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Basketball

Monté Morris in his “mode” for the season opener

  AMES — Colorado’s new starting point guard, Dom Collier, sought out a scouting report on Iowa State’s Monté Morris.

 So he consulted with Gonzaga’s Josh Perkins — who trained with Morris at the Chauncey Billups Elite Basketball Academy this summer — to learn more about the No. 7 Cyclones’ assist-to-turnover ace.

Collier processed the intel, then concluded, according to The Denver Post: “They say he’s a really solid player, but (Perkins) said I’d be fine with him.”

 Uh oh. 

 Word of the Perkins-to-Collier exchange quickly reached Morris, who grinned while formulating a response during Wednesday’s media availability at the Sukup Practice Facility.

 “I know he’s going to try to come at my hard,” Morris said of his on-point adversary in Friday’s 4 p.m. season opener (ESPN2) at Sioux Falls, S.D. “I heard he was talking to, I guess, the Colorado press about me. Talked to Josh Perkins or something. But that’s just fueling me, man. We’ll see Friday. We’ll just take all of that into consideration and we’ll see Friday.”

 Chip, meet shoulder.

 Morris, despite setting and resetting the NCAA’s top mark for assist-to-turnover rate the past two seasons, always seeks out and finds a spark to light yet another fuse destined to detonate his explosive and efficient game.

 “When I saw it I smiled and just yelled, because that right there, wakes me up and gets me going and gets me loose,” said Morris, who figures to be more of a scoring threat in his junior season. “I was ready to play the game yesterday when I saw it.”

 To be clear, Collier — who also attended Billups’s camp, but didn’t match up with him — was not overly disparaging of Morris. He described him as “a really good” player based on film study. Collier plans to come into his own this season, after spending most of his freshman year as an understudy to Buffaloes star Askia Booker.

 “Watching him on tape, he plays with a lot of confidence — can make a shot,” Cyclones first-year coach Steve Prohm said of Collier. “The key, everybody’s going to focus on the bigs, but we’ve still got to guard every position. You know, be in the paint, contest shots. You know, not give up any easy baskets.”

 And while everything emanates from the point, Colorado’s top returning player, Josh Scott, likely will clash with ISU’s high-flying forward, Jameel McKay (who wasn’t available for interviews Wednesday) in the interior.

 The long, lean and active McKay, who stands 6-9, brushed away 2.4 of his foe’s shots per game in an abbreviated rookie season after transferring from Marquette.

 Scott, at 6-10, averaged 14.5 points last season and rises up as a rim protector like McKay.

 “Jameel’s the reigning Big 12 (Defensive) Player of the Year, so I wouldn’t expect anything less than for him wanting to guard their best frontcourt player,” said Cyclones consensus first team preseason All- American Georges Niang

 Matchups matter Friday. Sharpness matters more.  ISU will face a power-five conference level school in its opening game for the first time, since, well, before power-five conferences existed.

 The last time the Cyclones opened the season against a power-five caliber team, Johnny Orr roamed the sidelines and Jeff Grayer and Lafester Rhodes both averaged between 22 and 25 points per game.

 The season: 1987-88.

 The day one foe: Then-Southwest Conference juggernaut Texas, which ISU beat 100-83 in the preseason NIT. 

 A lot has changed since then, but the level of grit and competitiveness has not. Just ask Morris, who’s likely ready to address Collier’s minor slight in a major way, while keeping his eye on the larger prize.

 "I think it’s going to be a great crowd in a smaller gym," Morris said. 

 He’ll probably remember the "I’d be fine" line, though. Not paying him what he deems the proper amount of respect can invite peril. 

 “I have a vivid memory of when we were playing pickup this year and Monté was, I don’t want to say going through the motions, but he was just getting into his flow and someone hit him in the mouth and he started bleeding,” Niang said.  “And they were talking like, ‘Stop being soft.’ And I was in the training room and he said, ‘Watch when I go out there. I’m going to really turn it up.’ I think his team didn’t lose (again), and his team wasn’t that good either. So when you get him in his mode — the mode, as he calls it — when he gets in mode? He’s a bad boy. He’s dangerous. He’s real dangerous.”

R

Rob Gray

administrator

Rob, an Ames native, joined Cyclone Fanatic in August, 2014 after nearly a decade and a half of working at Iowa's two largest newspapers. He spent 10 years at the Des Moines Register and, after a brief stint in public relations, joined the Cedar Rapids Gazette as an Iowa State correspondent three years ago. Rob specializes in feature stories for CF.