Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Randolph Morris' Unique Journey to the NBA

After the 2005 college basketball season, Kentucky center Randolph Morris declared himself eligible for the NBA draft. From the start, it was widely determined that he was making a bad decision. Morris struggled defensively and was inconsistent on offense in his freshman year. He decided not to sign with an agent and ended up not being selected in the 2005-06 draft. After not being drafted, Morris returned to Kentucky for his sophomore and junior seasons under Tubby Smith.

Because of his status as an undrafted player, Morris was able to become an unrestricted free agent and sign with any team. Unlike most undrafted players, however, Morris had not signed with an agent. Morris chose to return to Kentucky after his freshman season and played another two seasons. Since he had already been in the draft once, he was unable to be drafted in the NBA again. Morris was suspended for fourteen games during his sophomore season because in the eyes of the NCAA, he had an agent working on his behalf. The proof of this for the NCAA was that because he did not pay all his own expenses associated with working out for NBA teams.

Over the next two seasons, Morris was one of the top players in the SEC and became a legitimate NBA draft pick. He averaged nearly a double-double last year and played well in some key games.

After his junior season at Kentucky, head coach Tubby Smith left for Minnesota. Shortly after, Morris decided to leave Kentucky and pursue an NBA contract. Morris signed a two year deal worth $1,600,000 with the New York Knicks. A majority of his salary he received during his first NBA season and Morris will make $810,000 this season. Morris’ salary is on par with what the 26th pick received in the 2006 draft and what the 30th pick will sign for in from this years draft.

Morris is a 6'11", 250 pound center, who has shown in the past some crafty moves around the basket. He has several solid post moves including a drop step, a nice spin, and some good jump hooks. Morris’ biggest weaknesses are on the defensive end. He needs to become a better shot blocker and more of a defensive stopper. Additionally, he needs to work on his mid-range jump shot. Morris possess good hands but struggles to put the ball on the floor.

In the end, Morris was lucky to not be drafted in 2005. If he had been a late second round pick, his college career would have been over. He most likely would have signed an rookie minimum contract and end up playing in the NBDL or overseas. Instead, Morris is guaranteed to at least make $1,500,000 and could have a future in the NBA.

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