Growing up playing in the parks of Hawthorne, Inglewood, Compton and Long Beach, Darius Morris never imagined that one day he’d hear his name called at the NBA Draft with the words “Los Angeles Lakers select” in front of them.
Morris joined us on Friday afternoon while still in New York with his family to detail his background, share his emotions on draft night and what it could be like guarding Kobe Bryant on the first day of training camp:
Q: On when he had his first thought of making the NBA one day:
Morris: Around the time I was 9 or 10 years old I started playing organized basketball with a team in Los Angeles called ABA hoops, and we went to nationals and played against the best team at the time. Team Maryland ended up winning, but we still performed, we were right there. My dad looked at me in the eye one day and told me, you can make it. He’s just always supported me whatever I wanted to do.
Q: On where he grew up in Los Angeles:
Morris: I grew up in Hawthorne, and then Redondo Beach, and then Carson. Then as a freshman in high school I went to Windward. But in those years my dad would drive me to all the inner city places to play: Inglewood, Long Beach, Compton, so I could go against the better competition. My older brother is eight years older than me, and I’d go to the park with him while I was growing up. He’d know where to get a good game. By the time I was in middle school I started playing in gyms, while also playing AAU ball, so there was always good competition. Often when my dad drove me it was to league games, and my brother would take me to the park. A few courts we’d go to were St. Andrews in L.A., and Derby Park in Inglewood. Those are places where you know you have to perform.
Q: On the impact of his parents: My mom definitely emphasized education, that’s why we went to the neighborhoods that we did, like Redondo Beach, and my high school. My mom wanted me to go to a private school. We were blessed with an 80 or 90 percent scholarship but my parents both worked very, very hard. My dad is a supervisor at the post office in Marina del Rey, and my mom is a manager at public housing in Inglewood.
Q: On his experience at Windward, a private school just off where the 405 meets the 10 freeway, leading to his going to the University of Michigan:
Morris: I was used to going to public school, so it was an adjustment to go to Windward. When I first went there, everyone was saying I wasn’t going to be recruited because it was a small private school. But by the end of the senior year I became the best point guard in Cali, and went on to win a state championship. Then I got recruited to Michigan, and I felt like I could be part of something special there.
Q: On being drafted by the Lakers:
Morris: It was emotional … it was an honor. My dad, mom and brother, and agent were all there. It was crazy going to the Lakers. We used to watch them play all the time. After MJ left the Bulls I didn’t have a favorite team, but the Lakers were in my back yard and I was able to watch them a lot. I think Kobe’s the greatest player in the world.
Q: On potentially defending Kobe on the first day of training camp:
Morris: That’s going to be crazy. I was thinking about guarding (Derek) Fisher and (Steve) Blake, hadn’t really thought about guarding Kobe, but I’m not intimidated, I’m excited. I believe I can play with anybody, and I give anybody their props.
Q: On if the Lakers needing some guards to come in and earn minutes makes the situation more appealing than a team already full of young guards:
Morris: Yeah, definitely. People might think I’m a 41st pick, a second rounder, so I won’t be playing, but I think this is the best situation for me to both develop as a player and have an opportunity to contribute.
Q: On what he’s like on a personal level:
Morris: I’m funny and smart once you get to know me. I mostly just like to hang out with the family.
On his top five artists to listen to:
1) Big Shine, 2) Fabolous, 3) Joe Budden, 4) Jag (new from artist from L.A.) 5) Trey Songz