2010-11 Player Profile: Darius Morris

Dylan Burkhardt
(caption) Michigan guard Darius Morris dribbles through midcourt against Arkansas-Pine Bluff defender Allen Smith during the second half. ***  The Michigan Wolverines overcame a sluggish start to beat the Arkansas Pine Bluff Golden Lions 67-53 at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor. Photos taken on Saturday, December 5, 2009.  ( John T. Greilick / The Detroit News )

Borrowing an idea from our friends at Inside the Hall, we’re going to start posting player-by-player breakdowns of the 2010-11 Wolverines. The format might morph over the process, as I figure out what works and what doesn’t, but for now we’ll stick to the basics: a brief intro, what the player did well, where they need to improve, and a general outlook for the upcoming season.

When Darius Morris committed to Michigan in August of 2008, he was proclaimed as John Beilein’s signature recruit. Many people (including yours truly) referred to him as the best recruit that Beilein had ever landed. Previously at Michigan, Beilein had picked up commitments from Stu Douglass, Ben Cronin, Zack Novak, Robin Benzing, and Jordan Morgan. When recruiting rankings were published, gurus had probably handed out the same number of stars to Beilein’s original five recruits, if they had heard of them, as Darius Morris.

After Morris’ commitment, Michigan went on to win 20 games with a pair of walk-ons, CJ Lee and David Merritt, running the point. The obvious conclusion was that Darius had to be an upgrade over a pair of logic.

Despite Morris’ recruiting accolades, two things became clear early on during his freshman season. First, Morris was the only true point guard on Michigan’s roster. Second, he wasn’t ready to play 30+ minutes per game as the team’s only point guard. As I documented last year, point guard is a very tough position to play as a freshman but Morris was clearly in over his head. He showed flashes of the player many expected but couldn’t consistently produce.

24.3 4.4 1.8 2.6 1.6 43.3 63.0 17.9

What He Did Well

Create: In Big Ten play, Darius assisted 24% of the team’s made field goals while he was on the floor. That figure isn’t all-Big Ten caliber but is respectable, top 15 in the conference, especially for a freshman. This number should only increase over the course of Morris’ career.
Get to the line: Morris gets to the line more often than any of Michigan’s other returnees, as he posted a respectable 36% free throw rate (FTA/FGA) last year. Michigan also attempted the second least number of free throws in the conference. Given this lack of production at the stripe, Michigan will need Morris to find his way to the stripe.

Defend, at times: Darius has all of the tools to be a great defender — he’s tall, long, athletic, and willing. Last year, there were times when he looked like a great defender but there were far too many times he didn’t. The one defensive performance that stands out was versus Penn State, as he held Talor Battle to 14 points on 14 shots with four turnovers.

Areas For Improvement

Shooting: 51% from two, 18% from three, 63% from the line. The shooting numbers were painfully bad last year to the point that, one would hope, they can only go up. Early returns aren’t great, during Michigan’s Euro-tour Morris shot 29%  (10-34) from the field, 0% (0-10) from three, and 33% (4-12) from the free throw line. The Euro stats are obviously a bit flawed with a further three point line, different competition, and a sample size, but they are certainly cause for concern.

Turnovers: Freshmen point guards turn the ball over and Darius Morris was no exception. The fact that Morris’ turnover numbers steadily improved over the course of the year hint that he should be able to improve in this regard.

Consistency: Another thing that almost every freshman struggles with. Some nights Morris had it, some nights he didn’t. For example, Morris made one or fewer shots in 13 of 32 games.

2010-11 Outlook

I am confident that Darius Morris will continue to become more comfortable in the offense and become more consistent on the offensive and defensive ends. What worries me is his shooting.

His shooting ability will determine how effective the rest of his game can be. He doesn’t need to be the team’s best shooter, but he does have to be able to keep defenses honest. I look back to CJ Lee and Dave Merritt, and while they weren’t great offensive players by any means, they both hit enough three point shots (around 35-36%) to keep defenses honest.

Morris has a role on this team if his shot doesn’t develop simply because he’s the only true point guard on the Michigan roster. However, if he wants to become the player we expected when he signed, he needs to start knocking down the perimeter jump-shot.

Prediction: Darius continues to struggle with his shot but cuts down on turnovers significantly. He’ll make his greatest improvements defensively, where he becomes Michigan’s best on-ball defender. Overall he’ll average right around 30 minutes per game but just short of double digit scoring.

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  • ryan

    I take it you were asked to take the video down, dylan?
    That is unfortunate. I was excited when I saw that post.

    I think your projection of dmo is spot on. Really enjoy all you do.

  • Mat

    Darius Morris appears to be a decent player, but the one thing that really stands out is his transition game. His athleticism, handle, vision, and decent finishing ability make him (and I don’t say this lightly) an EXCEPTIONAL transition player. In the half-court he thinks, while in transition he just reacts, decisively, and his instincts there are spectacular. I’m hoping Coach Bielien sees this as well and gets the team to push the ball more often this season.

  • Dylan – right on with this analysis on Darius. Will he be able to shoot and score? If coaches comments mean anything, I’m a little worried.

    Coach Beilein said Stu may start and play point if Darius can’t shoot. Hopefully he isn’t seeing a pattern of can’t shoot this early in the season.

  • snoopblue

    Great post, completely agree. I have a great feeling about this team, I’m not saying they are going to win the Big Ten or anything, but I think they will play a lot better than most media are predicting. I think a 4th or 5th place finish in the Big Ten is possible and would be considered a success.

    • JGiebz

      Give this guy the first place trophy for predicting the future.

  • georgeesq.

    Good college point guards who couldn’t shoot jumpers: Eric Snow, Mateen Cleaves, Quinn Buckner.

  • If you guys have requests for the next profile to do… Let’s hear it.

  • bball

    Honestly, to me if he can’t shoot it’s not that big of a deal for this team. Stu is capable at the point and I see them splitting time anyway. To me, his mid-range game is more important that three point shooting. Hit 70 to 75% of his free throws, be able to threaten with the mid-range curl, and defend his ass off, then this team is good to go with his assists and speed in transition. This team will have enough three-point shooting weapons to keep teams honest. If the sag of Darius, he can drive and dish to a sniper filling the spot he just vacated. I’m most concerned about his lateral quickness when guarding other PG’s in the conference. Getting his butt down and hands out in a good defensive, athletic position was an issue last year.
    Great work Dylan. I’d like to see some more detail about how each player fits into the offensive and defensive schemes, what role they have played in the past, what they will do this year, etc. Plus a ppg, aps, spg, rpg projection would be awesome. Thanks!

  • I’ll focus on role when it’s more interesting. Don’t really see Morris playing anything but the one though.

  • bilbo

    snoop, i love the optimism but don’t think a 4th or 5th place finish is possible. i think it’ll be fun watching this team grow together and i think we may surprise a team or two, but we’ll also lose games we aren’t supposed to. have to remember how young we are.

  • Also — the video was removed by request. There were some issues there but no big deal. You can see the video on JohnBeilein.com


  • Kenny

    I will be happy if we finish 6th in the conference.

    Morris does not have to be a sharp shooter but he needs to make free throws.

    For next profile, I say the mystery Christian if Dylan can get some extra intelligence. All we know is that he is very athletic, is good defender and rebounder and will play 4. But questions are can he defend smaller and quicker player at 3 with his athleticism, does he have a mid-range game?

  • Bill

    I thought at seasons end he had improved more than any other player on the team. He looked like he was becomming comfortable running the team. He was playing with more confidence I was hoping he would pick up where he left off he was starting to make a difference.

  • TheYooper

    I say Tim Hardaway, Jr. next. Extremely pumped for his Michigan career.

  • AG2

    Honestly, Stu and Zack make the most sense to do next just to see how far they’ve come.

  • Oscar

    i agree THJR is the player im most excited about

  • JBlair52

    On Morris, hope everyone remembers he was a true freshman last year pushed into a big role. Not saying guys in the past havent had success in a similar situation but I’m looking for Morris to show a lot more this year after all the experience he got last year.
    And he’s been a hard worker and a leader on the team. On the court, I like his defensive potential and his ability to push the ball.

    Morris and Hardaway along with one of the shooters could be a nice mix of styles and abilities.

  • detroitbry

    Morris struggled with his offensive game because UM could hit the broad side of a barn. Morris’ effectiveness was supposed to be predicated on UM’s shooters being able to pull defenders out of the lane area trying to defend the three…we all know how that turned out.

    If I’m playing Michigan this year, I dare them to hit enough threes to beat me. Morris wont have any room to operate going to the rack if UM continues to be terrible shooting the ball.

  • I’m in Bill’s camp, in thinking that Darius improved a lot toward the end of last year and expect him to continue showing an ability to penetrate and force the defense to react.

  • C weezy

    Lil Timmy next!!

  • Umichmadness

    Tim Hardaway Jr. next

  • ummafan

    We are going to be better than some think and especially with Darius at the helm . This team will be more team orientated and more of a family like enviroment . Teams like Butler , Cornell , Northern Iowa and Davidson overachieve because they play together. Last years team had leaders who wanted to do they own thing .

    This year team got the motivators and players willing to go out and play and is eagered to win . Shame on anyone giving up on the team before games are even played.

    I can tell you this , our team will make alot of people eat crow. Darius will too .

  • BlueRev

    I want to hear more about EvanS next, but concensus so far is THJ… but I’ve felt Smotz is the key for us overachieving this year since the day he signed. We heard more about him last year, but now we’ve been hearing more about Hardaway. Regardless, thanks for the excellent info consistently… and as far as DMo–if he can at least make 67% FT he can have the point, but those numbers from Europe were disturbing. Still hoping his hardwork pays off and soon.

  • I agree w Detroitbry. As disturbing as Morris’ poor shooting percentage has been–and as clearly informed by lacking confidence–the key to him shooting better may well lie in other people shooting better from outside. At points last year, IIRC, he was often missing lay-ups.

    I’d love to see this guy gain confidence and lead this team. I know he yearns for that, too.

  • Anthony

    I think this is the kid belien needs to build around the next 3 years and so far he seems to be doing a nice job. I truely believe in those glimpses i saw last year this kid can be a nba talent as he grows and matures this season. The one thing he is lacking though is his jump shot which needs vast improvement. I think the 3 ball isnt his game he needs to run this offense and create for others and really work on the mid range game and getting to the basket.

    I really like him as a leader and i think you build your team around pgs in college basketball whether you have a john wall come in right away or a guy like morris who will be a 4 year player you need a good pg. I think landing hardaway brundridge and smoytcz are the right steps and they are finally devolping some depth. I still think a big whether it be amir or not amir is a huge key in these next two classes…

  • Deacon Blues


    If you’re playing U-M, why wouldn’t you swarm the perimeter and dare us to penetrate or go inside? (Save for Morris, of course, whom defenses should sag away from.)

    Generally, when someone is reliant on something, that’s what teams try to take away. When a guy only goes left, teams shade him that way; if he likes a certain spot in the post, they push him off it, etc.

    Granted, our 3FG% obviously wasn’t the greatest last season, but launching from 3–until proven otherwise–is what we do.

  • Kenny

    Deacon, the whole idea of parameter offense is to draw defenders out to open passing lanes for easy baskets. if 3s are not falling, this cannot work. but I am sure that if the opposing team not trying hard to contend our 3s, they will get buried in most games.

  • Bill

    I think ummafan hit it on the head for this team to succeed it will have to be a team. There shouldn’t be any big ego problems hopefully guys will do what it takes. We need the bigs to play solid to keep it loose outside and everyone needs to play defense. They have good length so a zone might be more affective this year if everyone makes themselves bigger(ie. hands up).

  • C weezy

    So is Coach B done recruiting for ”11 if Amir doesnt commit ??

  • AG2

    Preseason Top 25 is out…Big Ten is *STACKED* big time.

    In other news, apparently when Tennessee learned what Bruce Pearl had done, they tore up his contract but didn’t fire him, saying they’d sign him to a new contract depending on what the NCAA says. How sleazy is that? He’s sleazy but he wins so instead of firing him we’ll just blackmail him into taking a pay cut?

  • Bigfoot

    Blake McLimans next please!

  • gordie bell

    Belien seemed to indicate that Darius and Stu were the point guards, if so, I don’t see Darius getting 30+ minutes a game and he may not even start.

  • Kenny

    Although it depend on how competition at other position plays out, I tend to agree that Morris getting 30+ minutes is a stretch.

  • matt d

    ESPN confirms that Amir visits Michigan on the 5th & OSU on the 12th. I know this kid is definitely a longshot, but as we’ve seen recently, the last visit doesn’t necessarily translate to a committment to that particular school.


  • Section13Row15

    Stu Douglass next please for player profiles! Or Blake McLimans.

  • Bluebufoon

    In the previous two years U-M’s had a scrimmage against Kent State prior to the first exhibition– is there something scheduled this season ?

  • GregGoBlue

    Novak next for player profiles. Not only is there information on him available from the past two seasons to write a suitable profile (vs pure conjecture ie McLimans, THJr, Smot), but this year will be an especially exciting one as he most likely will not be playing out of position for the first time ever.

    Novak continues to be my favorite player on this team. He’s a leader on this team, and I’d love to see a profile highlighting his blue-collar, team-first attitude. It should be an interesting one, Dylan.

  • I would also vote for McLimans. He’s going to be key, and I for one know very little about him.

  • Deacon Blues


    That’s a good point re: defenses overplaying and leaving themselves open for cuts to the basket. I just remember State really getting out on our shooters last season, which seemed to make a lot of sense. Perhaps not every opponent is athletic enough to play it that way.

  • Bluebufoon

    For those questioning the level of competiton Colt Christian had last year, his Alma Mater, Hargrave Military thumped Oak Hill Academy last night in a scrimmage down in Roanoke, Virgina.



  • aMaized