Beecher’s Monte Morris should be leading candidate for next year’s Mr. Basketball Award

Posted: March 21, 2012 by patrickhayes13 in High School

Monte Morris (photo via UM Hoops)

By Patrick Hayes

As a freshman at Flint Beecher, Monte Morris could think his way through a basketball game better than most seniors could.

My last season covering basketball for the Flint Journal happened to coincide with Morris’ freshman season. The first time I watched him, he played so under control and intelligently that if not for his wiry frame and boyish face, I would’ve never suspected he was an underclassman. Morris had 14 points for Beecher in an early-season game against Southfield Lathrup that year, keeping the Bucs close most of the way against a team that featured current Iowa Hawkeye Roy Devyn Marble and current Wayne State player Bryan Coleman. Marble and Coleman, both wing players, were 6-foot-6. Beecher’s starting center in that game, D’Marius Houston, was generously listed at 6-foot-1.

On top of the size disadvantage, Beecher also was really inexperienced. That season, they started the freshman Morris and sophomores Antuan Burks and Cortez Robinson. They only had three seniors who played significant minutes and their best player from the previous season, Javontae Hawkins (at the time considered the top basketball prospect in the Flint area in years) had transferred to Powers.

All of that is a long-winded way of saying that the game really shouldn’t have been very competitive. Yet somehow, it was for most of the way, and that would become a theme of Beecher’s season. The Bucs started 0-5 that year, with  close losses against experienced teams that appeared more talented. But by the time Beecher picked up its first win, beating Flint Southwestern, it was becoming more and more obvious that people should stop questioning the talent of the team. The Bucs were young, yes, but Morris very quickly established himself as one of the best players in the Flint area and one of the top prospects in the state regardless of class year.

A few really unique things stood out about Morris from the beginning.  First, his efficiency was off the charts, not just for a freshman, but for a high school guard in general. There are plenty of big-time scorers in high school, but there’s also a reason most people don’t mention the field goal percentage of high school guards: even the good ones usually have ugly percentages. Morris, though, was different. After a close loss to Saginaw Buena Vista that season when Morris scored 29 points on (by my count) 18 shots, here is what Beecher coach Mike Williams said to me when I asked him about those 29 points after the game:

“He had 29? Jesus. And we got on him for passing up shots. He’s the most unselfish kid that I’ve ever coached. He likes to share the ball. He’s capable of scoring 30, 40 points any night, when he’s shooting the ball, but he’s gotta put the shots up.”

That was the beauty of watching Morris. From a young age, he instinctively knew the difference between a bad shot and a good shot. He knew how to finish in traffic. He knew how to draw contact and get to the free throw line. I don’t think I have to tell any coach or person who has worked with or watched extensive amounts of high school basketball how rare it is to find those traits in a freshman guard.

Morris also has a firm understanding of the work necessary to get better. In the summer before his sophomore season, coming off of Beecher getting blown out in the state Class C semifinals against Melvindale ABT, here is what Morris said about that experience:

The work ethic and drive was apparent in Morris during the offseason. In the state semifinals last season, Beecher was soundly defeated by Melvindale ABT, featuring a huge game from Melvindale guard and Mr. Basketball candidate Michael Talley III, who scored 34 points and single-handedly broke Beecher’s vaunted press.

“I take like two days a week to re-watch that game just to take stuff out of his (Talley’s) game,” Morris said. “Just how he reads the court, scores and how aggressive he is. That’s really what I’m trying to add into my game.”

Most impressive about Morris, however, is that he has been committed to not only his teammates and school, but helping restore the ‘District of Champions’ tradition that Beecher was at one time known for. This is an era of high school basketball where top prospects transfer (sometimes multiple times), where people with bad intentions give kids bad advice and, without getting into specific names or circumstances that are irrelevant now, Beecher has been vultured and lost good players to those kinds of situations over the years. There is a flawed line of thinking that in order to get the exposure necessary to be a highly sought-after prospect in high school sports, athletes have to be at huge schools that churn out those types of prospects every year.

The great thing about Morris is he represents just how flawed that thinking is. He’s become an elite player at Beecher for two very simple reasons, aside from his own individual talents: He is playing for a great coach in Mike Williams (maybe the best high school coach in the state, in my opinion) who pushes him to get better; and, to put it as simple as possible, Morris wins. He wins every year.

What better time is there to show off things like your basketball IQ, toughness and competitiveness than the high school basketball playoffs? What better stage is there than the Breslin Center during the state semis and finals to get the chance to perform in front of college scouts and coaches? What better exposure is there for an individual player or team than perennially getting the opportunity to play for a state title?

Morris, now a junior, just won his second consecutive Associated Press Class C Player of the Year Award. Tomorrow, he leads his undefeated team to the state semifinals at the Breslin Center for the third time in his three-year varsity career. Morris is a testament to the fact that overwhelming TEAM success is a great way to open doors for individual achievements as well. He’s exactly the type of player and prospect that high major college coaches interested in winning should be pursuing and he’s exactly the type of player, both for his talent and character, that the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan should be looking to recognize when they hand out next year’s Mr. Basketball award to the best senior in the state.

  1. Jared Field says:

    Man Man in 2013! Let’s get it going!

    Mr. Buc for Mr. Basketball!

    What I love about Morris is that his game sort of transcends eras, maybe more than any high school player I’ve watched.

  2. Scott Baryo says:

    Best piece this old man has ever read about and player and his team. The young man is one of the special players. Only wish him the best for himself his team and the great fans of Beecher

  3. APCoggins says:

    Monte Morris is one of the best to come from Flint, and he deserves to be in the conversation next year. Hopefully, Monte and his teammates can close out a dream seaaon this weekend. The Beecher Bucs, behind AD/Varsity FB coach Courtney Hawkins and Varsity BB coach Mike Williams are bringing back the pride in the “District of Champions.” Shades of Roy Marble and Carl Banks are starting to appear. It is fun to see, and I wish the Bucs all the best!

  4. Bill Khan says:

    Spot-on with everything you wrote – including Mike Williams being one of the best coaches in Michigan. The guy has Buctown in the final four almost every year, despite the pillaging of his program from other schools.

    • Jared Field says:

      For most schools, recruiting/transfers is a “gain some, lose some” sort of proposition. For Beecher, at least over the last 5-6 years, it has been more on the “lose some” end of the spectrum. That’s why you have to be impressed with Coach Williams.

  5. APCoggins says:

    Monte looked good today…scored when needed, played great D, and dished well to Burks who had the hot hand. I think Beecher kills TC St. Francis Saturday. Good for the whole program…

    • THanks 33 says:

      Watch out now you gotta think James Young from Try, MI who is ranked top 10 on ESPN might get that award and MSU is on him hard he put up 49 points and 12 rebs this year as a junior he”s a smooth lefty reminds me of penny hardaway and tracy mccgrady.

      • ty says:

        Saw this guy play in person. He is left hand dominate, but he plays point guard for his team. Kind of impressed me based on the fact that his team were not that good but he elevated their play. if you went by wins and losses, I believe this kid from Beecher would win Mr. B, but Young has more upside based on height and athleticism.

        But I have to see this kid from Beecher play next year.

  6. THanks 33 says:

    Should I mention Kentucky has started to recruit him hard as well.

  7. Chuck Krafft says:

    Congratulations on Monte for sticking with Beecher and getting a Championship. I hope he gets another next year. Who is recruiting him? (Couldn’t UM use someone like him? I know that they already have Walton, but Morris does so many things well, that they could probably play together – – isn’t Morris 6′ 3″??)

  8. […] a chance to lead his team to the Breslin Center for the fourth straight year, which should firmly put him in the Mr. Basketball conversation. […]

  9. […] permalink Beecher’s Monte Morris should be leading candidate for next year’s Mr. Basketball Award … […]

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