Wednesday, May 4, 2011

From the FreeP: Growing up fast

By René Reyes/DFP Staff

It’s a common occurrence for Dom Morris to be mistaken for an upperclassman at Boston University. A 6-foot-7, 240-pound frame and a grown man’s beard can do that to a 20-year-old freshman.

Initially, Morris’ peers believed him to be one of the junior transfers – along with Patrick Hazel, Matt Griffin and Darryl Partin – whom BU men’s basketball coach Patrick Chambers recruited to instill veteran leadership and experience in his young squad. In extreme cases, some thought the forward from Newark, Del., would be pairing up with dynamic scorer John Holland as the Terriers’ only seniors for the 2010-11 campaign.

“Some of the students were a little confused when I first stepped on campus,” Morris said.

Over the course of the year, however, Morris became the grizzled veteran he was perceived to be, playing his way into the Terriers’ starting lineup by midseason. He averaged 23.2 minutes and ranked third on the team in rebounds (147) and sixth in scoring (5.7 points per game) over 32 appearances.

Lost in all the celebration of BU’s first America East title and NCAA Tournament appearance since 2002 were Morris’ contributions down the stretch.
With a left ankle injury limiting Holland in road matchups at Binghamton University and University of Vermont in late February, Morris tallied 13 points and 21 rebounds in wins over the Bearcats and Catamounts to cap off the regular season.

It’s one thing for Morris to stuff the stat sheet in games where BU’s No. 2 seed in the AE tournament was all but wrapped up. It’s another thing for the rookie to deliver against Stony Brook University in a situation as pressurized as the AE championship game on March 12.

While Holland’s individual 14-0 run will forever live in Terrier lore, Morris’ left-handed layup with 2:17 remaining trimmed BU’s deficit to 54-52 and set up the dramatic finish. Holland would score four unanswered points, and the Terriers bested the Seawolves, 56-54, to clinch their sixth conference crown in program history.

Months before that fateful afternoon, Chambers and his coaching staff saw on a day-to-day basis that Morris possessed the capability to excel at the collegiate level. His work ethic in practice and grasp of the fundamental ideals of BU basketball – defense and rebounding – set Morris apart from the other six freshmen and earned him more minutes as the season progressed.

“As I saw every day in practice, he got a little bit better, a little bit more confident and that started to transfer onto the court,” Chambers said. “That’s when you start to trust as a coach. You see him practice every day. You see him at film sessions. You see and know what he’s doing, and then, you don’t have a problem starting him or playing him major minutes.”

Hazel, one of BU’s tri-captains and a player Morris looks up to, echoed his coach’s words.

“We needed some of the young guys to step up and be an impact right away,” Hazel said, “and Dom embraced that challenge every day in practice and through experience in the games.”


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