With just under 10 minutes left in the Wolverines’ 87-73 win over Iowa on Sunday Darius Morris threw a wraparound pass from the free throw line to Jordan Morgan under the basket.
Let me clarify.
Morris was on the Michigan free throw line and Morgan was standing underneath the Iowa basket. Let that sink in — a 60-foot scoop pass. Cue the SportsCenter music, please.
I don’t care if it’s Big Ten bottom-dweller Iowa, because if Michigan had been playing the 1969 UCLA team, Lew Alcindor wouldn’t have even seen the pass coming.
“I love those full court passes that Darius makes,” sophomore Josh Bartlestein joked. “(Morgan) better take him out to lunch and dinner because he made a living off (Morris’s assists) today.”
Well, it’s only fair. If Morris is going to dish out assists like that, the least Morgan could do is fork over dinner.
Who would’ve expected this after his shoddy performance against Minnesota? Who hadn’t ruled out the possibility of the demise of the Michigan men’s basketball program this season on the shoulders of a young West Coast point guard playing in the offensive structure of a West Virginia man in the Midwest?
But he sat down the day after the Wolverines’ loss to Minnesota and watched the game tape.
“(I) was really disgusted with myself, I knew I needed to step up,” he said.
And then, Morris did something totally unexpected from an outsider’s perspective. He called a team meeting to apologize for his conduct on the court, for not being the best teammate he could be and for not playing up to his abilities.
It was in that team meeting that Morris displayed the maturity that this team’s point guard has been lacking. For a sophomore in college to go before his peers, his teammates, the guys he spends the most amount of time with and look within himself and be able to verbalize that he is sorry, is nothing short of impressive.
Most kids his age would send a Facebook or text apology. But not Morris.
But what may be an even bigger contribution from that team meeting was that Morris’s leadership inspired other guys to look at their own performances.
“Everybody else stepped up too and said they’ve been lacking too at being a good teammate and holding each other accountable to go out there and playing hard all the time,” Morris said.
And then Morris and his teammates, humbled and re-centered, entered Breslin Arena and took down No. 25 Michigan State.
But wait, it only got better.
On Sunday, against Iowa, the sophomore registered a triple-double — the first of his career, the third in University history.
Twelve points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds. Any of those three stats on their own would be pretty impressive, but to put them all together, is incredible. But it wasn’t Morris’s talent alone that earned him that statistic line — his teammates had to catch the passes he threw, other teammates had to throw assists for him when he scored, post players had to clear out the big men for Morris to clean up the glass.
And when that talent is supported by humility, hard work and consideration for one’s teammates is more impressive than the fact that Morris did what’s only been done twice before.
He’s young — he will have ups and downs. I’m not expecting that he’ll go out and shock the world every game. But for a guy to be down, know he’s down and figure out how to get himself out of that hole means that he’s learning and getting better. And maybe the next hole wouldn’t be so deep or his shovel will be bigger.
Michigan coach John Beilein said after the Michigan State game that he would be able to tell everyone in March whether the 61-57 win marks a turn in the season.
Maybe Beilein can’t wait until March to tell if it was a turn for his team this season — but it was for Morris.
Call him D-Mo or call him The Butterfly, as one commentator dubbed him after he came out of his cocoon early this season. Just don’t wait until March to see what kind of a player Morris allows himself to be when he plays to his potential and makes everyone around him better.