During the last three years, Kansas basketball fans have gotten to know what it means to be a Morris twin: It's family over everything, or, as they like to say, F.O.E. It's never being jealous of the other's success. It's being serious about basketball while at the same time taking themselves lightly, dropping in doses of humor that are almost always well-placed.
On Thursday night, during the 2011 NBA Draft in Newark, N.J., Marcus and Markieff Morris went global. They sat in the green room of the Prudential Center — surrounded by their mother, Angel, their high-school coach, Dan Brinkley, KU coach Bill Self, and KU assistant coach Danny Manning, among others — and as the clock began ticking on the 13th pick, neither Marcus nor Markieff had been selected.
Throughout the last few months, Marcus, the 2011 Big 12 Player of the Year, had been projected to be picked in the lottery (top 14), and he was also expected to go before Markieff, the more understated of the two on and off the court. But when NBA commissioner David Stern stepped to the podium to announce the Phoenix Suns' pick at No. 13, it was Markieff, the 6-foot-10 power forward, who had his name called.
Within seconds of giving Markieff a hug, Marcus was crying, the tears streaming down his cheeks. Marcus had jumped out ahead of his brother during his sophomore year at KU, and Markieff had certainly caught up with him.
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"I was just so happy for him," Marcus would say.
It was as tender of a moment as one can expect in sports. With the Houston Rockets on the clock with the No. 14 pick, ESPN put the camera on Marcus for an interview about Markieff. ESPN reporter Heather Cox asked Marcus about the twins being separated for the first time.
"I'll send him some flowers or some fruit," Marcus deadpanned. "It'll be good."
Minutes later, Stern walked to the podium and announced that the Rockets were taking Marcus Morris to complete the lottery portion of the draft. In about the same time it took for Marcus to follow Markieff into this world back in 1990 — 7 minutes — Marcus had followed his older brother into the NBA, a shared dream that is now only just beginning.
After all of that, the Morris twins weren't just the stars of the draft. They were trending worldwide on Twitter, no longer the little secret of Lawrence and their native Philadelphia.
In those towns, they were inseparable. It was a bad day if they had to be apart at all. Now, during the length of the NBA season, Marcus and Markieff will have to look forward to the handful of games that the Suns and Rockets play against each other.
"I've been with him for 21 years," Markieff said on the ESPN broadcast. "We've never played on a different team. He's definitely been my backbone. This is a new chapter in our life and we're ready to move on."
KU freshman guard Josh Selby will also be flipping over a new page, but his professional journey got off to an auspicious start on Thursday as he fell to the Memphis Grizzlies in the second round at No. 49 overall. At the beginning of his freshman season at KU, a frustrating year that saw him sit through a nine-game suspension and battle a foot injury, Selby was expected to be a lottery pick. He will join former KU players Xavier Henry and Darrell Arthur in Memphis.
"They got a first-round talent in the second round," Self said. "That's what he is."
Even with Selby's disappointment, this was another memorable draft night for the KU program - it is the second straight year that Jayhawks went back to back in the lottery (last year, Cole Aldrich went at No. 11 and Henry at No. 12).
"I'm ecstatic," Self said. "I think it does send a strong message, speaks volumes of your program."
The Morris twins want to represent Kansas well at the next level, and they credit Self and company with helping them reach this moment.
"Man, it's just amazing," Marcus said. "Kansas really changed me as a person."
Marcus was careful not to leave out Jayhawk Nation, especially those who stayed patient with him and his brother as they grew into the players they are today.
"Tell the fans I love them," he said.