Take a seat, Kyle Singler. Step aside, Kemba Walker. Make room, Jimmer Fredette. A new name is beginning to emerge in the race for college basketball's player of the year.
After a dominant 33 point, 13 rebound performance to kickoff his team's conference opener in a win at Iowa State, Kansas' Marcus Morris needs to be taken seriously as a candidate for the NCAA's top individual hoops honor.
Morris, a junior forward, has seamlessly blended into Bill Self's loaded offensive attack this season, posting relatively modest averages of 15.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game for the undefeated Jayhawks going into yesterday's conference opener.
On a team that features standout performers like twin brother Markieff, freshman guard Josh Selby and countless other talented scoring options, Morris has been extremely effective picking his spots and taking good shots, as evidenced by his stellar 60% shooting from the field.
However, over the last two games Morris has asserted himself as KU's best and primary offensive option, exhibiting an aggressive shot selection rarely seen prior to this week.
In a narrow overtime win at scrappy Michigan on Sunday, he was the best player on the floor, scoring 22 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
As good as he was in Ann Arbor, Marcus was that much better in Ames.
In front of a rowdy and raucous Hilton Coliseum Crowd hungry for an upset, Morris showed off his full repertoire of offensive skills and indicated why many consider him the nation's most versatile performer.
Morris scored with his back to the basket, utilizing fadeaways, up-and-unders and tough dropsteps. He scored off the dribble, frequently faking a jumper, taking his man to the rack and converting tough finishes. He scored from the perimeter, hitting several midrange shots as defenders were forced to play him for the drive. He made the Cyclones pay when they fouled him, hitting 11 of his 14 free throws.
The only way Morris didn't score last night is via three point range (he didn't attempt one), a rarity as he's connected from deep in 10 of KU's games this season. Morris was incredibly efficient as well, going 11-15 from the field, corralling five offensive rebounds and contributing two assists.
Who better to sum up such a performance than Self?
"Marcus was spectacular," KU's head man, nary a sunshine-pumper, said. "He did it every way. He does more things than anyone else we've coached."
Despite that, it may not matter. Kansas may be too balanced and deep a team for a single player to garner individual accolades like first team All-American, let alone player of the year. But, if his postgame thoughts are any indication, Morris believes he's capable of duplicating last night's performance as KU's unquestioned leader.
"I can try. I definitely can try," he said, when asked if he'll be putting up such stellar numbers as the Jayhawks advance into conference play. "I just felt like I had to take the game over... The crowd was into it. I felt somebody had to step up. I showed I'm a leader and put the load on my back."
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