Kansas Coach Bill Self Weighs in on Morris Twins
By Aaron Seiditz, Suns.com
Posted: Feb. 21, 2013
There are few in the basketball world with a better knowledge of Markieff and Marcus Morris – the reunited twin brothers set to play together for the Suns following Thursday’s trade for Marcus – than their former collegiate coach, Bill Self.
Now in his 10th season as head coach of the prestigious Kansas basketball program, Self spent three of those seasons with the Morris twins. While together at KU, this combination accounted for three Big 12 championships, as well as Elite Eight and Sweet Sixteen appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
Following a double-overtime win on Wednesday at Oklahoma State that surely pleased Markieff and Marcus, Self shared some of his time on Thursday to discuss a pair of players that became two of the most memorable he’s coached.
Related: Kansas Photos | City of Brotherly Love | Morris Bros Photos
SUNS.COM: Just to start off, could you take us down memory lane a little bit with the Morris twins? When you think of how they were as players when you were recruiting them out of Philadelphia, did you notice something different about them considering the closeness they shared?
BILL SELF: Well, they were so identical, I don’t think I could tell them apart when I would see them play in high school. At least it took me awhile to tell them apart. Now, I don’t even think they look that much alike.
The thing about it is that they definitely know each other, and they have a sixth sense about their play together. In this game, it’s talked about that when guys play together for a long time they’ll understand where each other will be on the court, but these guys take that to a whole new level. They know what the other one is going to do before the other even thinks about doing it. That is really something pretty cool to watch.
During recruiting, I didn’t think either one of them played hard enough to really utilize that. All they wanted to do was sit around and shoot threes. But once we got them here, they were just great.
What about going into their house during the recruiting process? It’s obvious how close they are with their mother – Thomasine “Angel” Morris – so we are curious what you saw from them in terms of their family? It’s been well documented that she took care of them in Lawrence, as well as fellow player Thomas Robinson when he went through some tough times.
SELF: She’s a great woman. One thing that I noticed was how much love they had in their house. I think most all of the kids – at least when we have them in here for a visit – talk about how much they love and respect their mother, but these guys definitely did. She rules the roost without any question, and they have a tremendous amount of respect for her as both their mother and just because of the woman that she is.
Even though she’s their mother, she’s very realistic and knows just what the twins needed to mature and grow while they were in college. She was able to do that, and instill some determination in them, through a stern hand. She wasn’t afraid to get on them a little bit.
SUNS.COM: What did you try to provide for them while they were playing for you at Kansas, and how did you see them grow while they played for you?
SELF: Well, from a basketball standpoint Marcus was starting for us from Day One, and Markieff was our sixth man right away. They evolved into different roles over their years, but what impressed me was just how much they fell in love with the game of basketball.
When we got them I think they thought they liked it, but I don’t know if they really liked the things you had to do to become really good at it. By the time they left here, you could not run them out of the gym. They fell in love with our sport.
SUNS.COM: I think you see that still, considering they work together closely during the offseasons, even though they played for different teams. Did they push each other; was there a motivational force between the two of them?
SELF: I don’t know if it worked that way, actually. When they first got here, they really didn’t like competing against each other as much as I would’ve liked for them to. I mean, they loved to compete against somebody else, though.
I didn’t see the motivation spark between each other, but I’ve never seen a pair of teammates happier for each other when good things happen. I think there were times when they were even happier for the other than they were for themselves when something really amazing was accomplished.
That’s why I think they’re going to be so good together as pros. I think they’re totally different players, and they’ll be motivated to be out there together. They won’t be motivated to out-play the other one.
SUNS.COM: To speak to that specifically, how do their games differ? What separates the two of them when they are on the court?
SELF: Well, Markieff – as Suns fans have seen – is more of the prototypical big guy. He can get down low, stretch the floor, is very skilled and can get off his shot. But he’s an inside-out guy first, while Marcus is an outside-in type of player. Marcus can really stretch the court by shooting the basketball, and he plays like a really big guard or a very skilled small forward. So I think they will pair together very well in the NBA.
SUNS.COM: How would you describe their personalities?
SELF: I think everybody always thought that Marcus was the more dominant twin, and I don’t even know if that’s true. From what I understand, there is usually a twin that is a little more dominant in some ways. But whatever differences there are between the two are just so slight. I would say that Marcus is a little bit more verbal, where I think Markieff is a little quieter.
SUNS.COM: In terms of who they are, what can you recall from their time around you that really stands out? Is there a story that you can share or something that made an impact on you, in terms of the type of people they are?
SELF: The first thing that comes to my mind is just how much they matured from the age of 19 to 22. That was unbelievable and a great thing to watch. The second thing, and they are sweet kids, is that I don’t know if I’ve been around a pair of kids more ornery than these two. They have personality, they have bounce and a lot of other things that you really enjoy having as a teammate and as a friend.
The bottom line, though, is that even though they’re ornery and you have to stay on top of them at times, they are fun for everyone around them. We definitely enjoyed having them here for those three years at Kansas.