April 7, 2011

Kansas' Morris twins sign with agent, will enter NBA Draft

The day before Kansas lost to Virginia Commonwealth in the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight, KU's Morris twins were asked about what it would be like to play on different teams for the first time in the NBA.

Despite the miniscule chances that one franchise would have the right draft picks and positional needs to acquire both Marcus and Markieff, it was clear the twins were holding out hope that such a thing would occur.

"Somebody out there might think that we play real good together," Marcus said, "and see the success that we've had on the teams with each other in high school and college, and they might just take us both."

After all, Markieff agreed, their careers have gone the way they wanted up to this point, so why would their good fortune not continue?

"You never know," Markieff said. "Special things have happened to us so far in our lives."

They made it official on Thursday that it is indeed time to move on to the next step in their lives when they announced that they are entering the June NBA Draft and forgoing their senior seasons. And that means confronting a day-to-day reality that very likely won't include the other one.

"It's gonna be hard," Marcus said. "It's definitely gonna be hard. But we're gonna make an effort to see each other. Even when I went to camps this summer, I talked to him, Skyped him and things like that."

For the Kansas basketball program, the Morris twins' oncoming separation anxiety is the least of its worries. KU coach Bill Self, who now has just two scholarship big men in his program, will have to figure out how the Jayhawks can move on without their two best players.

Marcus was KU's leading scorer and the 2011 Big 12 player of the year. Markieff was the team's leading rebounder and a second-team All-Big 12 selection. They played so unselfishly together that the entire team fed on it, which made for pristine offensive execution during most games.

Now, KU will have to lean on sophomore forward Thomas Robinson, who announced Wednesday that he will return for his junior season, and hope that sophomore center Jeff Withey is ready for an increased role by the fall. Kansas is also still in the running for several forwards on the recruiting trail, and certainly, Self can sell them on a chance to play right away.

While the twins' departure doesn't make Self's life any easier, he said he approved of their decision.

"We've won a ton of games in the last three years," Self said in a statement, "and the twins were a big part of that. When the time is right, the time is right and certainly now the time is right for those guys to go onto the next level."

The time is right because Marcus and Markieff are both projected to be first-round picks. That would mean a guaranteed three-year contract for two kids who grew up on Philadelphia's tough north side with a single mother who worked long hours as a nurse. And, as the twins said all season, their priority is "family over everything."

Marcus and Markieff wanted to make sure Thursday that KU fans know they're a part of the twins' extended family.

"The support the fans showed us can never be matched," Marcus said in a statement. "We appreciate everything they did for us while we were here. When we say F.O.E. we are saying Family Over Everything and that includes the Jayhawk Nation."

Marcus said the decision to sign with agent Tony Dutt of Rivals Sports Group, LLC, in Beverly Hills, Calif., instead of returning to school was one of the toughest the twins have made. They could have stayed and competed for another national championship, enjoyed a Senior Night and lived together as the Morris twins for one more year.

But, it was time.

"I am proud of Marcus and Markieff for the development and improvement they made," Self said, "not only off the court but on the court in their three years here. They have been an absolute joy to coach and performed at a level to give them the opportunity to leave and enter the NBA draft after three years."

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