Entering her senior season, Ashley Morris was something of an enigma.
One game she’d look like the player Dawn Staley recruited out of Philadelphia’s Central High, a player who led her team to three consecutive Public League Championships and was named Southeastern Pennsylvania’s Player of the Year.
The next game, well, she wouldn’t.
Marred with those inconsistencies, Morris, a guard, averaged just 3.2 points and 14.4 minutes per game during her first three seasons at Temple. She had more turnovers than assists, shot 35 percent from the field and 63 percent from the foul line. She just couldn’t find a rhythm.
Expecting to be a consistent contributor, those first three seasons were difficult on Morris.
“It was tough, but it wasn’t until I realized why I was sitting there and what I had to learn [to get more playing time],” Morris said. “And it’s now that I see everything and everything’s coming so much easier to me.”
Morris showed just how easy the game was coming to her this season right out of the gate. She scored 15 points and dished out a career-high eight assists in the Owls’ season-opening win over Central Michigan. She then followed that with 21 points in a loss at Georgia and 19 points in a loss at Georgia Tech. In Saturday’s tight loss to North Carolina State, Morris scored a career-high 28 points, more than half her team’s total.
Clearly, this wasn’t the same old Ashley Morris. She was doing things differently and preparing for the game differently. It’s that new approach that has propelled her into one of the team’s go-to players.
“As far as when I step up on the court, I’ve always had the same scoring ability, the same vision on the court,” Morris said. “It’s that I had to take a step back and realize who I was to this basketball team and what I had to do mentally, because in the past I haven’t been ready mentally. I haven’t stepped up and done things I need to do.”
Those improvements come complete with admiration from her coaches and teammates.
“She’s scoring the basketball, she’s scoring the basketball,” Staley said. “She’s giving us something that we don’t have, something that we lost.”
“[Ashley is] our everything,” junior forward Shenita Landry said. “She’s basically like our head and our heart. She runs the team, she [calls] the defense. If you’re down, she’s going to say something to you. If you’re not doing something right, she’s going to let you know.”
But Staley wouldn’t be a good coach if she couldn’t find something about Morris to complain. Considering Staley recruited Morris because she saw a lot of herself in the 5-foot-5 guard, there will always be room for improvement.
“[Ashley’s] size doesn’t help her when we’re in the half-court set,” Staley said. “We have to get the ball to certain people. She can get by people and shoot the ball, but as far as managing the game, that’s an area where she still has to work. She has to score and manage the game, and that’s something that we’re lacking right now.”
While Morris learned long ago that she could never do enough to impress her coach, she is quickly teaching her opponents that even though she is often the smallest player on the court, she’s not going to let that affect her one bit.
“I’m not intimidated by anyone,” Morris said. “I don’t care if they have Duke on their jersey, I don’t care if they have N.C. State on their jersey, I don’t care if I’m at practice and it says Temple on their jersey. It doesn’t matter to me. I’m going to play the same. It’s no different.”
Todd Orodenker can be reached at email@example.com.