Lynam: Impending separation of the Morris twins

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Lynam: Impending separation of the Morris twins

Thursday, June 2, 2011
Posted: 10 a.m.
By Dei Lynam
CSNPhilly.com

The NBA draft in 2004 featured a home grown talent that was available when the Sixers selected with the ninth pick.

That talent was Jameer Nelson, who played his high school basketball at Chester High and then moved on to Saint Josephs University, where he had a marvelous career. It culminated with him leading the Hawks to an undefeated regular season and being named the Naismith College Player of the Year.

Now, Marcus and Markieff Morris are local kids who will hear their names called in the 2011 draft. Unlike Nelson, the Morris brothers left Philly when it came time to play college basketball and attended the University of Kansas.

There is a chance that Markieff will be on the board when the Sixers select at 16 in the first round of the draft, which takes place later this month. Why Markieff and not Marcus? Because Marcus is, by all accounts, going to be a lottery pick because of his more potent offensive skills.

Strange no, different yes, Marcus said of potentially playing basketball without his twin as his teammate come next fall. We dont expect to be drafted by the same team. We hope it happens but if it doesnt, it doesnt. We are looking forward to going our separate ways and maturing without each other which will actually make us grow as men.

Oh, but what if NBA commissioner David Stern steps to that podium on June 23 and says with the 16th pick the Philadelphia 76ers select...

That would probably be the best thing that ever happened, Marcus said, cutting off the sentence before the question could specify his name or Markieffs. Going and playing in your hometown, where you grew up with the people who watched you come up through the years and watched you play basketball through the years and representing, as well as having a Philadelphia jersey on, would definitely be special.

Markieef concurred with his twin brother. He often finds himself being agreeable because Marcus is the more outspoken of the two.

He is more aggressive, Markieff described his twin sibling. At times he can be mean. I am much more easy going and laid back.

Marcus averaged 17 points while shooting 57 percent his final year with Kansas. Markieff, on the other hand, is better known for his rebounding and shot blocking, as well as his three-point shooting, which he demonstrated playing both the power forward and center positions for the Jayhawks.

Markieff averaged 8.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks on 42 percent shooting from behind the arc as a junior. The combination of those numbers have some projecting Markieff, best case scenario, has Rasheed Wallace potential.

Wallace, who was a Simon Gratz graduate, finished his 15 year NBA career averaging 6.7 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, while being a 34 percent three point shooter.

After being selected fourth overall in 1995, Wallace became a four time All-Star.

Markieff Morris likely wont hear his name called until the middle of the first round and expects his role at the next level to be a garbage man. With the 16th pick, you are probably saying you want more then a garbage man -- you want a contributor.

Markieff believes he is ready to step in and do that, but he wants teams considering drafting him to know that he is willing to do whatever they ask.

Wearing a Sixers jersey or not, Markieef looks forward to circling the date on his calendar next season when his brother will be the opponent.

That will be a first for the both of us, Markieef said. It will be a great feeling just to see him or even guard him on the court.

Markieff did talk with the Sixers brass before leaving the Chicago pre-draft combine. The Sixers havent said they will select a big man, but this past season they certainly did not have a shortage of perimeter players, while rebounding and shot blocking were hardly their strengths.

The last time the Sixers used a first round selection on a native Philadelphian was 1966 when they selected Matt Guokas with the ninth overall pick. It was not unusual then, when the draft was 10 rounds deep, that the Sixers would pick local players, as they did in 1976 when the franchise selected current general manager Ed Stefanski in the 10th round with the 168th overall pick.
Brotherly Love
Brothers, roommates, teammates and soon to be co-homeowners. The Morris brothers arent going to let entering the workforce keep them from being together.

We are going to see each other for sure, Marcus said. We are going to buy a neutral house somewhere and make sure we meet up a lot.

Sharing an identical face could take its toll over two decades, but apparently not for the Morris brothers.

I enjoy it. That is my best friend. We like being twins, Marcus said. We dont want to look different, we want to look the same. Thats why we are twins. Thats why we have the same tattoos and the same type of haircut, like the same food -- it just happened that way.

Each twin has 14 tattoos, all exactly the same and none fall below their elbows in an effort to stay in Moms good graces. Of the 14 tattoos, Marcus says he probably selected 12 of them and Markieef had the honors of picking the other two.

It is not unusual, says Marcus, for one of the twins be more dominant or vocal -- he is that guy in this twosome. Furthermore, Marcus, more so then Markieef, enjoys sharing stories of being look a likes.

We switched classes when we were younger, Marcus explained. 'Kieef was better at math and I was better at reading so we switched. I did his reading test and he did my math test.

It was a simple middle school prank, no harm no foul.

Ironically despite Marcus dominant personality, Markieef made arguably the biggest decision to date for the duo.

He made the decision what college we went to, Marcus recalled. There are a couple big decisions he made, but I make majority.

So far so good for the 21-year-olds who, in less then a month, hope to transfer their basketball successes to the pro hardwood.
E-mail Dei Lynam at dlynam@comcastsportsnet.com

Related: Lynam: Risk on Faried could pay off big for Sixers Plenty of roster decisions ahead for Sixers

Give and Go: Which Sixer has been the most surprising?

Give and Go: Which Sixer has been the most surprising?

With the team at the All-Star break, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go are CSNPhilly.com producer/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick.

In this edition, we pick the Sixers' most suprising player this season.

Haughton
Imagine an underdog beating the odds to not only make an NBA roster, but also play significant minutes. Now imagine him doing it twice.

T.J. McConnell continues to shatter any perceived limitations put on his career.

McConnell came into last season as an undrafted free agent that was expected to be cut. Instead he beat out several other point guard candidates to stick on the roster. Not only that, he managed to become a mainstay off the bench as he played in 81 games for the Sixers.

Fast forward to this season and McConnell was to be buried on the bench behind free-agent signees Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez.

It's a good thing nobody told the Pittsburgh native about those plans. He again played a solid reserve role off the bench while Bayless missed most of the season with an injured wrist. Then when Rodriguez sat out with an illness in a December matchup in Detroit, McConnell pounced on the opportunity. He just missed a triple-double with 12 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in an 18-point win over the Pistons and the rest is history.

McConnell has been the team's starting point guard ever since. The numbers aren't going to wow anyone: 6.3 points, 6.1 assists and 3.0 rebounds in 24.9 minutes a game. However, he's a consistent contributor and a leader on an improved Sixers team.

Hudrick
T.J. McConnell. And it's not even close.

Before the season started, I projected McConnell to the D-League, considering him a solid emergency point guard. McConnell Wally Pipp'd his way into the starting lineup when Sergio Rodriguez was out with an illness. McConnell has flourished while Rodriguez has struggled.

Since becoming a starter, McConnell has averaged 8.9 points, eight assists and 1.7 steals in 31.4 minutes per game. He's averaging just two turnovers a game and also managed to hit two game-winning shots in that span. Most importantly, the Sixers are 14-11 when McConnell has started this season.

The most impressive personal stat for McConnell may be the 49 percent he's shot from the field over his last 24 games. McConnell never looked for his shot last season. He shot only out of desperation and his numbers reflected that. You can see his comfort level rising and his confidence in finishing around the rim.

McConnell is likely not the long-term solution at point guard for the Sixers, but I have to eat crow and say that at the very least, he's a solid NBA player.

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jayson Tatum lights up Virginia, Wake Forest

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jayson Tatum lights up Virginia, Wake Forest

We're have just a few weeks left in the college basketball regular season, so everyone is looking for a big win. Or in the case of a top prospect, a big performance to show all the scouts.

Let's take a look at whose stock rose and whose fell this week among eight top freshmen.

Jayson Tatum, forward, Duke (6-8/204)
America is finally seeing the Jayson Tatum that was highly touted coming into his one-and-done stint with the Blue Devils. The move to power forward has ignited his game and helped catapult Duke in its seven-game winning streak. His line Saturday against Wake Forest — 19 points on 6 for 11 shooting, 3 of 5 from three, and seven rebounds — was pretty good and he made some clutch free throws to clinch the win.

But can we talk about his Virginia game? Seriously, this may be the gem of his college career. Tatum's Blue Devils were held to just 21 points (he had seven of those) by Virginia's stingy defense in the first half. So what does he do? Score 21 by himself in the second half to lead the Blue Devils past a top-15 team. He had 28 points on just 13 shots, making 6 of 7 from three while adding eight rebounds, a block and a steal. He had a 7-0 run by his lonesome that put Duke up for good. He's likely a three at the next level, but Tatum displayed all the tools to be an effective three while dominated at the four, a much-needed boost for the soon-to-be top-10 Blue Devils.

Lauri Markkanen, forward, Arizona (7-0/225)
The three-point shooting slump isn't quite done yet for the Finnish freshman, but at least he's found his scoring touch again. Markkanen had a pair of double-doubles in Wildcat wins this week over Washington St. and Washington, all while only making 1 of 6 from beyond the arc. He's now just 4 for 19 from three in his last five games, a slightly worrying stretch that has brought his three-point percentage down to 46.5 percent.

Still though, he didn't fail to produce in 68 minutes combined over a three-day span. First, he had 19 points and 11 rebounds vs. Washington St. in a 78-59 win, his first double-figure rebounding effort since his last game vs. the Cougars. He then came through with 26 points and 13 rebounds against Washington in a 76-68 win. He was able to hit some jumpers but also competed inside, making his way to the free-throw line nine times and making eight from the stripe. It's certainly encouraging after some lackluster showings over the last two weeks.

Markelle Fultz, guard, Washington (6-4/195)
After missing two games last week with a knee injury, Fultz came back fully healthy with a pair of nearly identical performances. On Thursday, the impressive freshman shot 7 for 16 from the field, 2 of 6 from three, and had 19 points to go with four assists during an 83-81 loss to Arizona State. Two days later, he shot, get this, 7 for 16 from the field, 2 of 6 from three, in the loss to Arizona. He did make to the charity stripe more often (make 10 of 15 from the free-throw line) and finished with 26 points and six assists.

In the defeat, Fultz still played 38 minutes and scored or assisted on over 55 percent of the Huskies' points. Sure, he had four turnovers, but when you have the ball in your hand as often as he does, it's bound to happen. It's a pretty good idea of what he'll be doing for a team that finds itself at the top of the lottery this year. He showed off every part of skill set — shooting, getting the rim, finishing, etc. — Saturday and nearly led the 9-18 Huskies to a win over the No. 5 team in the country.

Lonzo Ball, guard, UCLA (6-6/190)
Most players don't dominate a game while taking the fewest shots among his team's starters. Most players aren't Lonzo Ball. Ball messed around with a triple-double while taking just nine points Saturday night, coming up just short with 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the Bruins, who beat USC, 102-70.

Three teammates scored more points than Ball, but that's in part thanks to how well he spreads the ball and runs the offense. His maturity doesn't just come on offense. He's also solid on the defensive end, in part thanks to his 6-6 frame at point guard.

Malik Monk, guard, Kentucky (6-4/185)
Kentucky's catalyst keyed the Wildcats to two more wins this week as they extended their win streak to four. Monk was his normal volume shooting self in the two games against Tennessee and Georgia. He took a total of 31 shots, up from 30 over two games the week before. While he made just 10 of the 31 attempts, the formula seems to be working because the Wildcats keep winning.

He had 20 points with four threes and eight rebounds in a blowout win over Tennessee. The more impressive effort came with worse stats in the road victory against Georgia. He made just 3 of 11 but got to the free-throw line for 11 attempts and got it done for Kentucky in other ways, notably five assists and three steals. Monk has been labeled an offense-only guard, so the trio of steals are a welcome sight. How he'll defend ones and twos at the next level will be a real defining challenge for him.

Quick Hits
• Florida State lost consecutive games and forward Jonathan Isaac was relatively quiet, scoring 15 points on 14 shots over the two games. He had just three free throw attempts yet still reeled in 12 rebounds and had four blocks.

• Kansas' Josh Jackson provided 16 points on 14 shots Saturday, as the No. 3 Jayhawks defeated No. 4 Baylor. Jackson, by making his only attempt vs. the Bears, is up to 35.3 percent from three.

• NC State fired its coach this week, but that didn't stop Dennis Smith Jr. from being his normal self. In a pair of losses to ranked teams, Smith had 43 points, nine assists and seven rebounds combined.