As the final seconds ticked off the clock during Michigan’s third-round NCAA Tournament loss to Duke, Darius Morris took a shot that he’s made countless times before. He had made it earlier in the game. It was a shot that, according to him, he normally always makes.
“I got a good look and the shot went out,” says Morris of his last shot attempt in a Michigan uniform. “Everybody thought the shot was falling in, especially me. And when it didn’t, it just was a crazy feeling.”
It was a feeling that left Morris in a tricky position. The star point guard had a decision to make: stay at school, or leave early for the NBA? He ultimately chose to pursue his lifelong dream.
But for Morris, the decision was far from easy.
“After the way I lost that game, my mindset was to work harder so next year I could help Michigan and the team out even more,” says Morris. “But over time I started to evaluate my situation.
“It was very hard. I liked going to school. I like the atmosphere. Had a great relationship with my coach and my teammates so it was a very, very tough decision. I made the decision to pursue my dream and everybody understood. I feel really confident in my decision.”
Morris’ choice now has him preparing nonstop for the upcoming draft. His days are packed with workouts and traveling. He’s flying all across the country and sleeping in different cities and time zones. It’s a process, but one that will eventually lead to Morris hearing his name called on Draft Day.
If there’s one advantage Morris says that he has over other potential draftees, it’s his experience as a true point guard. There aren’t a lot of others like him in the draft.
“I’ve played the point guard position all my life,” says Morris. “And I think that’s one of the advantages that I have. It’s definitely a skill that I take pride in and that I can offer to teams.”
The one player who Morris compares himself to the most is Deron Williams. Both have the ability to make those around them better, says Morris. The position isn’t just about running the team and passing the ball, he says. You have to be a good leader, too.
And Morris plans on being that kind of leader for whichever team drafts him. The guard will play for any team. Growing up, he didn’t have a team he idolized, except for Michael Jordan‘s run with the Bulls.
“I’m wide open,” says Morris. “Whoever picks me, I’ll become their biggest fan.”
But with the possibility of an NBA lockout looming, Morris may have to settle for being just that – a fan. If a CBA can’t be reached, then there’s no summer league and fewer chances for rookies to hone their skills.
But a potential lockout doesn’t concern Morris.
“It would have an impact on all the rookies in terms of their development,” says Morris. “We might not develop as fast as we would have if we were able to benefit from coaching right away. But I’m not scared or worried. I have confidence that if there was a lockout that they would overcome it and we’d be playing basketball again.”
But those are all what-ifs. Right now, Morris is focused on the draft. And he’s getting advice from last year’s top pick – John Wall.
The two have been good friends ever since they played against each other in AAU ball. Wall’s team won, but Morris says he played really well.
“Ever since then we’ve kind of established a friendship,” says Morris.
Wall’s situation last year was different than Morris’ this year, but they still both had to go through the draft process. Morris also gets advice from former Wolverine Manny Harris, who wasn’t drafted last year but made the Cavaliers.
Morris says both Wall and Harris have given him their input on the process so Morris can be in the best possible situation.
“The main thing is just to control what you can control and that’s just going in there in the workouts and working hard, and whatever happens, happens,” says Morris.
He credits his coaches to helping prepare him for the next level. Looking back, Morris has countless amounts of good memories from his two years at Michigan.
“The best memory for me is just growing up and everything that I encountered,” says Morris. “When I look back on college, it’s a process of how when I first went in there to how I am now, both on and off the court.”
Now, two-and-a-half months since that last shot, all he can do is work as hard as he can to impress teams. Morris says he’ll be ready for whichever team calls his name.
Come Thursday, he doesn’t have high expectations. He just wants to be drafted as soon as possible. There’s really only one expectation he has.
“On that day, one thing that I expect,” says Morris, “is that my dream will come true. To play in the NBA.”
Follow Rachel on Twitter at @racmar.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.