Aug. 9, 2011
By Jon Cooper
Being a freshman can be so confusing.
For Jason Morris, looking back at his freshman season with the 2010-11 Yellow Jackets men’s basketball team and seeing himself as the team’s top three-point shooter percentage-wise only adds to that confusion.
It’s true. As a freshman, the 6-5, 210-pound swingman shot .400 from behind the arc (22-for-55), 85 points higher than his nearest teammate.
Morris doesn’t see the stat as a reflection of his true game. Instead, he finds it misleading and amusing.
“Coach Hewitt recruited me as a high-flying, explosive guard, a slasher,” he said with a laugh. “But by the end of the year I was being scouted as a shooter.
Teams followed those scouting reports, encouraging Morris, whose long-range success compounded the problem.
“I felt so confident in that shot that I was taking it maybe too much,” he said. “Although I was knocking it down, I feel like I kind of got away from what I was used to doing because I got comfortable with taking what the defense was giving me.”
Oddly, the more threes Morris made the more opponents kept giving him the three and the more he kept making it. Over a four-game stretch he made 9-of-17 three-point attempts (a .529 percentage).
That led to a conundrum — he was doing the right thing by taking what the defense was giving him and it wasn’t out of the flow of the offense, yet, it wasn’t playing to his strength.
Heading into his sophomore season, that topic has been discussed with new Head Coach Brian Gregory.
“One of the things we mentioned was I need to stop shooting so much and get to the free throw line,” said Morris, who is the leading returning free throw shooter (his 75.6 percent from the stripe last year, ranked fourth). “I feel like I didn’t get to the line that much because I got so confident and [opponents] were giving me the three-pointer.”
Morris is planning to make opponents change their thinking about him heading into his sophomore season.
Morris feels clearer in his approach and wiser and more mature heading into his second season on The Flats.
That maturity is due as much to getting through his first ACC season as it is getting through an emotionally difficult summer, personally, as his mother went in for a routine procedure and ended up spending the next six weeks in the hospital.
He was there for his mother, who is on the road to recovery.
A scare like that forces one to grow up quickly and Morris did that.
He’s more focused than ever on his studies. Over the summer, he took Calculus and Building Construction classes, which put him approximately 10 credit hours ahead of where he is supposed to be.
Morris looks to that cushion as a benefit which will allow him to focus more on being a leader for the Jackets.
“I feel as though I showed glimpses of having that potential and now it’s time to carry that, become more consistent with it throughout the entire year,” he said. “Definitely I can be more vocal. I feel I can do much more, which was, I guess, part of Coach [Hewitt]’s frustration with me last year. I do feel as though I can be more vocal.”
Morris, who started the final five games of the season, averaging 9.6 points, 3.0 rebounds in 27 minutes, while shooting .486, .474 from three, believes that a year of experience will help but that it may take a little time for the team get to where Gregory wants.
“I think with Coach Gregory’s offense and with the athleticism, it feeds right into what he wants,” said Morris. “At the same time, we did make a lot of open-court mistakes last year. So with his offense, sort of shaving down a lot of the basically easy baskets we cost ourselves, with athleticism, the two working together, is kind of exciting to see what will happen.
“Because so much is changing, honestly I feel as though you’re going to see a few of the same mistakes in the beginning just because there’s going to be so much change,” he continued. “You’ve got critical players leaving, you’ve got the new coaching staff, new gym, just everything is going to be so different. It’s going to be a rebuilding. It’s almost like having another freshman year pretty much, other than the mental experience.”
Morris believes that last year will provide plenty of incentive and that underestimating this year’s group would be a mistake.
“If anything [last year] should fuel the guys just to keep them going. It definitely fuels me every day,” he said. “Last year, I feel as though we were in a lot of games. We just could not close them out, which happened many times against people we definitely shouldn’t have lost to. Learning from last year, we can avoid a lot of the immaturity mistakes, which in my opinion is what it was, and basically catch a lot of people off guard.”