Morrison: NBA teams shouldn't worry about illness

Updated: February 10, 2006, 4:53 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

SPOKANE, Wash. -- The biggest whispered question NBA folks have about Adam Morrison is whether he can handle the rigors of the pro schedule while dealing with diabetes.

Well, Morrison has an answer for them: Don't fret.

He's not. Never has. Never will.

Morrison's unbelievably special, entertaining junior season has pro scouts seriously debating whether to select him No. 1 in the NBA draft, if he declares. The floppy-haired, '70s-stache-stylin' shooting forward leads the country in scoring.

Could Morrison be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft?

But nearly lost is the fact that he plays with a disease that constantly has to be managed.

There are no days off for a diabetic like Morrison. None. That doesn't mean Morrison isn't ready to handle the rigors of the NBA.

"I played those three straight games in Maui, one being three overtimes, and played 52 minutes [and scored 43 points against Michigan State], and that proved that I can play at a high level," Morrison said. "My body was fine, my blood sugars were fine, because I maintain them."

And, when he gets to the NBA, whether that's this summer or next, he will have his own army to ensure he doesn't slip.

"I'll have somebody to cook for me, a nutritionist to set up meals to what he/she thinks could help me out for games and stuff like that," Morrison said. "I'll hire somebody to make sure all my supplies are there. The games are tough, but correct me if I'm wrong, the practices aren't as grueling as some of the college ones."

To understand how Morrison deals with diabetes, you must go back and hear how this all unfolded.

His father, John, a former junior college coach, says he knew something was wrong with Adam in eighth grade when he was getting tired a lot. He was playing ball but always feeling fatigued. And then, one day after a game, the two of them went to Subway. John said Adam had finished his foot-long sub before he had taken a bite. Adam then wanted half of his father's within minutes. A friend told John that he thought Adam didn't look right. He already had an appointment for him to see a doctor, but he called and took Adam in immediately. The doctor said Adam's numbers were off the charts and needed to be treated. Diabetes, according to John Morrison, does run in the family.

"I just remember being real sick for a good month," Adam Morrison said. "I went to camp and I had three points the whole weekend and I knew something was wrong with me. I couldn't function. I couldn't do anything. I started losing weight and would always be hungry and thirsty. I just remember getting the call and heading to the emergency room."

Morrison said he was in the emergency room in a Spokane hospital when a doctor came in and delivered his life-changing news, something that one would think could be devastating to an eighth-grader.

"I went from one day eating anything to someone telling you, 'You can't eat this, you gotta eat this,' and 'It's time to take a shot,' and it was like, 'Whoa.' " Morrison said.

"I was scared when I was in the emergency room, but after that everyone thought I would be scared, but I wasn't," Morrison said. "I knew if I would just take this seriously I would be fine. My doctor told me I could lead a normal life."

From the first time he needed a shot of insulin, Morrison handled it. Even as an eighth-grader, Morrison took control of the situation and wouldn't let anyone else take/give the shot but him.

"The nurse said, 'Do you want to do it or I can do it?' and I said, 'I'll do it,' so I never would have to rely on somebody else doing it for me," Morrison said.

Morrison's routine is rigid. He eats three meals a day at a "normal" time, at least three hours apart. He checks his blood sugar and ensures he gets enough sleep. On game day, he eats the same breakfast (cereal and toast), same lunch (sub sandwich) and dinner (steak and baked potato two hours and 15 minutes before every game).

"I've gotten to the point where I've never had a bad blood/sugar level where it's affected me in a game," Morrison said. "As you can see, I've prepared my body to where I can play at a high-level for very high minutes. I knew there was a misconception coming into this year where I couldn't play at a high-level with this disease. But I can take care of my body just like everyone else."

He has juice, protein bars, all the "emergency stuff," including medicine lined up courtside for practices and games. He'll check himself throughout the course of both. He said he has had a few modest lapses in the past eight years.

"I've been close (like passing out or something), because there are going to be days where stuff goes wrong," Morrison said. "But nothing too serious."

The toughest part of dealing with it for Morrison is not always being the footloose college kid.

"I'm not going to say I don't have a good time every once in a while, but there's always the added pressure of doing all the stuff that's not good for your body. Being in college, it's hard not to but you've got to be mentally tough, and I've done a pretty good job so far," Morrison said.

Morrison said the feeling when he needs a shot, a boost, is pretty much the same as if you or I didn't eat all day and were lightheaded.

"You're just kind of shaky," Morrison said. "Have you ever not eaten lunch and gone to play hoops? That's what it feels like pretty much. Your body just craves sugar and once you get it in your body, you start coming back and feeling better."

Morrison is aware of his status as a potential role model.

"It would be nice to get the message out this disease kills a lot of people in America a year and a lot of people go without the proper medical supplies because it's very expensive," Morrison said. "If you don't have insurance it's hard to afford all the stuff you need. It would be nice to get on a bigger forum and get that message out and hopefully I can change some things."

Until then, he's on a mission to ensure any NBA personnel director or general manager who has had doubts about his condition no longer will.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com