116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Inside the team bus somewhere in Chicago, Monte Morris let Naz Mitrou-Long know what was on his mind.
As Iowa State's run to the Sweet 16 ended at the hands of Virginia last March, speculation swirled about what Morris would do. Would he leave a year early for the NBA Draft or come back to a team with high Big 12 and NCAA aspirations?
On that team bus, Morris told Mitrou-Long he'd already made up his mind.
'He just said if you're going to come back, just let me know if it's real,' Morris said Tuesday at Big 12 media day. 'I'm like, 'Bro I'm going to come back.'
'I did it and he said I was a man of my word. That's going to go a long way for our brotherhood and the longevity definitely this season.'
'I felt a little sigh of relief because I didn't know what he was going to do,' Mitrou-Long said. 'I know with him coming back it was just going to make us even better.'
Of course if it had been in Morris' best interests to move on, Mitrou-Long would have supported him as well. But with Morris' return and Mitrou-Long earning a medical redshirt, the Cyclones have a healthy mix of veterans and newcomers and are set up to continue their run of five straight NCAA tournament berths.
Iowa State returns four core seniors, but Morris undoubtedly is the face of the group. The 6-foot-3, 175-pound point guard averaged 13.8 points last season while shooting 48.7 percent, led the Big 12 in assists and minutes played and needs 115 assists and 40 steals to break the school record in both categories.
He also joined Jamaal Tinsley as the only Cyclones player to be named the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year. Tinsley also won the award following the 2000-01 season.
'(He's) somebody that (is a) jack-of-all-trades,' said Baylor Coach Scott Drew. 'He doesn't have a weakness. There's nothing that stands out where normal players always have one area where he's just deficient there, and he doesn't have that. His scoring would be the biggest (improvement).'
'Efficient. Efficient,' said Kansas Coach Bill Self. 'He doesn't turn it over, he makes every big shot, he's solid. You can't get him rattled. He's a good guard. He's really a good guard.'
The Jayhawks were picked by league coaches to win their 13th straight Big 12 title earlier this month and if the Cyclones — who were picked fourth — are going to be the group to end the run, it has to start with Morris. He's a high-usage player with a lot of the offense expected to run through him. The Flint, Mich., native played 38 minutes per game last season even while dealing with an injured shoulder during the postseason.
Iowa State Coach Steve Prohm had a line that Morris would play 30 to 32 minutes per game with gusts up to 40. He played 718 of 735 minutes last season, including 10 complete games, and still finished third nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (4.23) after leading the nation as a freshman and sophomore.
'Poised, composed, talented, let's the game come to him,' said Texas Tech Coach Chris Beard, who coached against Iowa State with Little Rock in the second round of the NCAA tournament in March. 'Last year, I guess he was kind of in Georges' shadow.
'I remember vividly preparing for that game and I watched maybe the first half of the first game late that night after we beat Purdue and I was like, 'This guy might be their best player.' No disrespect to Georges, but this guy, we were really worried about him. He's a special player.'
Simply put: Iowa State will prefer to have Morris on the court as much as possible.
'He's stronger, his decision making is great, he has a little post up game and a little mid-range game,' Mitrou-Long said. 'His shot is the best I've ever seen it. So he's definitely been all in.'
l Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org