If Bill Self could have, he would have voted for Kansas University junior Marcus Morris as Big 12 Player of the Year.
“Oh, absolutely, but I can’t. I’ve got to vote for somebody else, but to me ... best player on the best team,” Self said in tossing his support to Morris, who Sunday was indeed named the conference’s top player in a vote of league coaches.
Self, who didn’t reveal his choice in a competition where coaches are not allowed to vote for their own players, gives a thumbs-up to the selection of the 6-foot-9, 235-pound Morris.
He has averaged 17.3 points and 7.0 rebounds overall, 18.8 points and 7.6 boards off 60.6 percent shooting in league play.
“I don’t think anybody putting up those kind of numbers (nationally) has been as unselfish as Marcus,” Self said of KU’s sixth Big 12 Player of the Year and first since Wayne Simien in 2004-05. Others: Raef LaFrentz (1996, 1997), Drew Gooden (2002) and Nick Collison (2003).
Of the award, Morris said: “It’s a great accomplishment, but it’s not just me. I think we should get player of the year for everybody on our team.”
Marcus’ brother, Markieff, was named second-team all-league. Also, Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed were named honorable mention. Morningstar was also named to the league’s all-defensive team.
“I wouldn’t be able to get it without those guys,” Marcus said.
KU sophomore Thomas Robinson said the selection was a no-brainer.
“He deserves it outright. I don’t think anybody worked as hard as Marcus in the offseason,” Robinson said of the player who attended several camps, including those of NBA standouts LeBron James and Amar’e Stoudemire. Morris also was a member of the U.S. Collegiate Select team that scrimmaged the Olympic team last summer in Las Vegas.
“He traveled all over the country to work on his game,” Robinson said. “He came back to be with his team and was a leader. Going through the ups and downs of the season, he was a great leader. To me, he’s the player of the year in the country and in the conference.
Morris grinned when asked if his earning the award was proof that hard work pays off.
“It definitely does,” he said, “but I’d rather win the national championship than player of the year.”
Also Sunday, Dogus Balbay (Texas) was named defensive player of the year and Ricardo Ratliffe (Missouri) top newcomer. Tristan Thompson (Texas) was named freshman of the year, and Quincy Acy (Baylor) and Levi Knutson (Colorado) were co-winners of the sixth-man award.
The coaches’ All-Big 12 first team consisted of Morris, Alec Burks (Colorado), LaceDarius Dunn (Baylor), Marcus Denmon (Missouri), Jordan Hamilton (Texas) and Jacob Pullen (Kansas State). Burks and Pullen were the only unanimous picks.
“I am very proud any time our players get named to a postseason award,” Self said. “I am especially proud of Marcus for being consistent this year and being the premier performer in our league. It certainly is a compliment to him but also to his teammates to allow him to do what he does. Markieff, Brady and Tyrel also very deserve their recognition as well.”
Player of Year: Marcus Morris, Kansas.
Defensive Player of Year: Dogus Balbay, Texas.
Newcomer of Year: Ricardo Ratliffe, Missouri.
Freshman of Year: Tristan Thompson, Texas.
Sixth Man: Quincy Acy, Baylor; Levi Knutson, Colorado.
Coach of Year: Bill Self, Kansas.
All-Big 12 first team: Marcus Morris, KU; LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor; Alec Burks, Colorado; Jacob Pullen, K-State; Marcus Denmon, Missouri; Jordan Hamilton, Texas.
Second team: Markieff Morris, KU; Perry Jones, Baylor; Diante Garrett, Iowa State; Tristan Thompson, Texas; Khris Middleton, Texas A&M.;
Third team: Cory Higgins, Colorado; Rodney McGruder, K-State; Lance Jeter, Nebraska; Marshall Moses, Oklahoma State; Gary Johnson, Texas; David Loubeau, Texas A&M.;
Honorable mention: Brady Morningstar, Tyrel Reed, KU; Acy, Baylor; Scott Christopherson, Iowa State; Laurence Bowers, Ricardo Ratliffe, Missouri; Cade Davis, Andrew Fitzgerald, Oklahoma; Cory Joseph, Texas; B.J. Holmes, Texas A&M; John Roberson, Texas Tech.
All-defensive team: Morningstar, KU; Pullen, K-State; Bowers, MU; Balbay, UT; Thompson, UT.
All-rookie team: Jones, BU; Ratliffe, MU; Jean-Paul Olukemi, OSU; Joseph, UT; Thompson, UT.