The first time Tim Morris and Trent Johnson spoke last year, after Morris left Johnson's Stanford squad to transfer to Washington, the coach...
The first time Tim Morris and Trent Johnson spoke last year, after Morris left Johnson’s Stanford squad to transfer to Washington, the coach had just one question:
“Are you happy?”
Yes, said Morris, in a conversation before the teams played in Seattle.
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“That’s all that matters,” Johnson said.
So when Morris plays for the first time against his old team (he sat out last season due to transfer rules) on Thursday night at Edmundson Pavilion, it won’t be about payback or proving anything to anyone. Instead, it’ll simply be playing a game against some old friends, hoping to get a win for his new ones.
“It’s not really feeling revengeful, but excited,” Morris said. “I know a lot of the guys there, so it’s going to be fun.”
Morris, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound guard, spent three years at Stanford, two playing for Johnson, who took over for Mike Montgomery as coach after the 2003-04 season.
He left after the 2005-06 season feeling the Stanford style wasn’t really the right fit for his skills.
“It’s more of a set system versus here [where] we get up and down a little bit, there’s more freedom offensively and defensively,” Morris said. “I like our defensive style here. It’s more in-your-face pressure vs. packed-in defense.”
Stanford guard Mitch Johnson, the former O’Dea High standout, played alongside Morris for one season and said the Cardinal players will greet their former teammate as an old friend.
“He just told us it was ‘something I have to do,’ ” Johnson said. “You have to respect someone like that because if someone doesn’t want to be there, then it’s not going to work out for either party. “
Once he decided to leave, Morris initially considered schools like Georgia and Georgia Tech, each near his native Atlanta, and Notre Dame. But when none worked out, Morris finally turned to UW and Lorenzo Romar, referred to in the Huskies media guide as his second cousin — Romar’s mother is Morris’ grandfather’s sister. The family has always been close — Romar noting he has a picture of Morris with his daughters when he was 2.
Given all of that, Morris says he thinks this is where he was always meant to be.
If he and Romar had read each other better five years ago, he might have been here all along. Romar says because of their relationship he didn’t want to push Morris too hard and force him into making an uncomfortable decision. Morris was unsure how to let Romar know he would have been happy to come.
“We both were acting kind of funny, not wanting to cross a certain border,” Morris said. If Romar had recruited him hard, he says, “there’s a good chance” he would have come to UW out of high school (Whitefield Academy in Atlanta).
He doesn’t have long to make up for lost time. After sitting out last season as a redshirt, he is now a fifth-year senior.
But after some early fits and starts — he was scoreless in two of UW’s first seven games — he became a starter and is the team’s third-leading scorer in Pac-10 games at 8.4 and also third in rebounds (4.0) and assists (2.3). He averaged 7.4 points his first season (as a redshirt freshman) at Stanford but dropped to 5.0 his second season.
“I feel really comfortable playing here,” he said. “I wish I had a couple more years to play.”
His former teammates have noticed the difference.
“He looks like he fits in real well,” said Mitch Johnson. “He looks real confident, like he’s playing real, real aggressive and making a lot of plays.”
What Morris is hoping for Thursday is to come out on the right end of a Stanford-UW game at Hec Ed for once. Stanford has lost five in a row here, and Morris missed a layin in the final minutes of a game in 2005 that might have proven the difference for the Cardinal, saying Nate Robinson got in his way and “messed me up just enough.”
Washington won 76-73, a year the Huskies went to the Sweet 16.
Stanford comes in this season as the team appearing a sure thing for the NCAA tournament — the Cardinal is 16-3 — while UW (at 12-8) needs some victories fast to stay in the hunt.
But Morris isn’t looking back.
“I’m happy with my decision,” he said. “It will be a big win for us, too, if we beat them.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org