Morrow Comes Full Circle

March 12, 2008

By Simit Shah

As he heads into his final ACC Tournament, Anthony Morrow can’t help but think about his first one.

With Tech trailing by three points in the waning moments of the 2005 ACC championship game against Duke, the sharpshooter had a clean look from the top of the key to tie the game. The shot was off by a fraction of the inch, and the Yellow Jackets fell short that day in Washington, D.C.

“I do think about it every now and then, but not as much as I used to,” admitted Morrow. “I was just blessed to get that opportunity as a freshman. Coach put me in the game and had faith in me. I knocked one down and then missed that one. It was tough, but I think that game put me on the map as a freshman.”

In the three seasons since then, Morrow has established himself as one of the top long-range threats in the ACC, hitting on 43 percent of his attempts from behind the arc this season. He’s led the team in scoring this season, and he’s averaging 15 points over the past four games.

Morrow leads the streaking Yellow Jackets against Virginia Thursday night in the opening round of the ACC Tournament in his hometown. He won two state titles while starring at Charlotte Latin High School, which is just 11 miles from Bobcats Arena.

“It’s a blessing to go home and play in front of my family and friends,” he said. “I feel like we have a good chance of winning the tournament, so I’m looking forward to it. It should be a great experience.”

This season has been a challenging one for Morrow and his teammates. They have lost eight games by six or fewer points, and they endured a five-game losing streak in February. However, the squad has won three of its last four games and heads to Charlotte (site of the Tech’s last two ACC titles) with some momentum.

“We feel great going into the tournament,” said Morrow. “I take my hat off to all my teammates. I love them all, because when things got rough, we never turned our backs on each other. We stuck together, and the more adversity we faced, the closer we got. A lot of time and hard work went into this season, so we think that will pay off this week.”

Four years ago, Morrow came to Tech with a reputation as one-dimensional catch-and-shoot player, but he prepares to leave much more than that.

“I didn’t approach the game the right way defensively,” he explained. “I credit Mario West with helping me to understand the approach I need to take. You have to take pride in your defense and helping your team stop another team’s star player. I’ve worked on it a lot, and the second half of last year the light clicked on for me.”

“He’s become a much better position defender,” noted Paul Hewitt. “I think he’s realized that you don’t have to be an off-the-charts athlete to be a good defender. If you see the game and think one step ahead, you can be a very good defender. That’s where he’s improved. He understands the game much better than when he started.”

Offensively, Morrow has peppered his name throughout the school’s record book. His 1,370 career points place him 20th in Tech history, while his 250 three-pointers rank fourth. His 87.1 percent mark from the free throw line is the best in school history and third-best in ACC history.

“He shows up every day and plays hard,” said Hewitt. “Obviously, he can make shots. It’s nice to have a player that the other team has to pay attention to all the time. Anthony’s had a nice career, and I know he’s scored a ton of points.”

After this semester, Morrow will be just three classes shy of graduation. In addition to earning his Management degree, he’s got an eye on continuing to play basketball professionally. A number of his former teammates at Tech are now earning a paycheck in the NBA or overseas.

“They all helped me and given me great advice,” he said. “They’ve told me what I need to work on to get better. Tony McHenry (who played the past several seasons in England) lives right next to me, so he’s told me a lot of things I need to do on the court. Having guys like that around, as well as our coaches, is going to help me on that next level.”

For now, Morrow is relishing the chance to play in his hometown and make a run deep into the ACC Tournament. He also hopes for a shot at redemption for that missed shot three years ago.

“If I was in the championship game Sunday at the top of the key, I guarantee that I’d knock it down,” he declared. “I’m 100 percent sure I’d make that shot.”

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