Adam Morrison is one of the great college basketball stories of the last decade.
The son of a college coach, Morrison’s family settled in Spokane when he was in fourth grade after his father had made the decision to change careers. He grew up as a ball-boy for Gonzaga and going to the team camps, which is actually where Morrison first learned he was a diabetic. He was a star at Mead High School, and despite failing to play his way onto any top 100 lists, Morrison ended up averaging 11.4 points as a freshman. As a junior, he spent the year going head-to-head with Duke’s JJ Redick for the scoring title and the national Player of the Year awards.
He was the third pick in the 2006 NBA Draft.
It’s an amazing story, but unfortunately for Morrison, that’s not what anyone will remember about his legacy.
When you look back on Morrison’s career as a basketball player, two things will stand out to the casual fan: a) the tears that poured down Morrison’s face after Gonzaga blew a 17 point lead to UCLA in the Sweet 16 in 2006, and b) the fact that he ended up being the first in a long of line high draft picks by Michael Jordan that didn’t pan out.
In simpler terms, he was a bust.
He’s now 29 years old and out of the league, but Morrison has landed on his feet. He’s now a student assistant at Gonzaga, on scholarship and taking classes while helping coach this year’s crop of Zags. And it seems like Morrison is at peace with the way his career unfolded.
“I didn’t play well enough,” Morrison told the Spokesman-Review. “They had 15 guys on guaranteed (contracts). I would have had to play out of my mind and somebody else would have had to play badly. … There was a time in the past it was really upsetting,” he said. “It was a combination of things. I didn’t play well my first year and then I had a knee injury. Then there was a new coach and I got traded to a very good team. So that part is frustrating, but at the same time I had so many life experiences, made so many friends and did so many things that other people have never had had the opportunity to do. I had a good career leading up to that and I’m settled with it.”
“I made that decision the day I got cut by Portland,” he said. “As good as I played in summer league and then I couldn’t even get a half-guarantee (contract) or a make-good (contract). I went to Europe and played well. Then I came back and had a good summer league and if I can’t make it then I’m not going to be one of those guys that beats my head against the wall. Sometimes you have to look at yourself in the mirror.”
It’s never easy for an athlete to make the transition to being a former athlete, but Morrison couldn’t be in a better spot.
He’s finishing his degree for free while learning what it takes to be a successful coach from one of the most successful coaches in college basketball in Mark Few.
That’s not a bad place to land.