Menacing clouds. Storms building on the horizon. Dramatic swings in temperature. Wind.
Sounds like Kansas. Sounds like Oklahoma. Edmond Memorial big man Shaq Morris loves it.
He plays basketball and is considering Wichita State. Education is important, in part because he may want to get into the weather business, perhaps on TV.
“I’m really interested in meteorology,” he said. “Oklahoma has a lot of weird weather. So does Kansas.”
Morris (6-foot-8, 262 pounds) expects to choose between WSU and Oral Roberts, the school recruiting him since his junior year, on Monday. He averaged 13.6 points and 8.0 rebounds for Edmond Santa Fe as a junior, earning honorable mention All-Class 6A recognition.
“He’s an extremely agile and athletic big man,” Edmond Memorial coach Shane Cowherd said. “He’s an explosive jumper, great finisher.”
Morris visited WSU recently and, like most recruits, came away impressed by the support of Shocker fans he met.
“All the people in Wichita were real nice, especially at the college,” he said. “They all showed me and the basketball players love.”
WSU could use a young post player in its 2013-14 recruiting class and Morris said playing time as a freshman is an important factor in his decision. In 2013-14, WSU will have seniors Chadrack Lufile and Kadeem Coleby (a transfer who will redshirt this season) as its primary inside players.
“The facilities (at Koch Arena) were real nice, the training room, the weight room,” he said. “I feel like those are real good places to get better.”
Running on busy — Former Shocker distance star Kellyn Johnson hasn’t quite found her niche, and that’s fine with her. She is busy, versatile, happy with her family (daughter Kylyn is 2) and more dedicated to running than in her college days.
“I’m a lot better at prioritizing my time,” she said. “I wouldn’t say I was truly, truly dedicated to my running. Now that I’m doing it as a job, I take it a lot more seriously. I’ve got to pay the bills with it.”
Johnson, who trains for McMillan Elite in Flagstaff, Ariz., became the first American woman to win the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon (with a time of 1 hour, 13 minutes, 24 seconds) in Maryland earlier this month. She earned $5,400 for that win. The next day, she finished 14th in the USA Women’s 10-kilometer championship (33:42.8) in Boston.
“The prize money for the half-marathon was too good to pass up,” she said. “Then I thought, ‘Why not do the 10K and see what happens?’ ”
Johnson is running through options with her sights on the 2016 Olympics. She ran the 5,000 and 10,000 meters in June’s Olympic Trials. She might try a marathon and is experimenting with road miles.
She finished 14th in the 5,000 (15:39.60) and 10th in the 10,000 (32:30.40) in the trials. She went to Eugene, Ore., knowing it would take a miracle to get into the top three.
“Next time, it’s going to more about making the top three spots and making the (Olympic) team,” she said. “I’m going to be building up for the next four years and finding my best distance.”
Johnson, from Sussex, Wis., holds WSU records in the indoor mile (4:35.35), the outdoor 800 (2:06.12) and the outdoor 1,500 (4:16.71). She earned NCAA All-America honors as a senior in 2009 in the indoor mile (placing third) and the outdoor 5,000 (10th).
• Former Shocker Tonya Nero placed 27th in the World Half Marathon Championships earlier this month in Bulgaria. Nero ran a personal-best time of 1:15:13 that set a record for her country of Trinidad and Tobago.
Out of the box — Shocker junior pitcher Aaron LaBrie defined “situational lefty” in his first two seasons. He came out of the bullpen to face a few hitters, rarely more than an inning at a time. Last season, he threw 18 1/3 innings in 14 appearances.
LaBrie is setting himself up for a larger role after an outstanding fall. He threw 23 2/3 innings in fall scrimmages and compiled a 2.28 ERA with 22 strikeouts and six walks.
“I didn’t want to come back and end my career here as just a guy who was going to get a few innings here and there,” he said.
Pitching coach Brent Kemnitz sees LaBrie filling several roles in 2013. He could close games or throw in middle or long relief.
“He’s really gained a lot of confidence,” Kemnitz said. “His velocity is up (to 88-90 mph) and his command is outstanding.”
LaBrie allowed struggles last spring to bother him and didn’t build on a promising freshman season. If his fall performance is an indication, he reversed that slide.
“The main thing is I got my confidence back,” he said. “I didn’t even really notice I was throwing that much harder until everybody was telling me. Now that I’m confident, I’m out there throwing hard and I’m not too fine with everything.”