Edmond (Okla.) Memorial center Shaq Morris committed to Wichita State’s men’s basketball program on Monday. Before he earned a scholarship offer from WSU, he needed to show coach Gregg Marshall he would work hard.
Morris did that when Marshall visited a Memorial practice. Marshall came away convinced, coach Shane Cowherd said, opening the way for Monday’s non-binding commitment to WSU. Morris plans to sign a national letter of intent in November.
“Shaq has not had the best reputation for work ethic,” Cowherd said. “What (Marshall) was able to see was that some of that past, founded or unfounded, is not necessarily the case and the future could be really, really bright.”
Morris (6-foot-8, 262 pounds) said Cowherd deserves credit for pushing him. He transferred from Edmond Santa Fe to play his senior season under Cowherd.
“I have no choice but to stay focused,” he said. “He never lets up and that’s a good thing.”
Morris averaged 13.6 points and 8 rebounds for Edmond Santa Fe as a junior, earning honorable mention All-Class 6A recognition. OKHoops.com ranks him the No. 5 senior in Oklahoma. Rivals.com rates him a two-star prospect on a five-star scale.
“(Morris) is an explosive and strong player that loves to finish with authority at the rim,” according to OKHoops.com’s evaluation. “Morris is also starting to develop a more consistent jumper … and an improved motor on both ends of the floor.”
Morris announced the decision on Newsok.com. Cowherd and four family members accompanied him. After he chose WSU over Oral Roberts, he pulled out a Shocker hat for the camera.
"The program is wonderful,” Morris said on the Newsok.com webcast. “They’ve got good fans, good everything. It’s the perfect place to get me better."
Morris is named for former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal. His grandmother chose the name and Morris likes the comparison to one of the NBA’s top physical presences.
“It’s special,” he said. “I’m ready to bang. I’m going for every single rebound.”
Cowherd describes Morris as a back-to-the basket scorer who is naturally strong without much effort in the weight room. He is working on getting leaner and spending more time lifting, Cowherd said.
“Wichita State is getting a kid who is just now starting to tap into some of the physical promise he has,” Cowherd told Newsok.com. “He’s very explosive, and his quickness belies his size. He’s so physically strong, but he’s very quick, almost cat-quick at times. He’s very mobile, and he’s starting to tap into those tools.”
Mitchell, from Southeast, said he wants to continue his basketball career at another school and will transfer at semester break. He said he believed he would receive a scholarship at WSU after sitting out last season.
Mitchell signed with Ohio University after two seasons at Hutchinson Community College. Citing homesickness after spending the summer in Ohio, he transferred to WSU in the summer of 2011. Mitchell paid his own way at WSU in 2011-12 and was not eligible to play, due to NCAA rules, because he received financial aid at Ohio to take summer classes.
Mitchell said he believes Marshall told family members he would receive a scholarship this season.
“I feel like a player of my talent, I deserve to be on scholarship,” Mitchell said. “I’m not rich. I can go somewhere and be on scholarship.”
Mitchell said he is looking at several schools, but declined to name them.
Marshall said Mitchell’s family approached him late that summer, hoping for a spot on the roster after Mitchell decided to leave Ohio. Marshall said he told family members Mitchell could walk on for the first year with no guarantee of a scholarship in the future. Marshall said he raised the possibility of a scholarship in his third year, if earned. Because Mitchell signed with Ohio, he could not speak directly to WSU coaches.
“There was never, ever a scholarship promise to him,” Marshall said. “He is mistaken.”
Mitchell, a 6-foot-1 guard, was ticketed for a reserve role with the Shockers this season. In the backcourt, WSU returns senior guard Demetric Williams, who recently returned to practice after ankle surgery, senior Malcolm Armstead and sophomore Tekele Cotton. Redshirt freshman Ron Baker and freshman Fred VanVleet are also competing for playing time.
Mitchell helped Southeast to a second-place finish in the 2009 Class 6A tournament. He earned All-State honors and averaged 22 points a game. In 2008, Southeast won the 6A title with Mitchell. He went to HCC, where he was named NJCAA honorable mention All-American after his sophomore season. Mitchell averaged 18.2 points and 5.4 rebounds as a sophomore.