Morsell’s on-the-job training is challenging after being thrust into action

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Virginia’s Casey Morsell is well-defended as he attempts a game-winning three-pointer in the final seconds against NC State (Photo by John Markon).

Under normal circumstances, Casey Morsell could have spent most of his freshman season at Virginia gradually breaking into college basketball. Nothing has been normal about this season.

The original plan was that both Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy would return and Morsell would have learned the ropes from both those two guards in addition to Kihei Clark. When both Jerome and Guy left a year early, those plans went out the window.

Morsell has been thrust into action from the get-go in his on-the-job training. Arriving at UVA as a celebrated guard from the D.C. metro, the 6-foot-3, 195-pound guard has experienced more downs than ups, but he embraces the challenge.

He has played in all 18 of UVA’s games, and started two-thirds, gaining valuable playing time and lessons learned. His shot hasn’t really come around, and that is bound to shake his confidence a bit.

As of this week, Morsell is shooting around 25 percent from the field and only 15 percent from the 3-point line. However, there are games where he will break out of his shooting slump, such as last Saturday night when he connected on 4 of 9 shots from the field and hit one of three 3-point tries for nine points.

It was the third time this season where he has put up some noteworthy points, including 10 against Navy and a team-high 19 in UVA’s comeback against Arizona State earlier this season.

Morsell talked about his scoring frustrations after UVA’s loss to NC State last Saturday. He managed to get off a desperation heave from behind the arc on the last play of the game but the shot — defended by two Wolfpack players — fell woefully short at the buzzer.

“There has definitely been some frustrating moments, especially when your shot’s not falling, and especially when you work on it time and time again, and get into a game and it doesn’t go your way,” Morsell said. “I want to become more of an offensive threat, which I feel like will make our team better.

“Me not being a scoring threat kind of puts our offense in a hole. I’ve got to get going in order for us to be more effective.”

Virginia is begging for one of its new faces to make a difference offensively. On a team that is struggling to score — the Cavaliers are the only team in Division-I basketball yet to post more than 65 points in a game this season — anyone who can consistently put up points is a welcomed relief.

Some opponents have somewhat disrespected Morsell’s shooting ability by sagging off against him, essentially daring him to shoot. The rookie is hoping to improve his shot to the point where he will make them pay for the mistake.

“Some teams [sag], but when they do, I don’t lose confidence,” Morsell said. “I’m going to let it go.”

Meanwhile, he hopes to exploit another avenue.

“The baseline drives are there, especially with a screen. I’m looking for that fake and baseline drive. It’s there a lot.”

NC State certainly didn’t sag off of Morsell at the end of Saturday’s tight ACC game. The Wolfpack, protecting a 53-51 lead in the waning moments, saw Morsell with the ball in his hands on the last play. Two State defenders rushed toward Morsell at the 3-point line as he heaved up a shot that didn’t find the mark.

All Virginia needed was a two-point bucket to tie the game and send it to overtime. Morsell was aware of that situation but couldn’t find point guard Kihei Clark at the end.

“I was trying to get it to Kihei quick,” the freshman said. “I didn’t see him quick enough and then I realized that time was running down, so I couldn’t pass. There wasn’t that much time to make a play. I kind of tried to get downhill but they built a defense, which forced me to go opposite wing and time was ticking so I had to let it go.”

While some fans and teammates thought Morsell was fouled on that last shot, Bennett did not.

“Casey didn’t get fouled,” the coach said. “I was watching the replay when I was shaking hands and he didn’t get fouled. If you got the ball and you got an alley, attack at the rim and if you can’t, try to find an open shot.

“Know the score and get to the rim if you can get to the rim. It was a little bit scrambled and we didn’t have any timeouts left.”

While Morsell was not successful at the end, Bennett still pointed out his contributions for the game and noted how the freshman gave the team a lift.

“Tonight was a step in the right direction, offensively,” Morsell said of his progress. “I try to make the team better by giving them a boost on the defensive end. It is my defense that gets me going and I feel that I need to do that more often.”

Comments

  1. Frank says:

    Love that kid. His work ethic, as well as his embrace of what is required as a Cavalier, is second to none. All of this is going to pay off in the long run.

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