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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Friday / February 22.
  • Jersey Rookies Playing Key Roles for KU; Hazell, Samuels Honored by Big East

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    When defending national champion Kansas takes on 2003 NCAA champ Syracuse tonight in the final of the O’Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic on ESPN2 (10 o’clock), look for a couple of rookies with New Jersey ties to play a key role.

    Freshman Marcus Morris, a Philly native who played at Apex Academies in Cherry Hill, N.J., and former St. Anthony of Jersey City star Tyshawn Taylor both started in KU’s 73-54 rout of Washington last night.

    The 6-foot-8 Morris finished with 13 points, canning 6-of-9 shots from the field. The 6-3 Taylor tallied a career-best 10 points, including a lay-up at the buzzer to give KU its 32-22 lead at the break.

    “Tyshawn is unbelievably fast with the ball,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “He could be a terrific defender. Needs to become a better anticipater defensively and create a little bit more havoc to utilize his athletic ability, but his athletic ability at the guard slot is about as good as I’ve ever had from a raw speed standpoint and able to change directions and change speeds and be full speed. I mean, he’s a talented guy. He can be a little careless, and we’ve gotta tighten that up. There’s no doubt about that.

    “And of course, Marcus is a very, very skilled four man right now that can play the three. He’s a three man that’s playing the four because that’s what’s best for our team. And it’s probably best for him right now to be a bad matchup four. But at his height, he has guard-type talent. The thing that he’s gotta get better at is just understanding the competitive nature of the game, going after loose balls, going after rebounds, every single possession because he’s got a skill set that I really believe that few freshmen in the country have.”

    Markieff Morris, Marcus’ twin brother, and former St. Patrick of Elizabeth standout Quintrell Thomas also saw time against Washington, combining for 4 points and 7 rebounds.

    “I think they’re all good players,” Kansas coach Bill Self said recently. “Quintrell is from St. Pat’s, so we kind of got a little bit of East Coast flavor with us right now. And Quintrell started a game for us, so those guys have all come in and done a nice job.

    “My biggest concern with our young guys is just the day to day getting a little bit better each day, and I think focus and concentration has so much to do with it. They try hard and they really feel like they’re putting everything into it. But when you’re competing at the highest level, one or two possessions is the difference between winning and losing.

    “I do think those three will impact this program in a big way their freshmen year, and I also believe Quintrell and Travis Releford will impact it also.”

    Self also hopes another New Jersey star, senior wing Dominic Cheek of St. Anthony, will join the parade next year.

    Taylor’s former teammate, Cheek has taken officials to Kansas, Villanova, Memphis and Rutgers and will visit Pitt beginning today.

    With Xavier Henry having chosen Memphis, Kansas desperately needs a wing in 2009…and Cheek could fit that bill while adding to the Jersey quotient on the roster.


    Speaking of New Jersey, Seton Hall sophomore guard JEremy Hazell and Louisville freshman forward Samardo Samuels of St. Benedict’s Prep were honored by the Big East.

    Hazell was named Big East Player of the Week and Samuels Big East Rookie of the Week.

    Also, former Queens Holy Cross star Sylven Landesberg was named ACC Rookie of the Week. He is the first Virginia freshman in history to score at least 20 points in each of his first three games.

    (Photos courtesy and KU athletics)

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.