Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rookie (Surprise) Of The Year (If He Keeps It Up)

Shooting like there's no toMorrow.

One of the reasons why basketball is such an exciting and beautiful game is because of the plethora of surprises and unexpected happenings on all levels on the competition, and this intriguing element can be delivered in many interesting ways. Sometimes there is a surprise team, a squad that does unprecedented things and exceeds minute expectations. And, sometimes, within these teams there is a surprise defensive or offensive unit, an important part of a team that is supposedly weaker on one side of the floor than the other (Denver Nuggets?). And, something that happens slightly less, sometimes there is a surprise transaction in the NBA, a questionable trade, firing or something of the sort.

But the most common NBA, NCAA or high school surprise is a player. One man rises above the rest and is recognized as an elite player, a guy that can play with the big boys even though they're not supposed to be able to. This slept on player soars to heights that are not originally recognized as reachable for this particular baller, and certainly quiets the doubters. Maybe nobody has ever heard of the obscure surprise player, and maybe they are a former star who isn't predicted to do what he did long ago. These entertaining breakout players are one of the key reasons why the NBA is such a great competitve center, and these types of ballers come annually with extreme anticipation, us not knowing who they will be.

We expect these types of players every year, and coming into the 2008-09 season there were (and still are) many predictions about who these distinguished players will be. After two and a half weeks into the season we have a small sense for the league, i.e. the Lakers seem infallable, the Celtics are still good, and the Thunder are gawd-awful. The breakout players take a little longer to develop and for us to realize them as a surprise player and a legitimate threat. So far, only one has seriously come on the radar as a possible surprise player. "Playing" (that last word is very ironic) alongside predicted breakout player Marucs Williams in Golden State, two guard Anthony Morrow looks like he has the potential to be a permanent season-long surprise player.

Anthony Jarrad Morrow was born September 27, 1985 in Charlotte, North Carolina to his parents, Larry Mayhew and Angela Morrow. He was raised in the Charlotte area, and he attended Charlotte Latin High School when he was of age for that education level. Anthony played hoops there for all four years of his attendence, lettering annually, and serving two years as team captain.

As a Junior and Senior, he led his school to two state championships in the North Carolina 3A Independent Schools division, his most glamorous of which came when he was a Senior in 2003 at Charlotte Latin. He was named North Carolina's "Mr. Basketball" while averaging 22.4 points, 9.8 boards and 3.1 assists per game while his team went 27-4, with Morrow winning the MVP award for the state tournament.

Anthony Morrow wasn't very highly regarded as a college recruit, the highest he got in the rankings on "" was 42, despite playing in the Charm City Classic in Baltimore, Maryland, and playing for Team USA in the Global Games in Dallas, Texas. In the end, he decided to attend Georgia Tech, a college that at the time had a thriving basketball program. In his first year, without incredibly sufficient minutes, Morrow averaged 8.2 points per game in the Yellow Jackets' ACC and NCAA Tournament games combined while shooting 41.2 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Anthony was at his best in the NCAA Tournament, dropping 11 in the national championship against powerhouse Duke, above average for him. Morrow had a good handle throughout the season, and he turned the ball over only 16 times in 392 total minutes, him being one of two GT players to average less than two per 40 minutes of play.

His sophomore year as a Yellow Jacket was one of considerable improvement for Anthony Marrow, getting more minutes and being the only player on his team to start every game for that 2005-06 season. He led his team in points, averaging 16 per game while scoring in double figures in 24 games that year. He quietly led the ACC in three point percentage at 42.9 percent while ranking either first or second in that category for the complete year, while ranking third in three pointers made per game at 2.79.

Winning ACC player of the week honors once that year, he led Tech in scoring for the season. Morrow also had four of the highest scoring individual games for Georgia Tech that year, and Anthony also hit half of Georgia Tech's 154 three pointers, and he also took nearly half of their attempts (182 of 399). He was a stellar free throw shooter, but he didn't get to the line often. He only attempted 71 free throws, but he had an excellent percentage of .887, which remains a Yellow Jackets' record. After being awarded All-Atlantic Coast Conference Honorable Mention, Anthony Morrow came back for his Junior year at Tech with plans to improve on the year before.

He started out with an injury, a stress fracture in his back which caused him to miss three weeks of practice and a good deal of weight work in the fall. It was a somewhat disappointing season after a great soph year, only being Tech's third-leading scorer and coming in only fifth in minutes. In this 2006-07 season he averaged 12.3 points over his last twenty games and 10.6 points per game against the ACC. His turnovers decreased dramatically (27 as a Junior, compared to 64 as a Sophomore), and that was a bright spot for Morrow. But Anthony was looking to show that his Junior year was no fluke, heading strong into the 2007-08 season at Georgia Tech.

Leading the team in minutes per game with 29.7, he bounced back after his minimal sophomore year. Morrow averaged 14.3 points per game, good enough to lead the Yellow Jackets, and that put him 15th in the ACC in this category. He also led the Atlantic Coast Conference in three point percentage with .448, and that made him 14th in the country. Anthony Morrow was named ACC Player of the Week on November 11 at Tennessee State, posting career high stats of 31 points, 10 boards, 4 assists and no turnovers in his 33 minutes of play. Against his conference, he hit 45.3 percent of his shots from the floor. This Senior year was a great one for Anthony Morrow.

As a Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket, Anthony came in 19th place on their all time scoring list with 1,400 career points. His career three point field goal percentage of 42.1 ranks third all time, and he averaged 40.4 against the ACC. In his last 41 straight games he made at least one three pointer, the longest active streak in ACC history. As I mentioned already, he does hold the school record for free throw percentage, and he would've been third all time in the conference if not for the fact that he was four free throws short of the minimum for this record. He is tied for third all time in Georgia Tech history for three pointers made, and he is 16th in ACC history with this stat.

Morrow went undrafted out of GT after this stellar college hoops career, but he was signed on July 25, 2008, by the Golden State Warriors. Morrow showed promise in practice and the summer league, and he made the team. On November 15, barely two weeks into the season, Anthony started his first game in the pros, scoring an incredibly unprecedented 37 points, grabbing 10 boards and turning in 1 dime in a monstrous 42 minutes of play to lead the Warriors over the LA Clippers. Morrow broke the NBA record for most points in one game by an undrafted rookie. The next game he started again, scoring 25 points, taking down 4 boards and picking up a steal in 36 minutes to prove that his first start wasn't a fluke. He also became the first Warrior rookie since Marc Jackson (in 2000) to score 25 in back-to-back games.

At the moment Anthony Morrow is averaging 17 points per game and 4 rebounds per game in 23.6 minutes per contest while shooting .647 from long, and although it is too early to call that stat anywhere near legitimate, he has gone 11-17 from three point land so far and is  leading the league in this statistic. With Monta Ellis out for a good deal of time, and him playing on a subpar team, the minutes should keep coming for number 22 (even in Nelly's system), and he will have his opportunity to show the league, it's fans and his team, the Golden State Warriors, that these couple of games were no fluke.

As a player, Morrow's obvious strength is his shooting, from beyond the three point arc, from mid-range and from other parts of the floor. At a wiry 6'5", 210 pounds, Morrow has textbook form on a stellar jump shot, complete with a stunningly quick release when needed. The 23 year old's skills will increase with more experience in the NBA, as to be expected, and the opportunity is there. Can Anthony Morrow be the headlining sleeper that the league is looking for in the 2008-09 season? It certainly looks like he could be.

But if he keeps up this work that is head-and-shoulders above the rest, he will be slept on no more.



the Internet nigger said...

wow, great article. i didnt know mr.morrow was so good in college, i must say this though, only in Golden State would his story, stats be possible, their style is a system where anybody can have a big game, and he is showing that he is a player that can have big games

B. Long said...

^True dat Internet African American or whatever white people are supposed to call you to be politically correct. Great article, Moose.

Moose said...

Thanks, B. Long. Hope I got a good grade. More homework? Dude, I want some more assignments!

Ryne Nelson said...

BEAST Rose (unless injury plagues him) should get the ROY, but it would be extra nice to see Morrow give Rose a run for his money. Nice stuff, Moose!

Roy said...

I agree Ryne. Great article as always Moose. :D

Moose said...

Thanks, Ryne and Roy.

JoeBasketball said...

Nice piece Moose, I had no idea he was such a good college player. I won't go far enough to say he's a ROY contender, but he should definately have a successful career ahead of him.

Moose said...

I definitely agree, Joe. Thanks for reading.

Anonymous said...

I remember reading the GSW box score and going, who the heck is Anthony Morrow? Great piece on a deserving player

I'm really surprised by Jason Thompson, the rookie out of Rider playing for Sac. SLAM projected him to be the most forgettable player, yet he's averaging a solid 11.9ppg and 7.1rpg

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