The 2012-13 season was something of a wash for Georgia Tech forward Jason Morris. He missed 10 ACC games because of plantar fasciitis and was limited when he returned. The Yellow Jacket with arguably the most explosive leaping ability said he didn’t even throw down one dunk and, worse, realized after the season that his attitude needed a reboot.
This season, Morris has accepted with willingness the role he has been asked to play, which is critical for Tech’s hopes now that forward Robert Carter most likely is sidelined for the rest of the season after knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
“This year, it’s just, Hey, whatever role (coach Brian Gregory) gives me, take it and run with it,” Morris said. “Go out there and play hard.”
Tech will play Notre Dame on Saturday at McCamish Pavilion in the Jackets’ ACC home opener. Without Carter, who suffered his injury Dec. 29 in the final non-conference game, Tech lost its first two ACC games — Saturday at Maryland and Tuesday at Duke. On the fly, Gregory has to find a way to replace Carter’s 26.2 minutes at power forward, along with his 10.5 points and 9.3 rebounds.
Morris, who himself missed the first 10 games of the season after suffering a stress fracture in his left foot, will be counted on to be part of the solution. Tech will ask Morris, 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds, to play shooting guard, small forward and Carter’s power forward spot.
He’ll have to do this as he tries to re-establish his conditioning base and foot strength after being out for about two months. Morris said that when he reaches his limit in testing his foot, “it really feels like the (surgically inserted) screw is stabbing me.”
Gregory said that his expectations for Morris is for him to “keep knocking down open jump shots when he gets them, taking care of the basketball and, again, that versatility, being a senior and understanding every one of those roles.”
Morris has started the past three games, averaging 21 minutes, 4.3 points and 4 rebounds. His ability to attack the rim was on display against Duke, when he took a pass from center Daniel Miller and crammed a dunk over Duke’s Jabari Parker that was featured among the top 10 plays of the day on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”
Morris has Gregory’s green light to take open jump shots, and he can slash to the basket and defend well with his combination of quickness and size. All those qualities will be in demand.
Gregory said Tech’s rotation is evolving as he tries to determine how to best deploy a roster whose strength had been the three-man rotation of big men Kammeon Holsey, Miller and Carter.
“In terms of filling that void, obviously one of the first things off the bat is helping rebound,” Morris said. “With my size, I feel like I can definitely help with that aspect.”
Morris acknowledged that attitude was lacking last year as he also was asked to contribute at power forward.
“I was kind of fighting it at first, like, I don’t want to get stuck at (power forward), blah, blah, blah,” he said. “But this year, (being) older, smarter, you’ve got to run with it, which is just being a better teammate.”
Morris met with Gregory after the season and apologized to teammates. Morris, who has battled injuries since his sophomore season, has the opportunity to bring his career to an emphatic conclusion with his role and playing time expanding.
He’ll need not apologize for that.