BOGACZYK: Morris Looking to Make Her Own Herd Footsteps
The Word on the Herd-March 3, 2016
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Every time Maddie Morris walks onto the Cam Henderson Center floor for basketball practice or a game, the Marshall freshman sees the painted footprints.
They’re there from an incredible accomplishment by her father 30 years ago – a length-of-the-court, line-drive basket in a Herd victory over Appalachian State on Feb. 7, 1985.
And many places she goes, when someone hears her name, she also hears, ‘You’re Bruce Morris’ daughter.”
Morris smiled when asked about that one recent day after practice.
“I don’t get tired of it,” she said. “I know it’s a pretty amazing thing, and everybody knows him and it’s like, ‘Yeah, that’s my dad.’ Yeah, it’s really cool that he did play here but I want to make a name for myself.
“I don’t think I could ever make that shot or anything amazing like that, but if I can just play with my team, have success, win some awesome games, make some memories for Marshall women’s basketball, that’s what I want.”
But in her first collegiate season – like her last one as a star at Huntington’s Spring Valley High School – what Morris mostly has practiced is patience, and credits her strong faith with aiding in that process.
She was a Class AAA All-State first team pick as a 2013-14 junior, averaging 21.2 points and 11 rebounds for the Timberwolves, and she committed to Coach Matt Daniel’s program in January of that season.
In late April 2014, however, in AAU ball, Morris tore her right ACL. She returned to start her senior season at SVHS, then fractured her left hand in January after playing several games. She finally returned to help Spring Valley to the State Tournament, and was selected as captain of the All-State second team, with 14 points and 12 rebounds per game in limited time.
Morris began this season with the Herd as part of a large recruiting class mostly rooted in Tri-State and in-state talent. Her mobility may have been compromised by the large brace on her right knee – and she finally discarded it about three weeks ago.
She’s played only 102 minutes in 17 games, scoring 26 points, getting on the floor mostly at the 4 spot.
“At first I loved the brace because it gave me confidence to go and play like I used to play, but I think I wasn’t the exact player I had been before, after I came back from surgery,” Morris said. “Now that I’ve played a year with the brace, I’m here and I’m used to some things.
“And not playing with it on there anymore, I feel like I can move so much better, so much more freedom. Hopefully, I can get to the way I was when I was a junior again. I didn’t consider (redshirting) because I felt good and I’d gone back to playing in high school, so I felt like I was good to go. All summer I felt good and in the weights, my knee felt good, so I was ready to play.”
Daniel plans to move Morris to the 3 next season – a position where she will have a larger comfort zone. Meanwhile, as the Herd hits the road to finish 2015-16 with games at Louisiana Tech and Southern Miss and then the Conference USA Tournament, Morris copes with little playing time.
“It’s a tough adjustment from playing a lot, but I knew coming in here that everybody on the team has been the top star from their school,” Morris said. “So, I’m just accepting my role, and I know the hard work and the means to get better – to improve – that just started when I got here.
“I just have to keep working at it. You earn your playing time and everyone’s good – just like you – so you have no choice but to work hard.
“Going to the 3, originally in AAU, I played the 3 and some 4 and they thought here I was mainly a 4. They joked about all year, ‘Oh, yeah, she’s a 3.’ But Coach told me a month or two ago he wants to make that transition with me and I’m comfortable with that, working on the wing/perimeter skills and trying to develop that.
“I can post up if I want, but it’s not really what I want to do. I’d rather catch the ball looking at the basket, rather square up to the basket than play back to the basket in the post.”
Off the floor, Morris posted a 4.0 GPA in her first semester in pre-nursing.
“I just applied to get into nursing school, and I’ll find out on that in a month,” she said. “I have a 4.0, and I’m working to get that again this semester, but I’m sure it will get tougher when I get into nursing school … I’m kind of thinking I’d like to be a (pediatric) nurse or I’d like post-op, too, people coming out of surgery. I don’t know why exactly, but that’s dawned on me and I’ve thought about it.”
Daniel said Morris’ ability to remain positive with her limited opportunity has been impressive.
“Maddie is one of the hardest workers we have on the floor,” the fourth-year Herd coach said. “She is exactly the type of person and worker we want in our program.
“She is transitioning to a new position for her, which is never an easy path. Being a college athlete is hard in its own right, much less transitioning to a position you haven’t ever played. I know it won’t be easy, but if anyone is up for the challenge I know Maddie is.
“I look forward to being around Maddie every day. She is someone that I hope that my two daughters look up to. That is the best compliment that I know to give her. It has very little to do with the sport of basketball. It has to do with her approach with every task at hand and her approach to life and her faith.”
After multiple injuries, knee surgery and then limited playing time for a 1,500-point career high school scorer, Morris has faced more than her share of challenges and very different experiences in the last two seasons.
The Marshall freshman said she’s had plenty of time to reflect on life and basketball in those years.
“You learn a lot when you’re out and you watch the game,” Morris said. “You learn some other things about the game, and to me, personally, it was just a major wakeup call in my testimony with God, and about how I need to use my talents to glorify Him no matter what.
“At first, I was like, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ I’ve served You like my whole life and everything.’ But I came to realize He wants me to be an example, and to come back from this and show people that anything can happen …
“I mainly took it as a big spiritual lesson while I was out with my knee and my hand. Minor setbacks lead to major comebacks.”
Yes, the 6-foot Morris wants to make her own footprints.