Big things were expected for Monte Morris entering his sophomore campaign and without question, the Flint, Michigan native delivered. Many thought Morris could become a star as a sophomore, especially with Fred Hoiberg turning over the keys to the Cyclone offense, but Morris truly made the leap this past season and now we're all left wondering - just how many more years does he have left in Ames?
Season At A Glance
Morris played 84.8% of all available minutes this past season and with that in mind, you could make the argument that he was Iowa State's most important player. Hell, I know some of you have made that argument and I'm not here to disagree with you, but we'll get to the whole alpha dog conundrum when we talk about Georges Niang.
As a freshman, Morris set a NCAA record, posting a 4.78:1 assist-to-turnover ratio and displayed remarkable poise for such a young guy playing starting minutes on a top 15 team. But going into his sophomore year, you had to wonder how much of that was fool's gold. After all, DeAndre Kane did the lion's share of the ball handling during Morris' freshman season and Morris had only the sixth highest usage rate during the '14'15 campaign.
Outside of the incredible assist-to-turnover ratio though, Morris proved to be as efficient as they come, posting the highest O-Rating on the team as a freshman (125.1).
So while we all expected Morris to emerge as a star in year number two in Ames, it was reasonable to also expect a few more turnovers and a slight dip from an efficiency stand point. Except that didn't happen.
His usage rate jumped from 11.6% to 16.9%, he played nearly 6 more minutes per contest and most importantly, didn't have Kane to protect him in the back court, but Morris actually posted a better O-rating of 126.2, which again led the team. His effective field goal percentage also jumped from 50.8% to 55.9%.
The assist-to-turnover ratio wasn't quite as good, dropping to 4.63:1 (which is still amazing by the way), but his assist rate rose from 20.4% to 27.4% and his turnover rate actually dropped from 11.6% to 9.9%.
For those more drawn to the traditional numbers, Morris was excellent there too. And how about those steals? An area of Morris' game that is often overlooked is his defense. Now, I think all the minutes he played this past year affected his ability to defend consistently, but Morris could still create havoc on that end of the floor. We all remember the 24 points and the game-winning shot against Texas in the Big 12 Tournament, but Morris also recorded 5 huge steals in that game that allowed Iowa State to stay within striking distance.
When looking at Morris' numbers though, the guy is a triple-double waiting to happen. He came close in back-to-back games against Baylor and Kansas early in the conference season and if I were a betting man, I'd wager that he'll get one at some point next season.
Summer School Curriculum
Physically, Morris could stand to gain 15 pounds of muscle and while he's been a 40% shooter from outside, he can still use some work on his outside shot, but for Morris, it's simple; be humble, appreciate the position he's put himself in and don't be content with where his game is at.
Essentially, don't end up like Curtis Stinson.
If there's one thing I want to see from Morris this next year, it's the ability to sense when he has to take over and take control of a game. He showed the ability to do just that as a sophomore, especially in contests against Oklahoma at home and against Texas in the Big 12 Tournament, but the next step in his evolution as a player is finding the ability to be able to take over games on command.
Let's face it, Georges Niang isn't exactly immune to going cold for stretches (to put it politely) and if Morris is truly the "1B" to Niang's "1A", Morris has to be the one that carries Iowa State through Niang's droughts. Again, Morris showed the ability to do just that this past season, but if he can do it consistently, a large pay day awaits in his future.
To put it succinctly; Morris doesn't need to be a 20-point scorer every night (nor does Iowa State want him to be), but there are nights where he's going to need to put up 20.
Going into next year, there likely isn't an award list that Morris won't find his name on. He'll be considered a favorite for the Cousy award, handed out to the nation's top point guard. He'll also find his name on plenty of all-conference lists as well as all-American lists. Along with Fred Van Vleet from Wichita State, Melo Trimble from Maryland and Marcus Paige from North Carolina, Morris just might be the best point guard in all of college basketball.
With an excellent chance at an NBA future ahead of him, Morris has an enormous opportunity on the table and there's no reason to think he won't deliver. In two years, he's yet to be rattled and truly emerged as a star in the college game this past season.
So is the best yet to come for Monte Morris? Absolutely.