Former Kansas forward Markieff Morris can’t help but feel a little overwhelmed by the whole NBA draft process, but it’s not necessarily because of any difference in the level of play since he decided to forgo his final year of eligibility as a Jayhawk.
The past two weeks, Morris said Thursday following a pre-draft workout at Verizon Center for the Wizards, represent the first time he’s ever really played competitive basketball without his twin brother, Marcus, on the court or on the sidelines. Both Morris twins are expected to be first round draft picks.
“I haven’t seen him in two weeks . . . it’s as long as I’ve been without seeing him,” said Markieff Morris after completing a 90-minute session featuring prospects that the Wizards will likely consider when making the No. 18 and No. 34 picks in this year’s draft. “But I’m still a grown man. I can be on my own.”
Also in attendance Thursday were Virginia Tech’s Malcolm Delaney, Duke’s Kyle Singler, Georgia’s Trey Thompkins, Ohio’s Devaughn Washington and Indiana State’s Jake Kelly.
But it was Morris, who averaged 13.6 points and 8.3 rebounds while averaging just 24 minutes per game as a junior at Kansas this past season, that served as the main attraction. Though Morris said his agents believe he’ll be selected between the fourth and 14th picks of the first round in two weeks, many draft analysts believe he could slide down to Washington midway through the first round.
But Morris’s pre-draft workout comes under some unusual circumstances. He led the Big 12 in field goal percentage and made more than 42 percent of his three-pointers last season, but oftentimes was overshadowed by Marcus, the Big 12’s player of the year. So not only is he trying to separate himself from other prospects, he’s also sought to distance his skill set from that of his twin brother.
When asked what he hoped to show potential employers during pre-draft workouts, Morris said that he’s willing to be a tough defender and rebounder but also, “just my skill without my brother.”
His versatility, especially on the defensive end, could come in handy for a Wizards team that has struggled to control opponents for years. At 6-foot-10, 240 pounds, Morris is big enough to bang in the post but also possesses the lateral quickness to guard on the perimeter if necessary.
At the end of Thursday’s session, Morris was the last player remaining during an elbow shooting drill that tested his conditioning and called for him to make seven straight jumpers. Looking on was Coach Flip Saunders, who twice made eye contact with General Manager Ernie Grunfeld up above the practice court as Morris struggled to finish the drill.
What the glances implied won’t be entirely clear until the draft comes and goes in two weeks, but you can be sure Morris will tell his brother about the whole ordeal. Even though they’re apart for the first time, the two talk after every workout.
“I’ve never played in a game without him, so it’s definitely different,” Morris said. “We’re both just happy to be in this situation.”