The lights at the Sun Dome are slowly fading on Gerrick Morris, who, in all likelihood, enters the final four games and last three home games of his USF career Thursday night against Marquette.
But the 6-foot-10 senior center will most likely go out with a bang, or better yet, a block.
After setting the school’s single-season block record in the Bulls’ loss to Houston on Saturday, Morris finds himself just 11 blocks away from surpassing Curtis Kitchen on USF’s career blocks list.
Barring an apocalyptic event, like the implosion of the Sun Dome or some other catastrophe, Morris, who ranks fourth nationally in blocks per game this season, will become the school’s all-time leader and go down in USF history as the Bulls’ top shot-blocker. And at the pace Morris has been swatting shots, it’s likely he could break the record at home in front of a national television audience on ESPN2. Heck, he holds the USF single-game record with 11 blocks in one game.
But a USF record doesn’t do justice for Morris, who, during the past few games, has dominated inside, getting double-doubles the hard way, controlling the lane and being a force, while flirting with the idea of becoming the third player in USF history to notch a triple-double.
USF coach Robert McCullum said that maybe Morris began to understand that his career was coming to a close, and that could be the reason he’s seemingly elevated his game beyond the level of any other time in his USF career.
Maybe that’s the reason, but then again, maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s just the amount of time Morris has been on the floor this season. And that leads to a puzzling question.
What if Morris had the opportunity to be on the floor as much as he’s been this season during his entire career? Well, if that had happened, Morris would not only be going down as USF’s best, but he’d go down as one of the top shot-blockers of all time in collegiate basketball.
Through Saturday’s game, Morris has played a career-high 693 minutes. That’s more minutes than the two previous seasons combined and almost 150 more than Morris played his freshman year.
It also means that Morris is averaging a career-high 30 minutes per game. And that is a startling statistic.
Though math is the enemy of all journalists, I took the time to figure out a few averages of what Morris would have done if he’d been given the amount of time on the floor throughout his entire career that he’s earned under McCullum’s tutelage.
With 247 career blocks in 1,820 career minutes through Saturday, Morris averages one block every 7.3 minutes. If Morris played 30 minutes a game, he’d average 4.1 blocks per contest.
In his USF career, counting the four games remaining on this season’s schedule, the Bulls will have played 123 games, though Morris is on pace to play in 114.
Had Morris played in every game in his career and averaged 30 minutes per game, he would be in some pretty fine defensive company.
On those projected numbers, Morris would have finished his career with 504 blocks. Only one other person, Wojdech Myrda of Louisiana-Monroe, has eclipsed 500 blocks in his career. Myrda has the all-time collegiate record of 535 blocks in only 115 games.
Morris would be ahead of former collegiate standouts like Wake Forest’s Tim Duncan, a two-time MVP in the NBA, Navy’s David Robinson and Colgate’s Adonal Foyle.
Morris also would have easily eclipsed the Conference USA mark of 292 held by former Cincinnati standout Kenyon Martin.
But Morris must settle for the USF record. And that doesn’t take anything away from his accomplishments — he still will go down as USF’s best.
There’s no telling if Morris would have been capable of keeping his block average as high as it’s been. But it’s easy to think of what could have been. You never really know, but had Morris been given the opportunity to swoop through the lane and swat shots with the frequency he’s shown during McCullum’s time as coach, he might have been the best.