Smith basketball forward Morgan Morrison named D3 Player of the Year
|Published: 03-16-2023 2:33 PM
Morgan Morrison analyzes basketball possessions as an engineer. The Smith College senior views defenses and opponents as problems and challenges to be solved.
“There’s never not an answer to me,” Morrison said. “When I’m watching the game when I’m on defense or offense, I’m always trying to figure out the solution.”
The electrical engineering major with a focus on renewables has caused just as many dilemmas for opponents as she’s solved for the Pioneers. Morrison was named the Women's Basketball Coaches Association NCAA Division 3 Player of the Year on Thursday ahead of Smith’s first Final Four appearance Saturday against Transylvania (7 p.m. at Trinity in Hartford, Conn.).
She may need some civil engineering courses to reinforce her trophy shelf’s structural integrity because it also needs to hold the D3hoops.com Region 2 Player of the Year, New England Women’s Basketball Association Player of the Year and NEWMAC conference Player of the Year honors.
“She’s always been an attack mode type of player. She’s got a lot of confidence on the blocks. She’s athletic, she’s strong. She’s improved on her ability to make the correct read in the correct moment,” said Smith coach Lynn Hersey, who was named the WBCA Division 3 Coach of the Year. “She’s developed into a much better passer in that position. Her ability to read the defense and understand what they’re trying to take away and for her to be able to counter that (has been huge).”
Morrison switched to attack mode too quickly and readily her first season in 2019-20. She approached possessions dead set on how to proceed and rushed her moves. Foul trouble occasionally hampered her on defense.
“I’d be so frantic,” Morrison said.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the rest of the 2020 postseason with Smith ready to compete in its first Sweet 16. The Pioneers didn’t participate in the 2020-21 campaign. That left Morrison with plenty of time to herself in the gym.
She slowed down every move, repeating each step and committing it to memory.
“She’s a pretty different player. Her hard work ethic and her competitiveness are two things that have stayed through and through,” Smith grad student Katelyn Pickunka said. “Her footwork (has improved) and her ability to finish her spin move. I don’t know how she gets it off most of the time.”
After a slow start to her junior campaign, Morrison closed last season scoring in double figures in 10 of Smith’s final 12 games and posted four double-doubles, including one in each of the Pioneers’ three NCAA Tournament games. She posted a then-career high 26 points with 12 rebounds against Wisconsin-Whitewater in the Sweet 16, where the Pioneers run ended.
“I think she started to get a big reputation for us last season. She came on so strong in the second half of the season and was very dominant,” Hersey said. “This year she’s really from Day 1 had to handle being the focus of every game plan. That’s a lot of responsibility to be 31 games into a year and know every coach has a different plan to slow you down. She’s handled it with such poise and such strategy.”
Morrison averages 17 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.26 blocks per game and expected the attention. She was an all-NEWMAC selection last season and expected the attention.
“Teams are going to have a plan for me. I need to have a plan against theirs. I knew I was going to get doubled early on. My solution to that was we have so many shooters and so many play makers on the perimeter,” Morrison said. “If they double me then it’s my turn to play make and force them to stop doubling me. And when I get single coverage, it’s my turn.”
So far, no one has solved that problem.
“I hope no one does,” Morrison said.Kyle Grabowski can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.