Monté Morris had a lot of success in high school. He led the Flint Beecher Bucs to back-to-back state titles and was named Michigan’s Mr. Basketball. Still, he didn’t get an offer from instate schools Michigan and Michigan State and eventually decided on Iowa State as the best place to further his education and basketball career.
That certainly worked out for Iowa State and it has worked out just fine for the player that teammates call “Big Game.”
For Morris, who arrived on campus in June of 2013, it wasn’t about proving anyone wrong. He has a strong belief in what he can do on the court.
“I know personally what I can do, what I’m capable of doing on a basketball court,” Morris said. “You know that when you lace up, you control it.”
In his first two seasons, the 6-2 point guard has led the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio. His career A/TO ratio sits at an eye-popping 4.69. He increased his scoring from 6.8 points as a freshman to 11.9 as a sophomore. He’s one of the Big 12’s leaders in steals averaging 1.6 per game in his career.
So just what has allowed the court general to become one of the nation’s top players at his position?
He says he’s matured in his approach to the game.
“I think I’ve matured a lot in my work ethic,” Morris said. “You know, it’s not just about getting a team workout in and going home, but instead it’s shooting for an hour and a half after. When I first got here I was just trying to fit in instead of trying to be better than those guys.”
He’s a surefire name you’ll find on the Bob Cousy Award Watch List when it is announced this fall. But he’s still striving to be better.
Better for his mom. Better for his grandmother, who passed away in late June. And better for that young boy that grew up with a dream.
That is what drives Morris.
“First off, it would be eventually providing for my mom. My grandma passed away recently and that is something that drives me. I’m just trying to make my family happy and proud. I want to someday fulfill my dream that I had as a young boy, to play at the next level. That is what drives me and I’m not going to stop working.”
Morris’ evolution as a player will continue with a new coach, one that has put a pair of point guards into the NBA already. He’s being pushed every day by new Cyclone leader Steve Prohm to be a better player, a better person and a better teammate.
The approach is taking Morris back to his Beecher days, something that quickly brings a smile to his face.
“Coach Prohm has kind of taken me back to my high school days,” Morris said. “He counts on his point guard a lot. He expects a lot from me and he expects me to have a great day, every day. Our relationship is good and I feel like it is going to be great in November. He wants me to go get the ball. It really does take me back to my high school days and I’m looking forward to giving the nation a little replay of how that was.”
Morris is proud of the way the team handled the coaching change.
“I realized that we are just tough young men. Resilient, really,” Morris adds. “A lot of people probably would have tucked their tail and tried to make moves but this group stuck together. Everybody is on the same page and that really told me a lot about the type of season we can have.”
He says the team has learned from its mistakes a year ago, which included a loss in their opening game of the NCAA Tournament.
“The way we approached the game, the day before, everything was just not the way we should have handled that situation,” Morris says while shaking his head. “You are going to get any team’s best shot at that point and we realize that now. These are business trips and we have to stay focused and have everyone buy into their roles.”
You can still hear the disappointment as he speaks.
“The night you think someone isn’t that good, that you can cruise, that is the night you lose,” Morris said. “You have to stay focused.”
It is a task that Morris takes to heart. Especially in Big 12 play where the competition is at its best. So he’ll do his homework, help his teammates do their homework.
“I know that for me, I have my hands full every night in this league going against great guards,” the All-Big 12 Second-Team pick a year ago said. “I have to be prepared. I have to know them better than they know me.”
That is what being a point guard is about after all.
“I love that as the point guard I am able to control everything,” Morris said. “There are pros and cons to it. You get the praise and you get the blame. I understand that. But you are in control of everything. That’s how you want it to be as a player.”
Did you know?
Only seven times in NCAA history has a player led the country in a statistical category three seasons in a row. Morris will try to become the eighth (assist-to-turnover ratio). No one has ever done it four times.
Stan Modzelewski, Rhode Island – Scoring Average (1940-42)
Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati – Scoring Average (1958-60)
Pete Maravich, LSU – Scoring Average (1968-70)
Jerry Lucas, Ohio State – Field-Goal Percentage (1960-62)
Todd MacCulloch, Washington – Field-Goal Percentage (1997-99)
Blake Ahearn, Missouri State – Free-Throw Percentage (2004-06)
Paul Millsap, Louisiana Tech – Rebound Average (2004-06)
Follow Iowa State Men’s Basketball on Twitter, @CycloneMBB. Follow Matt Shoultz, men’s basketball contact for Iowa State, on Twitter, @mjshoultz.