Morris and Badgers fall to Western
The on again, off again university basketball career of Jess Morris is definitely on this season.
Playing for the Brock Badgers women’s basketball program, the 23-year-old Guelph native was averaging 33.2 minutes, 14 points and 6.0 rebounds per game heading into action Wednesday.
The 5-foot-8 guard/forward played one year of Ontario University Athletics hoops at Guelph, sat out a year to transfer to Brock, played one year at Brock and then sat out another year before joining Brock again in time for the 2018-19 season.
“It’s two years in a row this time,” she said, with a laugh.
The therapeutic recreation and leisure student, who has applied to study occupational therapy and a masters in health science, sat out at Brock because of differences with the then-head coach.
“Myself and six other teammates all decided to step away from the team that year,” she said. “It just wasn’t a good environment for us so we decided to leave.”
Mike Rao becoming head coach last season was a breath of fresh air for Morris and others.
“He’s exactly what I needed for a coach in my university career and I am so grateful that I finally got one,” she said.
Rao was the perfect fit for her.
“It’s a mutual respect thing. He treats us with respect and we give it right back to him,” she said. “He never makes things personal. Basketball is basketball and what happens on the court, stays on the court.”
Morris also loves that Rao stresses that every player on the team has to be a threat to score.
“He has instilled a lot of confidence in myself that I haven’t had since high school,” she said. “University is a very different game than high school and coming out of high school when I was 17 and joining the OUA was really scary.”
Morris didn’t feel she had the requisite support from coaches and her teammates as a rookie.
“With Rao, and my teammates as well, they have instilled so much confidence in me and I feel we are all able to share the ball efficiently and we are all not afraid to take shots when we are out there.”
Morris’ game has developed from a season ago.
“Last year I was first off the bench and still played a significant amount of minutes, probably between 25 and 30 most games but I didn’t have the confidence I have this year,” she said. “It took me a year with Rao for him to get to know me and for me to know him better. This year, it has really clicked together and worked really well.”
Despite missing a lot of the summer workouts because she had a summer internship in Toronto, Morris sensed that cohesion as soon as she hit the floor this season.
“Taking a step away helped me feel more confident going back because it was a clean slate for me and being an older player on the team it gave me more confidence as well,” she said. “I came back with confidence that I didn’t have in previous years.”
Morris is thrilled to be playing on a 10-3 team that believes it has a legitimate shot to make the national championships. Last year, Brook won its first playoff game under Rao and then almost upset eventual national champion McMaster in the next round
“It’s amazing, honestly,” Morris said. “I never really expected to say a title was a goal in my university career because it was more of an experience for me. Having this great experience and also a chance to pursue a title is really awesome.”
Wednesday night against the visiting Western Mustangs, Morris had seven points and five rebounds as the Badgers dropped a 65-58 decision.
“Jess is a great player,” Brock head coach Mike Rao said. “She played hard, she boards for us, she defends. She hit a couple of shots today but she’s usually a better shooter.”
Brock had plenty of chances to win the game in its dying stages but didn’t get it done.
“We didn’t execute well enough and the ball stuck a lot of the time,” Rao said. “We didn’t have enough player movement and we didn’t have enough ball movement.”
Brock was also hurt by untimely turnovers and a lack of defensive rebounding in key moments of the game.
“They had too many second chances and our bigs didn’t play big,” he said. “Sam (Keltos) kinda did and Kristen (Gallant) did but we need everybody.”
Mustangs 65 Badgers 58
BPSN Player of the Game: Brock’s Missy Tatti with 20 points.
For the Brock Badgers: Tatti 20; Jenneke Pilling 14; Sam Keltos 11; Jess Morris 7
For the Western Mustangs: Maddy Horst 20; Julia Curran 15; Rachel Fradgley 12
Game stats: Field goal percentage: Brock 33.8, Western 36.4. Free throws: Brock 8-12, Western 4-4. Rebounds: Brock 43, Western 50. Turnovers: Brock 17, Western 14.
Up next: Brock hosts Windsor Saturday at 6 p.m.