Gonzaga's 6'8" junior forward, is always described as "one of a
kind." That's bull. He's all kinds.
Like Tom Hanks,
he talks to balls. Last Thursday night, when he willed the Zags to a
come-from-dead win over Xavier in Round 1 of the NCAA tournament, he grabbed a
monster rebound and began pounding the ball into his forehead, screaming,
"This is mine! This is my f------ ball!"
O'Reilly, Morrison almost never shuts up. He'll bomb threes while thanking his
teammates. "Nice pass, Derek!" Swish. Against Xavier he buried two
game-winning free throws while jawing nonstop with a couple of Xavier players.
Isn't it distracting to talk and shoot? Morrison pauses, fingers his hockey
mustache (five a side) and shrugs, "I guess not."
Like Steve Nash,
he is allergic to combs. His Let-It-Be flop-top is constantly in his eyes, over
his ears and down his neck, and he's forever playing with it on the court. To
prepare it takes "zero minutes," he says. "It falls where it falls.
My mom wishes it were neater, but I get good grades, so what can she
Like Bill Walton,
he's slightly left of Mother Jones. Of President Bush, he says, biting his lip,
"I've liked other presidents better." On Iraq, he adds, "We should
have sent all those troops to get Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan. Why did we go
after Saddam? What did he do to the U.S.? There's been no link proven between
him and 9/11."
Johnson, he runs as if he's got heel bruises and dribbles like a man trying to
chase down a balloon. He shoots funny too, from behind his head, the kind of
shot you can get off in a phone booth. Must work. He leads the nation in
Jordan, he craves the ball. And he positively must have it when a victory is in
peril. When he doesn't get it, he is torqued off, sometimes screaming at his
teammates, as he did in the Xavier game and as he probably will on Thursday
when Gonzaga plays UCLA in the Sweet 16. They always forgive him, though, since
nobody since Jordan himself has made more big-moment shots.
Like Larry Bird
... well, he does everything else like Larry Bird. He dips tobacco like Bird,
drinks like Bird, swears like Bird, works frantically to get open like Bird and
scores like Bird. "He reads about Bird like it's the Bible," says
Gonzaga head coach Mark Few. Morrison's favorite sign this year? BIRD WAS A
BETTER PLAYER AND HAD A BETTER 'STACHE. "I thought it was cool," he
But there is one
thing Morrison has that none of these stars share. Every day he lives with type
1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes. Complications from the disease killed two of
his forebears, a great-grandfather and a grandmother.
He wears an
insulin pump everywhere but on the court. He must check his levels and inject
himself three or four times a game on the bench. "Sometimes I'll have to
take him out," Few says. "He won't even see it in himself. He'll be
dragging his feet, acting weird. He'll get mad, but once he has his shot, he's