By Seth Rubinroit (Reporting from Newark, New Jersey)
Growing up in Los Angeles, Darius Morris rooted for the Los Angeles Lakers dynasty featuring Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, and then saw the Lakers win two more NBA Championships with Bryant and Pau Gasol.
“I witnessed [the Lakers] do some great things,” Morris said.
When the Lakers announced that they picked Morris with the 41st pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, he had to gather himself before walking onto the stage at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
“Never in a million years did I think I was going to get to play for [the Lakers],” Morris said. “Watching them in championships, and now to be with them…it really is a dream come true.”
Morris fills a need for the Lakers. At 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, Morris is expected to provide an athletic complement to Derek Fisher, who will be 37 years old when the NBA season is scheduled to begin.
“Fisher is a great player, and has always produced in his career,” Morris said. “I’m a little bit taller than him, and should provide a different look.”
Morris established himself as a winner at Windward High School, helping his school win the state title in 2009.
He then decided to attend the University of Michigan. As a freshman, he earned the team’s Defensive Player Award. The next year, he blossomed as an offensive threat, averaging 15 points, 4 rebounds, and 6.7 assists per game. More importantly, he had the opportunity to prevail when faced with the challenges of living on his own in an unfamiliar setting.
“Going away, I learned how to be a man, and really overcome adversity when it was thrown at me,” Morris said. “Now I am ready.”
As a second round pick, Morris does not have a guaranteed contract. He knows that while Fisher and Steve Blake are still productive, his opportunities to play will be limited, especially if Shannon Brown does not opt out of his contract for next season. Nevertheless, Morris vowed to work hard and do everything he can to improve.
“I cannot wait to learn from [my Lakers teammates],” Morris said. “The will provide a lot of wisdom, and I am ready to soak it in.”