Suns News

Suns Select Kansas' Markieff Morris With the No. 13 Pick

Markieff Morris of Kansas led the Big 12 in rebounding and blocks last season.
(Courtesy of Kansas Athletics)
By Stefan Swiat, Suns.com
Posted: June 23, 2011

After all of the miles logged by scouts, games viewed, mock drafts posted and workouts held, it finally came time for the Suns to make their draft pick Thursday, choosing Markieff Morris with the No. 13 selection in the 2011 NBA Draft.

For Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby and GM Lance Blanks, it marked the first imprint that a reconfigured front office made on the organization through the draft.

“We very excited to have the opportunity for the pick, but also a pick that offers who we are and what we want to be about,” Blanks said.

The 6-10, 245-pound forward out of Kansas was an All-Big 12 Second-Team selection, leading the conference in rebounding and blocks. The former Jayhawk led the conference in double-doubles with 13 and made the Big 12 Championship All-Tournament Team after Kansas won the Big 12 Championship.

“We spent a lot of time researching every guy in the draft that we thought it made sense for this organization when his name surfaced as a possibility,” Blanks said. “As we looked at the numbers, we got pretty excited. It all made sense in where we had him on the board.”

Both the Suns front office and Morris credited a strong individual workout in Phoenix as a variable that separated him from the rest of the prospects. In fact, Morris said that he ended up where he wanted to be all along.

“It’s a great city and I think I played very well (there),” Morris said. “I met with coach and the organization and I just kind of fell in love with those guys.”

Markieff was born seven minutes ahead of his twin brother, Marcus, who co-starred with him at Kansas. Markieff is slightly taller and has more of a defined role in the pros than his brother, who received more accolades as a college player.

Ironically enough, his brother was chosen about seven minutes after him by the Houston Rockets with the No. 14 pick.

“I love his intangibles,” Blanks said of Markieff. “He’s tough.

“Although we have a team that’s resilient, he offers us a physical and mental toughness that’s almost impossible to quantify with numbers. So he’ll be able to balance out our frontline and offer us a toughness that’s much needed here.”

Morris believes that his grit was developed by growing up in Philadelphia. As a kid, he and his brother had to overcome losing their house in a fire.

“My goal is to win and be a winner,” Morris said. “I’ve always been a winner and a lot of guys say I don’t have upside, but I’m ready to put the work in and be the best possible.”

Considered a true power forward in the NBA, Markeiff has shown the ability to trail on the break and consistently hit from three-point range. He shot 42.4 percent from behind the arc this past season, while knocking down 63 percent of his overall shots from the floor in Big 12 play.

“The pro game is suited for Markieff,” Blanks said. “The reason you don’t hear people talking about his potential is because he has a maturity that is rare for a young man his age. So I think we saw that in the college season and we saw that in the visit and in the workouts.”

Although he and his brother have never been separated, Markieff believes the two will have no issues thriving apart from one another. Both drive the same car, have the same tattoos and have been together nearly every moment of their lives.

Despite his brother being known as a more prolific scorer, Markieff states that he is normally the victor when the two face each other in one-on-one. The elder Morris said that he takes to backing down his younger brother in the post to beat him.

As for what he needs to improve upon, Morris said that he needs to get stronger and faster. And despite being in good shape, he’s still aware that he’ll have to raise his level of fitness to play with Steve Nash.

But what could make Morris quite valuable is that his ability to hit consistently from the perimeter presents a nice option for Nash on the pick-and-roll. In the past year, he’s worked diligently on improving the arc on his shot and boasted that he already has NBA-range.

As whether Morris will find his way into Phoenix’s rotation next season, that remains to be seen. But if it was up to the Suns GM, Markieff would make his presence felt.

“I think he can come in and impact the roster, but that’ll be up to (Suns Head) Coach (Alvin) Gentry and his staff in terms of his minutes,” Blanks said. “Lon, (Suns Director of Player Personnel) John Treloar and myself will be pushing from the outside to try to get him on the floor as soon as possible because I think he can be a fine basketball player in this league, and more importantly, here in Phoenix.”

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