Nets backup point guard Darius Morris has yet to make much of an impact in Brooklyn, but he does have "one shining moment" that he can fall back on, when he nearly hit "the shot" against the Duke Blue Devils while playing for Michigan in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. A moment that could have turned Morris into a hero, possibly even a legend in the state of Michigan.
In 2011, Duke was the No. 1 seed and the Morris-led Wolverines were the No. 8 seed. The two teams met in the Round of 32, with Michigan having beaten Tennessee in the first round.
The two teams battled in the late seconds of the game, with Duke carrying a 73-71 lead. Morris rebounded the ball off a missed free throw, went the length of the floor and missed what was, ultimately, a wide open floater that would have tied the game. Sure, that wouldn't have cemented a win, but, man, Morris would have had his Wolverines that much closer to playing the role of Cinderella in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
It was awful. I left like I let my team down. I knew I was a big part of our comeback, but as a competitor, especially against a No. 1 seed like Duke in the NCAA Tournament, missing a shot like that hurts.
I’ll never forget that shot. I still use it for motivation. I’ve hit a lot of big shots, but that would have been the biggest shot of my life. It just didn’t drop. I’ve spent a long time thinking what would have happened had that shot gone in.
After the game, Coach K said in his press conference that I was one of the best point guards in the nation. To have a coach of his caliber acknowledge me — an opposing player — in that way was a classy gesture, and that gave me the confidence that although I may have missed an opportunity, many more would come my way.
I don’t mind talking about that shot. The beauty of March Madness is that you create memories. Even though most of the key players from that game, including me, are in the NBA now, we still talk about that play. When I see a Duke player like Kyrie Irving, Ryan Kelly or even Mason Plumlee, who’s now my teammate in Brooklyn, we re-live that moment. They all tell me they thought it was going in.
It didn't go in, but that didn't keep Morris from trying to make right. And here we are, today, with Morris in the NBA and on the morning of the unofficial-official start of the 2015 NCAA Tournament, and Morris can talk about the shot, but not as a failure, but as motivation to "do better."
Keep at it, DM.
- Back On the Map - Darius Morris - The Players' Tribune