LAWRENCE — Marcus Morris will be immortalized inside Allen Fieldhouse, the former standout Kansas basketball forward now set for a Feb. 17 jersey retirement ceremony.
But Morris didn’t need to have his number hanging in the rafters to leave a lasting impression on at least one key Jayhawk, and the same could be said for the impact made by his twin brother Markieff.
“They say young people, if you’re around enough of ’em, they’ll keep you young,” said Bill Self, who coached the Morris twins from 2008-’11. “Well, they certainly played a big role in aging me, but still yet keeping me young in thought while they were here.”
The Morris twins’ time in Lawrence perhaps could be best labeled as “always interesting,” with that ringing particularly true of Marcus’ on-court exploits.
Named Big 12 player of the year as a junior in his final season with the Jayhawks (2010-’11), Morris averaged 17.2 points and 7.6 rebounds that year in leading KU to an Elite Eight run. He converted 57% of his field goal attempts en route to being named a consensus All-America second-team selection.
Morris averaged 12.8 points on 57% shooting and 6.1 rebounds as a sophomore.
Commenting on Morris’ jersey retirement in a news release, Self said those within the program knew the Philadelphia native was a lock for this ceremony at some point, though he also noted the contributions from Markieff in creating a dynamic one-two punch.
“When you say Marcus, you have to include his twin brother, Markieff, because they did everything together,” Self said. “It’s amazing to see the growth they had from when they got here. They were both good players that were a little lazy (and) you had to beg them to give a second effort. Then they got used to the culture, the grind, the routine and took off.
“I have never enjoyed coaching a twosome that I felt like has as good a feel for the game as what they had.”
Self elaborated on that last thought at a Monday afternoon news conference.
“On the court I would say the thing that would probably stand out the most is how smart he was and how competitive and smart that the twins were,” Self said. “Ridiculously bright. Unbelievable IQ. I’ve only had four or five like that. Aaron Miles you could throw in that category, and Devonte’ (Graham) was like that, but there hasn’t been very many.”
For his three-year career, Marcus Morris started 91 of 109 games, averaging 12.6 points and 6.2 rebounds. His Jayhawk teams were 52-1 in games at Allen Fieldhouse.
A lottery pick in the 2011 NBA Draft (No. 14 by the Houston Rockets), Marcus Morris has played for six NBA franchises and is currently a member of the Los Angeles Clippers. He's averaged 12.1 points and 4.7 rebounds across his nine-season career and is averaging 19.3 points and 5.4 rebounds this year.
KU will play host to Iowa State at 8 p.m. in that Feb. 17 contest. Morris’ jersey will be the first No. 22 retired by KU.
“I’m excited to be getting my jersey hung in the rafters at Allen Fieldhouse,” Morris said in the news release. “But this is not only about me, it’s about my teammates, especially Keef (Markieff), coach Self, the other coaches, my family, the fans and everybody who helped me along the way.
“To have my jersey up there with other great players like Wilt (Chamberlain), Danny (Manning) and Paul (Pierce) is an honor. I look forward to coming back to KU where I have so many great memories.”
If nothing else, any game involving the Morris twins turned into must-see affairs, both in positive and at times counterproductive ways. Marcus Morris, who temporarily lost his starting role as a junior after he was ejected from a game for throwing an elbow at an opponent, was ejected from a New York Knicks game this preseason for hitting an opponent in the head with the ball.
As Self confirmed Monday, the Morris twins' unpredictable nature wasn’t exclusive to in-game appearances.
“The biggest thing that they did, they made it where it was interesting coming to work almost every day,” Self said. “And I mean that from a practice standpoint, I mean that from all standpoints. I loved coaching ’em.”