AMES, Iowa — Iowa State’s Monte Morris showed so much promise as a freshman that it looked like he might become one of the nation’s best point guards someday.
That day has arrived.
Morris has forced his way into the discussion about the country’s top floor generals with a brilliant start to his sophomore season.
Morris has 56 assists against just nine turnovers through 10 games — a pace that tops the national assist-to-turnover ratio mark Morris set last season. He’s also averaging 11.3 points per game on 50.6 percent shooting.
“The kid plays with an unbelievable amount of swagger. He gets his teammates involved. He does whatever it takes to win basketball games, and he’s a two-way player. It’s just such a luxury to have that guy running your offense because you know he’s going to make plays,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said as the ninth-ranked Cyclones (9-1) prepared to play host to Mississippi Valley State on Wednesday.
Though Morris was a consensus top-100 recruit with a host of high-major offers, Iowa State wasn’t planning on leaning heavily on him as a freshman. But he developed so quickly that by the end of last January, Hoiberg had Morris playing alongside first-team All-Big 12 pick DeAndre Kane, who was also a natural point guard.
Morris set a new NCAA record with nearly five assists for every turnover in 2013-14.
But Kane’s departure meant that Morris would be the lynchpin for Iowa State’s aggressive offense in 2014-15. With the ball in his hands more than ever, the turnovers figured to spike as well.
Morris has instead proven to be one of the nation’s most efficient point guards.
Morris hasn’t had more than two turnovers in a game all year, despite playing a team-high 32.8 minutes per outing. Morris has nearly twice as many steals as giveaways, and in back-to-back wins against Georgia State and Alabama he had 21 assists without a turnover.
“I feel like I’m more active,” Morris said. “Knowing what to expect night in and night out, and knowing how the game is going to go [has been key]. We know some teams are going to have runs here or there. I know we’re going to have a run. So I just try to stay composed.”
Though Morris is just fifth on the Cyclones in scoring, he’s averaging nearly five points more per game than he did as a freshman. Many of those points have come on drives to the basket, as Morris has become more creative and forceful in the paint.
Morris put on close to 10 pounds while adding some muscle in the offseason, and he believes it’s helped him become better at attacking the rim. Morris is 33 of 55 on two-point shots so far.
“I feel like I’m a threat going in there now instead of last year, when I was getting hit and couldn’t finish,” Morris said.
Perhaps the best indicator of Morris’s growth is the overall success of Iowa State’s offense.
Under his guidance, the Cyclones are 10th in the country with 84.6 points per game — and one of just six teams to shoot at least 50 percent from the field and average at least 80 points.
“He really has proven that he can do without DeAndre. I mean, we’ve all known that in this circle. I really do think he’s the best point guard in the country, and I’m blessed enough to play alongside him,” forward Georges Niang said.