With 64 percent of Iowa State’s scoring from last season graduating, you don’t have to be Jay Bilas to recognize that a newcomer or two needs to step up for the Cyclones to go dancing for the third year in a row in 2013-14.
Especially in the backcourt.
Especially at point guard.
Flint, (Mich.) Beecher signee Monte Morris needs to be one of those men.
Morris, who was recently named Mr. Basketball in the state of Michigan, averaged 21.5 points. 9.5 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 5.4 steals per game as a senior in route to his second state championship in four seasons.
He didn’t just beat out anybody to win the prestigious Hal Schram Mr. Basketball Trophy either. Derrick Walton, a point guard out of Detroit’s Harper Woods Chandler Park Academy is going to Michigan next season. James Young, a shooting guard out of Rochester that who Rivals.com ranks as the 10th best prospect in America, is off to Kentucky.
“When I played, if you were Mr. Basketball and didn’t play in the NBA then something happened,” said Iowa State assistant coach Cornell Mann, a Michigan native who served as Morris’ lead recruiter for the Cyclones. “It is a very prestigious award.”
It was Morris’ total body of work that clinched him the honor. His stats are nice. After all, the future Cyclone nearly averaged a double-double in points and assists. He’s a “stat stuffer,” as Fred Hoiberg likes to say. But the biggest characteristic that stands out about Morris’ game is the one that means the most, especially for a point guard. The young man is a winner.
“He hadn’t lost but about five games in his high school career, his whole career,” said Mann. “He went to the state tournament and went to the semi’s, that is the worst that he has gotten to, the semi’s.”
That is the trait that will likely be critical to Iowa State’s success in year four of the Fred Hoiberg era. With Korie Lucious moving on, that leaves only two point guards from last year’s roster that will be ready to go next winter.
Bubu Palo has been very serviceable during his time in Ames, but has never been asked to be the man. Then there is soon-to-be sophomore Naz Long, who played sparingly as a freshman. This combo combined to average 3.4 points per game in 2012-13.
In order for Iowa State to be a legtimate threat in the Big 12, somebody has to step up at the most position on the floor. That could just be a true freshman.
“He will distribute the ball however Fred wants him to distribute it,” said Mann. “His basketball IQ is very high. His feel for the game is unbelievable. As a freshman he will have to have this but you can’t ever rattle him. He has poise to his game that won’t allow him to be shaken up or rattled.”
Think Georges Niang’s mindset, but in a point guard’s frame.
“I think that is fair,” said Mann to the comparison.
That approach comes from Morris’ upbringing.
In sports, you often times hear about being a coach’s son and the intangibles that those athletes generally bring to the game. They know the game better than most because they’ve studied the game more than most. The late nights in the film room with dad and conversations over dinner add up over time. In football, basketball, baseball or badminton, this is generally the case.
Monte’s mother, Tonya Morris, is a former girls varsity coach at Flint Beecher.
“She has been coaching basketball since he was six years old,” said Mann. “She really knows the game. You always hear about guys being a coach’s son. Well his is a coach’s son but it is his mom that is the coach.”
According to Mann, Morris isn’t just a distributor though and that is key in Fred Hoiberg’s offense that is so reliant on having the ability space out a defense due to all five guys on the court being a threat to score.
“He can score the ball,” said Mann. “That is not what he is looking to do. He will do it if he has to but what he is looking for is to really run the team. He wants to be the team player and he wants to run the team on the way to a win. He doesn’t know much about losing.”
Mann on Morris’ personality…
“He is very funny. He likes to have a good time and he likes to joke a lot. He is very serious once he crosses the line and is on the court. There is no playtime for him there. He is a mama’s boy. He will probably get mad because I said that but he is a mama’s boy. He and his mom have an unbelievable relationship.”