Monté Morris leaves legacy as he moves onto his next chapter

Monte Morris has the ball stripped away from him while driving through the lane against Purdue in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on March 19, 2017, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Iowa State fell to the Boilermakers 80-76, ending its season.

Luke Manderfeld

MILWAUKEE — The Cyclones didn’t just see the end of four of their most illustrious seniors’ career Saturday night. They said goodbye to perhaps the greatest point guard in program history. 

Monté Morris, Iowa State’s all-time assists and steals record holder, will likely see his jersey hang in the Hilton Coliseum rafters when all is said and done. 

His number, along with Cyclone legend Georges Niang, who graduated last season and will likely have his number retired as well, will serve a constant reminder of the best era the program has ever seen.

After No. 5 Iowa State’s comeback fell short to No. 4 Purdue on Saturday night in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the Bradley Center, Morris seemed content. While fellow seniors Naz Mitrou-Long and Matt Thomas shed tears in the locker room, Morris was even-keeled, answering questions with the same confidence he shows when dishing a pass to an open shooter in the corner.

“You can do all the crying you want, and I had a few tears, but it was a hell of a career here for me and these seniors,” Morris said. “So it’s nothing to hold your head down for.”

Morris headed a senior trio that became the winningest class in Iowa State history. He won 100 games in a cardinal and gold jersey and shattered the NCAA record for career assist-to-turnover ratio with a 4.65 mark. He earned All-Big 12 First Team honors in his final season. 

“With all respect to Jamaal Tinsley and [Jeff] Hornacek, [Morris is] probably the best point guard ever to come through this school,” coach Steve Prohm said.  

Morris weathered the storm through a coaching change that saw Prohm, who coached two current NBA point guards at Murray State, take over the program from Fred Hoiberg — the man who signed Morris.

Morris, along with Niang, Mitrou-Long and Thomas, helped smooth the transition for Prohm, who never really felt comfortable until the start of the 2016-17 season.

After just two seasons with each other, Prohm and Morris’ relationship has morphed into a a special bond between a point guard and a coach.

“I’ll miss him a lot,” Prohm said, his voice wavering. “I have an infatuation with point guards. Just the kid that he is. How good he is with him son [Cass] … Monte is — he’s a great representative for this school.

“I didn’t know him at all two years ago. Now I can honestly say that I love him to death and I hope he feels the same about me.”

Morris has also created a relationship with the next generation of players. Donovan Jackson, who is Morris’ roommate, will be the face of the Cyclones next season. 

While Jackson is more of a shooting point guard, he has been under the tutelage of Morris, an expert ball handler, for the entire season. Jackson originally planned to redshirt because of the lack of playing time he was facing. 

Now he’s glad he played, even though it was off the bench. 

“My mindset is totally different,” Jackson said. “Because Monte Morris — he taught me everything. I’m going to use what he gave me, and all of the other seniors, and I’m going to be ready for next year. Trust me.”

Morris almost left for the NBA Draft last season but returned for his senior season, much to the surprise to some of his teammates. His shoulder injury, which hampered him during the final stretch of the 2015-16 season, kept him out of draft preparations.

He never complained about returning. Even when the Cyclones lost to an underwhelming Iowa team in December. Even when Iowa State fell to 13-8 overall and 4-4 in the Big 12 to close out January.

“He never once said, ‘Man, I should have gone pro,’” Prohm said. “Not one time. Not one time. And we went to the Sweet 16 together and we won a Big 12 Tournament title together.

“He says, ‘Hey, coach, we need to figure this thing out. What do we need to do to get it on track?’”

Now that his collegiate career is over, Morris’ NBA aspirations will start to come to fruition in the next few months leading up to the draft in June.

Prohm said Morris will return home for a few days and return to graduate in May. Morris will start the process of picking an agent and preparing for the NBA Draft Combine in May in Chicago.

While Morris’ draft stock isn’t eye popping — he’s projected to go 42nd overall to the Charlotte Hornets by — his ability to handle the ball should give him a good chance to break into the NBA over the next few years.

Perhaps then Prohm will have to add another player to his NBA watch list of Isaiah Canaan and Cameron Payne — two Murray State alumni under Prohm.

“[There’s a] lot more basketball for [Morris],” Prohm said. “I’ll probably watch him on TV for the next 10 to 12 years.”