Sunday, March 20, 2011


Marcus Morris deserves place in pantheon



Pregame: KU vs. Illinois

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Kansas and Illinois face off in the third round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament on Sunday, March 20, 2011.

— Achieving Kansas University basketball royalty status requires March, and now April, greatness, so it’s premature to elevate junior forward Marcus Morris to that stratosphere.

But if this Kansas team can hang the ultimate banner for the second time in four years, nobody could deny him his rightful place on the all-time Mount Rushmore of Jayhawks basketball players.

In chronological order, the first three busts on such a monument surely must be Clyde Lovellette, Wilt Chamberlain and Danny Manning. Wilt didn’t win a title at KU, losing to North Carolina in triple overtime, but he was the most dominant basketball player in the game’s history, so much so that rules were changed to give mere mortals a shot at containing him.

Why, some might ask, would Marcus Morris and not Mario Chalmers deserve a place on the mountain top, should the Jayhawks win the 2011 national title, given Mario’s Miracle three-point shot that sent the game into overtime?

Easy. Marcus brought his twin, Markieff, with him to Kansas. Mario brought his father, Ronnie. The latter didn’t score a point, gather a rebound, get an assist or instruct a player, other than his son, during his three years in Kansas. (The guidelines of his job title prohibited him from on-floor coaching.) Markieff Morris is one of the best big men in the country.

When Marcus decided he wanted to look into coming to Kansas, Markieff followed him because that’s what he always does. Not a bad guy to follow. Markieff had his coach call KU coach Bill Self, who, when taking the call, asked the coach to wait a minute, put him on hold and asked his assistants whether he should be interested in the Morris twins. He quickly was told you bet your life, you should be interested.

Assistant Joe Dooley toured the twins around at Late Night, Marcus pulled the trigger, and Markieff didn’t have any reason to doubt his judgment.

In an era of college basketball in which talented big men tend to depart college for the NBA before they’re good enough to help their college teams win games (think: B.J. Mullens), Kansas has a pair of post players blessed with refined guard skills and fertile basketball brains, all because one of them, Marcus, liked what he saw of Kansas basketball on TV.

Now, so many traits coaches love to praise can be found in tandem on Kansas, such as:

It’s always nice when your best player is your most unselfish player. Or in KU’s case, when your two best players are your two most unselfish players. (Mix in Tyrel Reed, and that makes the three best players doubling as the three most unselfish.)

It’s so reassuring knowing you always can dump the ball to a reliable post-up player who knows how to post up, is blessed with great hands, a soft touch and the ability to draw fouls. Twice as good to have two of them.

If one of them misses a shot, the other forever is a threat to score from the weak side on a put-back. To double one of them in the post is to risk him dumping off to the other for a slam, or finding an open shooter for a three-pointer.

It never hurts when the best player has a strong voice in the locker room. It’s even better when the second-best player has the exact same voice.

Asked to break down the halftime routine for the Jayhawks, Markieff said the players talk among themselves for three or four minutes, and then Self addresses the team for about five minutes.

Who does the most talking before Self takes the floor?

“Probably Marcus,” Markieff said. “I back him up. He just does the talking, and I do the backing up.”

Marcus averages 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds and shoots .586 from the field, .361 from beyond the three-point semi-circle. Markieff averages 13.6 points and 8.2 rebounds and shoots .597 from the field and .418 from three.

The three-year production of Marcus alone makes him the best of any signing among the Class of 2008 recruits, not even factoring in that he brought his brother with him. UConn’s Kemba Walker (No. 14), North Carolina’s Tyler Zeller (No. 33) and others could lay a claim if they last longer in the tournament.

Marcus was ranked 29th in the class by Rivals, his brother Markieff 49th. KU reserve Jeff Withey was ranked 36th in a class in which Mullens, who played one year at Ohio State and has spent his professional career riding the shuttle between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Tulsa 66ers of the NBA Developmental League, was ranked No. 1.

The Twins face far greater challenges today against a pair of Illinois senior post players than in the first round when they faced Boston University’s scrappy-but-undersized forwards.

Illinois 7-foot-1 senior center Mike Tisdale shoots threes (42.6 percent) and blocks shots (1.6 per game), and long, quick 6-9 power forward Mike Davis (12.3 points, 7.2 rebounds) gets a lot done close to the basket.

Given the Boston University game was so close throughout the first half, overconfidence won’t become an issue for KU.

“I think we’re scared to lose, and I think that’s a good thing,” Markieff said. “Last year, we thought we were unbeatable. This year, we’re more humble.”


basketball122009 10 years, 8 months ago

it was 2008 not 2011.. other than that great article!!

Marcia Parsons 10 years, 8 months ago

Either you misunderstood, or it has been changed. He said "should the Jayhawks win the 2011 national title"

jayhawker_97 10 years, 8 months ago

good article, Tom.

===The Twins face far greater challenges today against a pair of Illinois senior post players than in the first round when they faced Boston University’s scrappy-but-undersized forwards. ===

yeah.. and the twins will need help from TRob & Mario.. a great deal...

Alohahawk 10 years, 8 months ago

Nice article as well as nice timing. Add some incentive to keep winning. Not that any of the Jayhawks should need any.

However, change the words "Mt. Rushmore", to "Mt. Oread of all time Jayhawks basketball players."

Also, since you're placing Marcus on the mountain top, you are actually placing both up there. If such a sculpture did exist, one face would suffice for both Marcus and Markieff'.

Kent Fisher 10 years, 8 months ago

And for the record, Markieff has the same or better stats than Marcus based on minutes played. Funny how Marcus is placed on a higher pedestal than Markieff.

Jeff Coffman 10 years, 8 months ago

3 Big East picks and no love for the Jayhawks...terrible picks.

jaybate 10 years, 8 months ago

Some thoughts.

First, Marcus deserves all the pub he gets. Period.

Second, Kieff now deserves as much pub as Marcus. Period.

Third, whatever happens with the hunt for a ring, these two players deserve to be remembered together, as two sides of a coin. They came together, because they wanted to play together. And that is what they have accomplished and that is how they should be remembered.

Fourth, why not create a real Mt. Rushmore, for KU greats? Carve the faces into Daisy Hill. Even if the stone is not right, use sculpted concrete. Imagine the faces sitting there behind AFH!

KansasComet 10 years, 8 months ago

Lets go Jayhawks! Marcus and Markieff are great players and I am glad they chose to come to Kansas. That was a real nice article to read. I hope they stay, but if not thanks for a wonderful 3 years. I am sure everyone is as fired up about the game as I am! Hard to post, when you start getting hyped up, and it is still morning!

Linda Daxon 10 years, 8 months ago

I thought this article was just a week or so premature. (You even said it was premature, so why write it now?) We need to be taking all this one game at a time. Where would Marcus go if we lost tonight? Or next Friday? Not on the Mount. Let's not get ahead of ourselves. No question Marcus/Markieff are great, but without a national title they are just one of many greats who honored the Jayhawk Nation with their talent.

Marcia Parsons 10 years, 8 months ago

So Wilt Chamberlain is "just one of the many greats"? Keegan, unlike you, was not basing a player's worth and valuing his contributions on whether he helped bring home a championship.

kcglowboy 10 years, 8 months ago

Interesting column with valid points. But I agree with Idaxon about the timing. Writing this column now is fine, but you should have put it in your back pocket for a few more weeks before publishing it. Yesterday, the home page had a teaser for its story about the Richmond game -- it said Richmond will take on Kansas next. This column seems equally premature to me.

Also, it seems odd to dedicate a column to putting ONE twin in the same rarefied air as Clyde, Wilt and Danny, while continuing to relegate Twin No. 2 to "other" status. Unless this entire column was meant to be a motivational tool for Markeiff, then I suppose it's OK.

WilburNether 10 years, 8 months ago

Good players, yes. Great players? No, not yet. The word "great" is tossed around very casually these days, so much so that the word has been dumbed down to the point of meaning "pretty good."

In lavishing praise on these two pretty good players, it would appear that the author was not aware of two guys named Gooden and Collison, whom I would take over the Morris twins in a heartbeat.

lawrence267 10 years, 8 months ago

I'm surprised no one has mentioned Raef.

Personal choice, Pollard or Ostertag

Hank Cross 10 years, 8 months ago

What about Paul - Freakin'- Pierce?!? He could score inside, outside and in transition. Rebounded like a PF,handled the ball like a guard, jumped out of the gym. I remember when UVa was beating KU in the S16, thinking, 'I can't wait for Pierce to replace Shaun Pearson next year. We'll win the NC for sure with him." How wrong I was. Stupid Huckleberry Roy thought Lafrentz was option No.1 when it should've been Pierce, Pierce and more Pierce. Their subsequent careers in the NBA proved who was the greater talent.

lawrence267 10 years, 8 months ago

If you're talking about their career at Kansas, it's no contest between Raef and Pierce. Pierce went on to the better NBA career, no question, but he only played 3 years at KU and was only an all-american once.

REHawk 10 years, 8 months ago

From really really good to really great: 5 games, no losses.

redlegger 10 years, 8 months ago

  1. Love this Team!

  2. Always enjoy Jaybate's posts!

  3. Label them how you will, but as Funhawk would say, Marcus and Markieff are fun!

  4. Just a personal thing - didn't really care for the "Mario" section of this article.


Kye Clark 10 years, 8 months ago

Troll below. Probably a worthless Misery fan with nothing to do besides cook & smoke meth now that they're sitting at home.

Michael Auchard 10 years, 8 months ago

Didn't like the Mario part, either. He made the biggest shot in this program's history and was debatably the best lock-down defensive guard we've ever had. Ever. Now, not even half a decade later, his work is being devalued. That's just crazy.

Pwnage 10 years, 8 months ago

He's one of the lowest paid players on the team so he deserves his place.

Jacobpaul81 10 years, 8 months ago

If I was building a team of 12 Jayhawks from the last 30 years and put them in todays game, this is the monster I would construct:

PG - Jacques Vaughn PG/SG - Russell Robinson SG - Mario Chalmers SG - Ron Kellogg SG/SF - Paul Pierce SG/SF - Brandon Rush SF/PF - Calvin Thompson SF/PF - Marcus Morris PF - Danny Manning PF - Nick Collison PF - Raef LaFrentz PF - Wayne Simeon

Next 4 in?

PG - Adonis Jordan SF - Drew Gooden PF - Markieff Morris PG - Cedric Hunter

When asked about the 4 greatest Jayhawks of all time... I don't even hesitate: Wilt Chamberlain, Danny Manning, Jo Jo White and Clyde Lovellette. No. 5? Paul Pierce.

Kyle Rohde 10 years, 8 months ago

Ooh Jacobpaul81, love this and I'm going to add-on just for fun:

PG - Jacques Vaughn PG/SG - Russell Robinson (gotta have Kirk Hinrich here) SG - Mario Chalmers SG - Ron Kellogg (Keith Langford goes here) SG/SF - Paul Pierce SG/SF - Brandon Rush SF/PF - Calvin Thompson SF/PF - Marcus Morris PF - Danny Manning PF - Nick Collison PF - Raef LaFrentz PF - Wayne Simien

Next 4 in?

SG - Ron Kellogg PG - Adonis Jordan or Aaron Miles SF - Drew Gooden - he's gotta be in there over Nick or Raef I think. PF - Markieff Morris

Love your top 4 of all-time and don't disagree with any.

redballer1313 10 years, 8 months ago

what about Kirk Hinrich? i will take him before i take - Russell Robinson

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