Morrison making a strong impression

Updated: July 23, 2004, 11:28 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Adam Morrison didn't make the first cut of candidates for the USA Basketball team.

But he did make the last.

The Gonzaga rising sophomore forward might end up being one of the most valuable players on the team by the time the competition ends Aug. 1 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Snubbed initially by the USA Basketball committee, Morrison was a late roster addition last week once injuries took out a few candidates for the World Championship for Young Men's trials.

Coach Kelvin Sampson of Oklahoma and the USA Basketball committee kept Morrison when the final roster cut was made Friday.

Who knows, he might even get a start.

"This would be a great honor for me, to play for my country, a great honor for our program, too,'' Morrison said. "There are a lot of big names here, a lot of future draft picks waiting to be had in the next few years. For me to be on this team would be awesome.''

What Morrison does every day is actually incredible.

Morrison was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in eighth grade. Yet, when you watch him play, you wouldn't know he is constantly managing the disease.

Throughout the practices last weekend, Morrison found a way to get off shots. He pump-faked North Carolina's Sean May and Rashad McCants, getting two of the top players in the country off their feet so he had a clear view of the basket. He struggled to make shots at times, but he was always taking them without any real trouble.

It didn't matter if he was in the lane for a mid-range shot, or on the perimeter for a 3-pointer. The 6-foot-8 Morrison got to the basket or had a decent look at the hoop.

Sure, his defensive footwork is a liability, but he said he could compensate for that by playing smarter.

But what had the NBA personnel and USA Basketball officials marveled was the way he manages his diabetes. Morrison checks his blood-sugar level whenever he feels the slight bit off. His bag is always reachable, off the court, filled with his medicinal needs as well as granola bars.

Last Saturday morning, he had a rough time because his sugar level was off. He doesn't use that as an excuse for missing shots. But he's still learning how to read his body.

"If I get low (blood sugar), then it's like not eating lunch and then working out for three hours and you might get shaky or light-headed,'' Morrison said. "If that happens, that's when I know I have to eat.

"If I'm high (level), then I'm sluggish and kind of not into it,'' Morrison said. "That's when I'll give myself a shot (of insulin).''

Morrison is vigilant in checking his condition. But he doesn't make it a team issue. When he must check it, he'll run to the sideline, get his monitor, go off to the side and ensure he's OK. If he has to eat or give himself a shot, he's quick about it and back on the court within a few minutes.

Morrison will likely be the go-to player on the Zags next season along with senior Ronny Turiaf. He averaged 11.4 points and 4.3 rebounds, good for fourth on the 28-3 Zags. Those scoring and rebounding numbers will surely climb next season.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few is banking on Morrison assuming more of a leadership role. Turiaf will be the most vocal, but Morrison is coming more out of his shell. He was verbal at the USA Basketball practices, encouraging teammates and outwardly getting down on himself if he missed a shot.

But he's also extremely optimistic that the Zags will be a player in the national championship picturer again. He's banking on the so-called inexperienced point guards to be a non-issue by midseason. He's also raving about JC transfer forward J.P. Batista.

"If I don't make this team, it's just going to be more motivation for me,'' Morrison said, earlier in the week.

Morrison has always made the USA squad. And he won't have to worry about leading the Zags if he continues to be as aggressive with the basketball.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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