Just before 9 p.m. last Thursday, when Casey Morsell could have been resting his basketball brain, the junior guard was busy watching practice film on his laptop.
The tape was of an intra-squad scrimmage he and his St. John’s teammates played in on Tuesday. It would have been easy for Morsell, a 6-foot-2 scorer and solidified high-major recruit, to pad his confidence with the plays he made. The pull-up jumpers. The quick crossovers. The mad dashes to the rim. But that is not why Morsell was digging through film on this night, with a full workout behind him and the first official practice of the season still 12 days away.
Morsell instead looked for his mistakes, however big or small. There were plays where he didn’t talk enough on defense, leading to breakdowns. Other times, he was slow to slide into the paint as the help-side defender. On a handful of offensive possessions, he forced shots instead of making the extra pass to a more-open teammate.
“I feel like my game is in a good place right now. My handles feel good and are improving, I like where my shot is,” Morsell said Thursday. “But it’s the little things that make all the difference. It’s always the little things.”
After shining for Team Takeover’s 16-and-under team on the AAU circuit this spring and summer, Morsell is a priority recruit for a handful of high-major programs. He has added scholarship offers from Oklahoma State, Virginia and Wake Forest since Aug. 24, and previously had ones from Towson, Binghamton, George Mason, Penn State, Virginia Tech, Richmond, George Washington, Rhode Island, VCU, South Florida, Temple, DePaul, Cincinnati and Saint Joseph’s. Villanova, Virginia, Maryland, Penn State and Iowa, among other programs, came to St. John’s in Northwest Washington to see him work out this fall. When Virginia came up in September, Coach Tony Bennett was flanked by all three of his assistants.
He also took an unofficial visit to Virginia at the start of September, went to Penn State in mid-September and rounded out the month with a trip to Virginia Tech. In August, a high-major assistant coach said, “Casey reminds me a lot of Markelle Fultz.” The coach, who spoke under the condition of anonymity due to NCAA rules about discussing potential recruits, had a list of reasons for the Fultz comparison: Casey’s long arms, his ability to score at three levels, his competitiveness. Fultz, a Prince George’s County native, was selected first overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in last June’s NBA draft. Morsell is only starting the back half of his high school career.
“He’s a strong kid, he’s athletic, big hands, long arms, and I think college coaches just see him possibly being a very high-level defender as well,” St. John’s Coach Pat Behan said last week of what has contributed to Morsell’s rise as a recruit. “Offensively he’s been showing his ability to score at all three levels as well as hit big shots, which is rare at this age for a kid. And he has been in a lot of high-pressure games and succeeded, whether it be big games on the [AAU] circuit or big high school games. He’s thrived in those moments.”
If Morsell was flashing his defensive potential toward the end of last season, Behan thinks the guard is close to consistently being a “lock-down on-ball defender.” This is gleaned from Morsell’s physical makeup (long arms and big hands), athleticism (lateral quickness) and ability to think the game (understanding of help-side principles, talking to teammates, reading offenses). Behan, who is starting his first season at St. John’s after facing the Cadets as the head coach at St. Mary’s Ryken, sees Morsell mastering the team’s defensive concepts while clogging passing lanes.
And that’s not all Behan has noticed about his new shooting guard. There is Morsell’s drive to become a better passer. There is a voice that keeps getting louder on defense and during drills. There was the morning of his visit to Virginia, when Behan expected Morsell to get a few extra hours of sleep, pass on the St. John’s morning workout and then head to Charlottesville. Instead, Morsell was in the gym shooting at 6 a.m., an hour before his teammates started their day with a yoga session. That was just Casey being Casey.
“It’s just a habit,” Morsell said of whatever it is that makes him get to the gym that early or stay up watching practice film, that thing that makes him a can’t-miss prospect who is only promising to attract more offers and buzz in the coming months.
“And it’s a habit I can’t break,” he added. “I don’t think I’ll ever break it.”
» Paul VI point guard Jeremy Roach visited Kentucky this past weekend, Paul VI Coach Glenn Farello confirmed to The Post on Friday. Roach, a 6-foot-2 sophomore point guard, is ranked 14th in ESPN’s most recent Class of 2020 rankings. Roach, who plays for Team Takeover on the AAU circuit, has offers from Villanova, Virginia, Maryland, Miami and Texas. He also played for Team USA’s under-16 squad this past summer.
» W.T. Woodson senior guard Matthew Urbach has verbally committed to James Madison, he announced in a tweet Saturday. Urbach, who is 6-foot-4 and a highly versatile scorer, also had an offer from La Salle.
» A majority of the area’s Division I-caliber senior boys have already made college decisions. Here is an updated list of where each of those players has verbally committed to (in alphabetical order): Springbrook guard Matthew Balanc (Quinnipiac), O’Connell guard Matt Becht (Mount St. Mary’s), Georgetown Prep point guard Jared Bynum (Saint Joseph’s), Gonzaga guard Myles Dread (Penn State), Jermaine Harris (Rhode Island), Southern guard Curtis Holland III (High Point), Gonzaga point guard Prentiss Hubb (Notre Dame), O’Connell point guard Xavier Johnson (Nebraska), Paul VI guard Miles Latimer (Stony Brook), Loudoun Valley guard Jordan Miller (George Mason), Friendship Tech guard Malik Miller (Morgan State), South County forward Quention Millora-Brown (Rice), Bullis point guard Vado Morse (Mount St. Mary’s), St. Alban’s forward Chidozie “Collin” Nnamene (Mount St. Mary’s), St. John’s center Richard Njoku (Navy), Georgetown Prep forward Ike Nweke (Columbia), Georgetown Prep wing Mezie Offurum (George Washington), Severn School guard L.J. Owens (William & Mary), Episcopal forward Zach Pfaffenberger (Sacred Heart), Paul VI guard Brandon Slater (Villanova), St. Mary’s Ryken guard Wynston Tabbs (Boston College), Riverdale Baptist point guard Donovann Toatley (Tennessee-Chattanooga), W.T. Woodson guard Matthew Urbach (James Madison), Tre Wood (Massachusetts)
» And here are the local 2018 Division I prospects who have yet to make a decision: Saddiq Bey (forward, Sidwell Friends), Zyan Collins (guard, Freedom-South Riding), Jaden Faulkner (point guard, Eleanor Roosevelt), Deson Flood (wing, Good Counsel), Ayinde Hikim (point guard, Wilson), Christian Jones (guard, Annapolis), Ricardo Lindo Jr. (wing, Wilson), Darren Lucas-White (guard, Fairmont Heights), Daniel Oladapo (wing, Bladensburg)
» Lindo is still deciding whether he will do a prep year or enroll at a college as part of the Class of 2018, Wilson Coach Angelo Hernandez told The Post last week. It was previously reported that Lindo would do a prep year, but he is now weighing all options as interest in him picks up. The 6-foot-7 senior’s most recent offer came from Long Beach State in the middle of October, and coaches from Boston College and the University of Pennsylvania have come to see him work out this fall. He has now been offered by Mount St. Mary’s, Columbia, Robert Morris, Campbell, Hampton, Harvard, Brown, High Point, Lehigh, Loyola (Maryland), George Washington, James Madison, East Carolina and Long Beach State in this calendar year.
» Stone Bridge junior point guard Evan Buckley was offered by Stone Bridge last week, Stone Bridge Coach Corey Stitzel confirmed to The Post. Buckley now has offers from George Mason, Lafayette, James Madison, Duquesne, NJIT, Bucknell, New Hampshire and American. The six-foot guard played for the D.C. Blue Devils on the AAU circuit this past spring and summer.
» DeMatha junior guard Jahmir Young has been offered by James Madison, he announced in a tweet Saturday. Young, who spent his first two years of high school at St. Mary’s Ryken, previously had an offer from Coppin State. The 6-foot lefty played for Team Takeover on the AAU circuit this past spring and summer.
» Providence offered DeMatha sophomores Earl Timberlake and Hunter Dickinson last week, according to multiple reports. Timberlake, a 6-5, left-handed guard who transferred to DeMatha from Rock Creek Christian this summer, now has offers from Providence, Rhode Island, Georgetown, Virginia Tech, Kansas State and Penn State. Dickinson, a 7-foot center, now has offers from Providence, Maryland, USC, Penn State, Notre Dame, Alabama, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Virginia, Illinois, Iowa and South Carolina. Dickinson also visited Notre Dame along with DeMatha junior guard Justin Moore two weekends ago. Notre Dame has two DeMatha graduates on its staff (head coach Mike Brey and associate head coach Rod Balanis).
» Two Rock Creek Christian girls basketball players made college decisions at the start of last week: Guard Taleah “Noo” Washington verbally committed to Syracuse, while guard Carrie Gross verbally committed to Xavier. Washington was one of the Washington Post’s 10 First-Team All-Met selections last winter.
Read more high school sports coverage: