Brotherly love. That is as accurate of a way to describe the 2013-14 Iowa State basketball team that recently lost to UConn in the Sweet 16 as there is. It is especially true for the rapport between Fred Hoiberg’s two “point guards,” DeAndre Kane and Monte Morris.
When the season tipped off in November, Kane was a 6-foot-4, 24-year-old elderly man of a college basketball player. After playing though three years of constant adversity (that included a lot of losing) at Marshall, Kane had a point to prove during his lone season at Iowa State. Clearly, he accomplished this feat by averaging 17.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game along the way. On Monday, the Associated Press labeled Kane as an honorable mention All-American.
Kane’s protégé, Morris, who is generously listed at 6-1, was an 18-year old true freshman with his entire career ahead of him. The wide-eyed rookie had a glass of ice-cold water thrown on him the first day of practice. That’s when Fred Hoiberg forced Morris to cut his teeth with the Division I game by defending the "man," Kane.
“DeAndre has about 40 pounds on me,” Morris said. “I had to use my quickness to try to slow him down a little bit and when I guard him, a 6-foot-4 point guard, and then get matched up with a guy a little bit shorter and lighter, it is better for me because I’ve been seeing it all year.”
Hoiberg’s plan worked and Friday night’s 81-76 loss to UConn is a great example as to how far Morris has come on the defensive end. UConn superstar Shabazz Napier went 4-for-5 from 3-point range and led the Huskies with 12 points in the first half. In the second 20, Morris took over the bulk of the defensive duties on Napier. The UConn senior only scored seven second half points, with five of them coming from the free throw line.
“I think if you asked Monte Morris who had the biggest impact on his freshman season, he would tell you DeAndre,” Hoiberg said. “DeAndre just absolutely beat the heck out of him throughout this season and made him work.”
To Kane’s credit, he didn’t just beat the kid up and leave him for dead on the floor of the Sukup Practice Facility. The veteran nurtured Morris, who ended his freshman campaign with an unheard of 4.8 assist/turnover ratio.
“He would take him out to lunch after practices,” Hoiberg said. “They built a very special bond. He will always look back at DeAndre and I know that a good chunk of what he accomplishes will be owed to DeAndre.”
Morris averaged 11.2 points per game during Iowa State’s final five games and shot a refreshingly high 41 percent from 3-point range on the season.
There is the DeAndre Kane factor, which was huge, and then there is Morris’ God-given high basketball IQ that also greatly contributed to his impressive freshman campaign.
When looking towards the future of Iowa State basketball, Morris’ progress as a defender is as positive of a story as there is to tell. As is the case with any freshman though, defense was a major concern with Morris leading up to the season.
For Morris, there was a learning curve. There always is. But Morris’ was smaller than most.
“He is a student of the game,” Iowa State assistant coach Cornell Mann said. “He watches basketball all of the time. The way he watches it, he watches it like a coach. It allows him to learn those things just a little bit quicker.”
Life is about to change for Morris, who will experience life without DeAndre Kane.
“I want to put on about 20 pounds,” Morris said. “The sky is the limit for me.”
Morris’ Twitter feed early Saturday morning told the story of what his offseason will consist of. Upon arriving in Ames via New York City, Morris wrote, "2:09 Am can’t sleep! Wish I could head to the gym."
Congrats Cyclone Nation. You get three more years to watch this guy grow, play and perhaps, help lead Iowa State basketball to heights never seen before.
Quotable…Morris’ mentor, Mateen Cleaves
“He understands how to play the game the right way. I loved watching him play when he was in high school. He is a winner. He won two state championships and was Mr. Basketball. We actually let one slide out of Michigan, the University of Michigan and Michigna State. They let a good one get away. His assist-to-turnover ratio is the best in the country. He doesn’t make mistakes. He likes the bright lights. He was averaging six but is now averaging 14 in the tournament. I think he has been a big lift for them. When Fred put him in the starting lineup I liked the flow off the offense a lot better because Kane don’t have to do as much. You can take him off the ball and let Monte initiate the offense. Just with his decision making ability and the job he has done of not making mistakes I think has been huge for Iowa State.”