I’m a banger,” he said afterward. “I’m not worried about, are they calling fouls? I just keep playing through it.”

He still has too many turnovers and can go cold at the free-throw line (.587), but his shooting efficiency ranks first on the team. His overall field-goal percentage is .573, his three-point percentage .529.

Marcus possesses louder talent than Markieff, but the disparity on the court isn’t nearly as great as when they compete in their favorite pastime, an NCAA Basketball video game.

Marcus, who has a 30-1 record against Markieff, plays with Duke, his brother with Villanova. Duke?

“It’s a video game, and Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler shoot real well on there,” Marcus said.

Scheyer and Singler shoot real well in real life as well. So does Markieff Morris, KU’s secret weapon.