Eleven separate Morris from record

Just 11 more blocked shots and let the celebration begin.

Throughout the USF men’s basketball team’s final four games of the regular season, chances are good that senior center Gerrick Morris can swat enough shots and surpass Curtis Kitchen as USF’s all-time leader in blocked shots.

Getting Morris, USF’s single season record holder with 92 blocks, to block shots won’t be a problem. But getting the 6-foot-10 center to celebrate the feat is another story.

Rarely showing emotion on or off the court, Morris is not the type to pump fists or perform a Dikembe Mutumbo finger wave.

“I try to keep the same demeanor throughout the whole game,” Morris said. “I’m not one of those guys who’s pumping his fist and doing all that. That just isn’t me.”

His lack of emotion and a reluctance to show aggressiveness on the court led some, including USF coach Robert McCullum, to believe he lacked the desire needed to be a top Division I basketball player.

Early in the season, McCullum said he thought Morris probably didn’t love the game of basketball. Now McCullum is finding it difficult to prove or disprove his thought.

“It’s hard to say,” McCullum said. “People have different ways of showing it. He’s almost an introvert, so sometimes it’s difficult to have two personalities. One, he’s an extremely intelligent kid, and then he is laid back at the same time.”

With his big frame it is easy to spot Morris and his lethargic demeanor walking on the court, or around campus, but his personality has not stopped him from being a defensive force throughout C-USA.

“The lack of aggressiveness, or the lack of assertiveness that we like, we don’t see that because that’s not his makeup,” McCullum said. “So, we’ve tried to come to get him to play as hard as he can, and realized we’re not going to change his personality.”

Toward the end of the season, Morris has turned up the intensity a notch and proved valuable to the Bulls bid for a birth in the Conference USA Tournament.

“It’s meant a great deal,” McCullum said. “His shot blocking has certainly improved our defense, and our chance to win. The last six games he’s averaged over five blocks a game. The guy goes out and gets eight, nine, 10 blocked shots, automatically it puts more pressure on the other team.”

The pressure on the other team also relates to a release of pressure on the Bulls defending on the perimeter.

“I think it’s a big part of our defense right now,” Morris said. “Sometimes our guards get beat off the dribble, and I’m there to help them out.

“I think most of the shots that I block are going to be baskets, so I play a big role in our defense.”

Even when Morris isn’t slamming a would-be-bucket off its original trajectory, his presence is still apparent to the opposing team.

“You can see it a little bit, they start to get a bit more of an arc on their shot,” Morris said. “They try to draw me and dish it off to somebody else.”

If Morris ties his own school record of 11 blocks in one game, then it is possible for him to break Kitchen’s 18-year-old school record at home against Marquette tonight in front of a national TV audience on ESPN2.

While it is possible, McCullum said he would put his money on the record becoming Morris’s, but not in one game.

Morris is on pace to break the record, despite averaging only 13 minutes throughout his first three years before seeing a raise in minutes to 30 per game.

After a column in The Oracle proposed that if he played as many minutes throughout his career as he did this season, he would be one of the best shot-blockers in NCAA history, Morris said he doesn’t think about past possibilities.

“I really don’t try to think about that,” Morris said. “Since I’ve been here, there’s been a lot of talent like Mike Bernard, Will McDonald and B.B. Waldon. It’s hard to give everybody minutes when you have so much talent like that.”

Despite not getting the lion’s share of the minutes until this season, Morris has placed himself in position to get the record. But record or not, Morris said he loves the game.

“I love basketball,” Morris said. “I’ve been playing this sport my whole life. It is my life right now. Once I leave here, I’m hoping I can play at the professional level.”