Jan. 30, 2005
By Simit Shah – Sometimes Anthony Morrow just feels it. “It” refers to those times when the long-range sharpshooter steps on the court and knows that he’ll have the hot hand.
“The earliest it happens is at shoot-around before the game,” the freshman explained. “You might catch fire and hit about 12 straight or something like that. Once you get your rhythm going, you just try to keep it over the next stretch of games.”
Georgia Tech fans have begun to sense it too, beginning to buzz every time Morrow spots up from the behind the three-point line. He’s hit 24 of them through 16 games this season, tops among the ACC’s freshman class.
“We’ve seen what he can do in practice,” said point guard Jarrett Jack earlier this season. “It was just a matter of him getting a feel for playing in games and being confident when he gets the ball.”
That’s the message Georgia Tech coaches and players have been repeating all season, encouraging the freshman guard to pull the trigger whenever he has an open look at the basket.
“Everybody tells me that `A shooter’s supposed to shoot,’ especially Coach Hewitt,” said Morrow, a native of Charlotte, N.C. “He always tells me to keep shooting no matter what. That started early in practice this year. I’d miss a shot, get down on myself and pass on the next open shot. He’d stop practice and tell me to shoot the ball. He’s really helped my confidence.”
That confidence boost became apparent in late December, as he began a five-game stretch in which he scored 62 points. The highlight was a career-high 20-point outburst against Lafayette, including six three-pointers.
“I feel a lot more comfortable,” he said. “At first, I was struggling with the plays. I wasn’t really making shots like I am now. I felt like I was out of the flow. Now, I feel like I know where to be to get shots, so I think my teammates are looking for me.”
“You can tell that he’s made adjustments since he got here,” added head coach Paul Hewitt said. “He has proven to (his teammates) that he’s a reliable option offensively.”
Morrow, who stands at 6-5 and 205 pounds, provided plenty of offense for Charlotte’s Latin High. He led his school to state titles his junior and senior seasons when he averaged 24 and 22.4 points per game, respectively. He capped his prep career by being named Mr. Basketball in the state of North Carolina.
He was courted by a number of schools, including N.C. State. However, he chose Georgia Tech in early October prior to the Yellow Jackets meteoric ascent onto the national basketball scene.
“I didn’t know it was going to be like this,” said Morrow when asked about the attention surrounding the program. “When I committed, they were picked to be seventh in the ACC. I just went on what I believed and my mom believed–Coach Hewitt is a good man, and all the coaches were honest.”
All of his impressive prep accolades were wiped clean when he stepped foot on Georgia Tech’s campus. On a veteran team that made it to the national championship game last season, significant minutes in meaningful games are earned, especially on the defensive end of the floor.
“I knew what kind of team this was when I was coming to out of high school,” he stated. “This is a real tough team that plays hard for 40 minutes. I wanted to make sure I came in and stayed focused on defense, chase loose balls, box out and move my feet. It’s hard playing against guys that are a lot quicker than in high school.”
“He’s improving off the ball, and he’s doing a lot better job on the ball,” Hewitt noted. “He’s made some very nice strides to the point where he’s more than adequate now defensively.”
Morrow has seen plenty of action since the first of the year, thanks in part to B.J. Elder’s hamstring injury. The freshman has responded by averaging over nine points per game over the course of his first four ACC contests. His 23 combined points against Miami and Virginia earned him his first ACC Rookie of the Week citation.
“It’s really all about confidence,” he said. “You have to know where to be to make shots. When I shoot, I don’t think about anything else. At first, I was playing a little scared, not wanting to make mistakes. Now I’m just confident about using what I’ve learned in practice.”
Morrow has also learned about the rigors of the ACC, as the Jackets dropped three straight conference games against North Carolina, N.C. State and Virginia Tech. He hit only four of 19 shots during that stretch, driving home the tough realities of the ACC.
“Playing on the road helps you see that,” he explained. “We lost some tough games on the road, but it’s really made me smarter. You really have to up your game, especially on defense. With the crowds and talent in the ACC, you really have to buckle down on defense and stay focused.”
Against Wake Forest, Morrow was able to get back on track with 11 points, including three three-pointers, to help topple the fifth-ranked Demon Deacons in overtime.
“He’s a freshman,” Hewitt said after the game. “He’s going to look good some nights. When he shot the ball well against Virginia and Miami, he looked outstanding. When he shot it poorly against Virginia Tech and North Carolina, he didn’t look too good. I’ve got a lot of confidence in that kid. I think he’s going to be a hell of a player for us.”