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Season Report Card: Markieff Morris

Don't mess with 'em.
Don't mess with 'em.

I'm a creature or repetitive habit; a perfectionist of sorts. I like things to be consistent and stay the same throughout. I hate change. But, that picture was so insanely badass that I had to break the vertical, right-aligned photo mold to use it. And, because of the inferences of that picture, Markieff Morris will pass the RCT class with flying colors today.

It's Monday - everyone's favorite day of the week. Actually, it is mine because I never work Mondays. Complain away, RCT-ers. Anyway, hopefully everyone had a great Easter weekend with family and made it back home safe and ready to keep working through the Season Report Card series. Today, we do a Morris.

Previous entries: Elijah Johnson, Thomas Robinson, Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar

Did you know that Markieff Morris has a brother? A twin, even? I'll bet you didn't, because it definitely hasn't been the most commonly used storyline during Kansas basketball television broadcasts the last two years. Since Markieff and twin brother Marcus Morris came to the University of Kansas, they've done nothing but improve. And, had it not been for Marcus's All-Big 12-deserving 2010 season, Markieff would win the Most Improved Award.

When you look back at his stats of 2008-09, Markieff improved across the board. Points per game - up 2.2, rebounds per game - up 0.9, blocks per game - up 0.3, fouls per game - down 0.2 - all while playing two minutes per game more this season. As a freshman last year, stupid fouls were the easily pointed out Achilles' heel of Markieff, and Marcus for that matter. Just being able to stay on the court for longer stretches at a time was a large step in the right direction.

Production numbers went up this year, yes. But, perhaps (actually, without a doubt) the thing that made Markieff's sophomore season lightyears better than his frosh year were his shooting percentages. They were off the charts, really. As a freshman, he shot 44.8 percent from the field and 18.8 from three. As a sophomore, 56.6 percent (+11.8) from the field and 52.6 percent (+33.8!!!) from three. Without a sorting mechanism for nationwide stats, I'd put my name (which means less than nothing) on the line that that is top two or three improvement in the country among players that play comparable minutes.

Unlike Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed, Markieff wasn't asked to do any more or any less from season to the next. And, perhaps the greatest reason that he made such a leap from unsure, fumbly, mistake-prone freshman to a seasoned beyond his years, reliable sixth man. Markieff's role on the team this year was obvious and made clear from day one: he would be the first man off the bench and be counted on to clean up the trash inside, play tough defense and not do anything to hurt the team. Well, with that role charged to Markieff, maybe he didn't think that was all he could do, because from the very start of the season until the end of the season, he came out and filled that role, plus a lot.

Probably at no point was Markieff expected to go for 19 points in one of the bigger non-conference games at UCLA. He probably wasn't expected to come up just a single rebound short of a double-double on multiple occasions duing Big 12 play. He also probably wasn't expected to finish in the top five in field goal percentage in the Big 12. Well, he did all of those things anyway. In 2009-10 Marcus Morris overachieved far more than anyone else on the Kansas basketball team. He was the steadiest, most consistent performer throughout the season and went higher above expectations than any other player on the team, but Markieff was right behind him..

Defining Stat

Shooting. Percentage. Period. On a team that otherwise shot somewhat sporadically, you knew Markieff was going to show up, go 3-4 or 4-6 from the field, get to the free throw line anywhere from three to eight times and make over 60 percent of those free throws. That translates into a solid 8 point game from a big man in 17 minutes off the bench. There's teams in the Big 12 that would take that from a starter in 25-28 minutes. You can't put a value on not worrying about inside production (or anywhere on the court for that matter) when you're a coach. Markieff Morris made Bill Self sleep better at night.

Points Impact is a fancy way of saying percentage of team points. Where Markieff seperated this year from last is late in the season where he hit the freshman wall last year, but continued his same production game in and game out this year.

17.6 6.8 5.3 1.1 1.4 .76 .4 1.0 2.6 .566 .622 .526

On the season, Markieff appeared in all 36 of the Jayhawks' games and made starts in two of those games - the first two of the season against Hofstra and Memphis. As state above, improvement was the storyline of the season for Markieff. His numbers rose across the board.

Just for fun, this is what Markieff's numbers would look like if he played minutes equal to Marcus this year, based on stats per minute:

24.7 8.8 6.8 1.4 1.8 .76 .5 1.3 3.3 .566 .622 .526

Compare those to the ones just above, because that's probably what you're going to get to see this coming year. With Cole Aldrich departed for the NBA, Markieff will probably pick up 6-8 of his minutes, with the rest hopefully (let us pray) to Thomas Robinson. Factor in a more prominent role in the offense for Markieff and you're likely looking at a sub-10 points and 8 rebounds per game type of season from him. After seeing how bad he struggled as a freshman, I don't think there's one Jayhawk fan anywhere that wouldn't take that from Markieff. Even if we have seen the very best that we are going to from Markieff, I still think most of us would take that for two more years. Darnell Jackson became a huge fan favorite putting up similar type numbers. He turned out to be a pretty good piece to a pretty big puzzle.

The high of Markieff's season was that 19 point, 6 rebound performance on 8-11 shooting from the field and 3-5 from the line in just 21 minutes on December 6 at UCLA. That's nearly a point per minute. So why didn't coach Self just play him the full 40? This may come across as a bit of a cop out, and it is, but honorable mention is Big 12 play. Save for two or three games, Markieff was 6 points, 5 rebounds minimum, and much better in a lot of games.

Final 2010 Grade: A-

Maybe I'm a bit high on Markieff, or maybe I'm not, but either way, he was better than he was expected to be and than we hoped he would be. Something about that says that he deserves a higher grade than anybody else graded to this point. When Cole or Marcus picked up a couple cheap fouls in the first half, Markieff was the one to come in and log the next 8-12 minutes, stay out of similar foul trouble and not give up any production from the starters. He also wasn't a liability at all late in games and presents interesting matchups as the 3-wingman, so the possibilities with Markieff are endless. I think it's safe to say that after looking closer at what he did this season, Markieff Morris was my favorite player of the season.