By René Reyes
Two days before the Boston University’s men basketball team’s Jan. 8 matchup with the University of New Hampshire, fifth-year senior Tyler Morris dove for a loose ball in practice and hurt his shooting hand.
The injury – a stress fracture in his right hand – sidelined Morris for BU’s next eight games.
In his return to action last Saturday – a 71-55 BU loss to Stony Brook University – the third-year co-captain logged 23 minutes and recorded four assists, three steals and two rebounds before fouling out of the contest.
“First of all, I’d just like to say that [BU] coach [Patrick Chambers] and the people around me this year have really helped me through this last injury,” Morris said. “Coach has really made a conscious effort to keep me a part of the team during these three weeks that I’ve been out. I think it’s most important to thank them.
“In times when I might need help or I might be down about something, my teammates and our coaching staff pick me up – that’s first and foremost. Secondly, coaches have reiterated to me that [coming back from injuries] build your character. They make you a better person in the long run.”
On Thursday night, BU fans saw the Tyler Morris of old in the Terriers’ 69-47 victory over the Wildcats at Agganis Arena.
“For this last injury at least, I didn’t take a negative outlook on it at all, especially because I was able to come back and play for these last games of the season,” Morris said. “I’ve just tried to stay positive and try to take the positive in everything that happens and leave the negative behind. That’s what I’ve tried to do.”
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Indianapolis native tallied 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting, grabbing four rebounds to go along with four steals in 32 minutes.
“Tyler Morris has been a very good player here at BU for four years,” UNH coach Bill Herrion said. “He’s a veteran kid. He’s played in a lot of games. He’s a tough kid. He played really well tonight.”
The return of both Morris and senior forward Brendan Sullivan (dislocated left shoulder) provided the Terriers with a much-needed spark and additional manpower.
“It’s definitely a boost,” junior forward John Holland said. “[When] those guys were out, it hurt a lot. Them coming back is definitely a boost. It lifted everybody’s spirits. We were able to come in today with a full roster and do what we had to do.
Starting his first game since suffering the injury, Morris showcased his versatility, displaying his unselfishness by finding an open teammate, using his quickness to penetrate into the lane for easy buckets and hounding his man into commiting turnovers. Whether it’s in game situations or just practice, his value to the team is undeniable, Chambers said.
“He’s the heart and soul of the team,” Chambers said. “Nobody plays harder, nobody wants to win, nobody wants to have a successful program and nobody believes in what we’re doing more than him.
“He preaches it everyday, which is why he’s a great captain, a great leader. He comes to practice everyday with a great attitude – willing and wanting to be coached, wanting to get better. It’s just great to have him out there again.”
With few games remaining in his collegiate career, Morris knows that he must make the most of his time left as a BU basketball player.
“I just realized I have, hopefully, nine or 10 games left,” Morris said. “That’s all I got in a BU jersey – for the rest of my career. Regardless of what happens, especially the nine seniors, we’re going to give it our all for the rest of the season. I think we’ll be happy with the results if we do that.”
Injuries have threatened to derail Morris’ years at BU. As recently as last year, Morris tore his anterior cruciate ligament and missed the final 18 games of the season. But the 2006-2007 America East Rookie of the Year has not let these setbacks define him as a player or person.
“He’s a coach’s dream,” Chambers said. “He shows a lot of resilience. His character is off the charts… That kid is going to be a superstar no matter what he does. He’s going to be very successful in life.
“And to go through the pitfalls of what he’s been through and to bounce back every time shows that he has a lot of heart… That’s the type of kid you want to coach. That’s the type of kid that you want to lead your program and lead your team. He’s got it. He’s that type of kid.”