In coming to Coolidge for this basketball season, junior guard DeShaun Morman, a Richmond native, took a big step — one he admits he needed. He was struggling with his academics at Meadowbrook, a public school there. He wasn’t focused in school, his parents were separating and, as he put it, things were “just tough in the streets.”
By moving away from distractions, he reasoned, life would be better.
And so far, it has. After adjusting to his new surroundings, the 6-foot-3 Morman has thrived, endearing himself to Coolidge fans and college recruiters with his athletic big-play flair and crowd-rousing dunks. He was key for the No. 7 Colts during their run to their first D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association title since 1988. And in the classroom, according to his coach and father, Morman has made strides.
“It’s been pretty good,” Morman said. “Good things have happened, school-wise and basketball-wise, I’ve come a long way. I think I grew another level just being a person.”
Morman, 18, arrived at Coolidge with only one Division I scholarship offer, from Massachusetts. His strong play this season has made him a top local recruit, earning offers from George Washington, Providence, Seton Hall, UNLV, Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth, according to Coolidge Coach Vaughn Jones.
Where he will play next season, however, remains in doubt because of a D.C. Public Schools rule put into effect in August. Because of his grades, Morman is academically a junior at Coolidge. Athletically, his basketball eligibility may be exhausted because he played junior varsity at Meadowbrook as a freshman and started on varsity much of the next two seasons.
After years of allowing fifth-year seniors, DCPS ruled last fall that, starting in the 2012-13 academic year, a student’s athletic eligibility will be limited to eight consecutive semesters. Jones said he is considering filing a hardship waiver. Morman, who said he hopes to come back to Coolidge, is considering prep school next season.
When Morman was a freshman, Meadowbrook Coach Ksaan Brown saw his tremendous potential. A third of the way into his sophomore season, Morman was starting over seniors.
“By his junior year, he was doing himself an injustice at Meadowbrook,” said Brown, who said he regrets allowing Morman to play despite low grades. “He was a D-I talent but didn’t have the grades.”
“Sophomore year was tough,” Morman said. “First year on varsity, I was starting. I just felt like nobody could tell me anything.”
Asked if he regrets his approach toward academics at the time, Morman quickly answered: “A lot.”
After his parents separated, his father, Andre Morman, moved to the District two years ago. Once he decided to move, DeShaun Morman chose Northwest Washington and Coolidge because that’s where Virginia Assault AAU teammate and friend Khalen Cumberlander, a senior guard, attended school. “Since he moved to Coolidge, I don’t know if it’s a different scenery or what the case may be, he’s more focused now,” Andre Morman said.
After a slow start on the court, Morman (averaging 15.4 points per game) began turning heads when he scored 28 points in a 51-49 upset of then-No. 2 Montrose Christian. Many recruiters who came to Coolidge that night intent on scouting the Mustangs instead came away impressed by Morman.
“He’s probably the most athletic kid I’ve ever coached,” Jones said. “He’s grown a lot ever since we started last summer up until now. His jump shot has improved tremendously. His decision-making is a lot better. He’s working on ball handling with his right hand.”
It has been a whirlwind for Morman, who admits he wasn’t accustomed to getting this level of attention in Richmond. And with Coolidge facing Findlay Prep on Thursday in the first round of the National High School Invitational, it could be his last game in a Colts uniform.
“During the season, I played my heart out, played tough every game, like a championship game to me,” Morman said. “I guess the colleges like my game and they recruited me hard. I can’t let it get to me. I just gotta stay focused in school. That’s what most important.”