|11-11-2008, 11:03 AM|
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Freshman learning about Defense as game against Emporia nears
KU freshman gets to show he’s learned lesson about playing defense
By J. BRADY McCOLLOUGH
The Kansas City Star
LAWRENCE | Early in the season with his young team, Bill Self is constantly on the lookout for “teaching points.” So while Self may have appeared frustrated by freshman Marcus Morris fouling out of Kansas’ first exhibition game, it really couldn’t have gone much better.
Self had been warning Marcus and his twin brother, Markieff, that they would be whistled for more fouls than they were in high school because they didn’t know how to play defense yet.
“I didn’t believe him until the game happened and then I fouled out in 7 minutes,” Marcus Morris said. “That might have been a record for any college basketball player. Great thing that one didn’t count.”
The Jayhawks have one more freebie tonight against Emporia State at Allen Fieldhouse before opening their regular season Sunday with a visit from UMKC.
Tonight’s second exhibition game will provide Morris, a 6-foot-8 forward, with an opportunity to show that he’s learned from what Self called a “humbling” experience for him.
“No disrespect to Washburn,” Self said, “but when a big guy can foul you out in 7 minutes, that’s not exactly (Oklahoma preseason first-team All-American) Blake Griffin we’re going against.”
Listening to Morris on Thursday, two days after the Washburn game, it was hard to tell whether he had been lectured by Self or whether he was reverting to a childhood lesson.
“I’m going to keep my hands to myself,” Morris vowed.
Marcus Morris wasn’t alone, though, in needing to have that realization. KU fouled 28 times as a team, and Markieff Morris and sophomore Cole Aldrich both didn’t play 20 minutes because of fouls. The Jayhawks aren’t deep enough this season to overcome foul trouble as they were able to do the last two years with Darrell Arthur.
That’s why Self will inevitably spend the first two months of the season harping on his team’s bad defense.
“When I say bad defense,” Self said, “you gotta understand, my goal for this team defensively is to be one of the best 10 defensive teams in the country by the end of the year. My idea of being good defensively may not be what some other people’s view is of being good. We’re going to go through stretches where we labor to score, and your defense has to carry you. We’re not in a position to hang our hat on that.”
Marcus Morris, because of his ability to play on the wing and inside, should be an invaluable part of this year’s team. He is considered a natural scorer who will create matchup problems for opposing small forwards and power forwards. But, according to Self, those things can wait for now. Morris says he understands that.
“I need to focus on defense a lot more than what I have been, obviously,” Morris said. “It was a very physical game and you gotta play the right way.”
As always, Self followed up his constructive criticism with a compliment.
“Marcus can be a terrific defender,” Self said. “You can make a case that he can be our best defender. The other night, he looked like he wasn’t near that. I think that’s good for him. He’ll know now the importance of doing things the way we tell him to do them as opposed to doing them the way he wants to do them.”
Emporia State at KU
•WHEN: 7 tonight•TV/RADIO: Channel 38, KCSP (610 AM)
To reach J. Brady McCollough, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org