Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Row and Gilchrest: ISU's Dynamic Duo

The best thing about Idaho State's overtime victory over Portland State Saturday night was the grin from one Amorrow Morgan ear to the other. Row (right) had just put up 30 points on the Vikings in front of his mom and sisters, who came from Memphis for the weekend to watch him play. A polite, humble young man Row was brimming with joy at the Bengals' sweep of Eastern Washington and PSU, and the fact his family was able to witness it in person.

Amorrow, whose father passed away just about a year ago, is truly one of the good people to come through the Idaho State basketball program, and he's having one of the greatest senior seasons in the last 30 years of Bengal basketball. Things started off rough for Morgan and the Bengals this year, and a lot of folks (Coach O'Brien and this blog, included) have pointed to Row as the player who was going to have to lead his teammates out of the doldrums. Boy has he responded.

After half a Big Sky Conference season (eight games), Morgan leads in scoring (22.9) and three-point shooting (68 percent), ranks sixth in field goal percentage (53 percent) and eleventh in rebounding (5.1). Should his league scoring average hold up, it would be the best by a Bengal since Lawrence Butler, who led the nation in scoring, averaged 31 points a game in the Big Sky during the 1978-79 season.

And as Morgan has exploded, so too has his fellow backcourt mate and Memphian, point guard Broderick Gilchrest. The junior college transfer is fifth in the league in scoring in conference games only (16.8), third in assists (3.6), second in three-pointers made per game (2.8), tied for first in steals (2.5), sixth in three-point percentage (48 percent), and 15th in field goal percentage (49.5 percent).

ISU's dynamic duo is averaging almost 40 points a game in league play (39.7), the best one-two punch in the Big Sky by far (Weber State's Damian Lilliard and Franklin Session are second at 34.9). If Morgan and Gilchrest can sustain those numbers, they will be the best one-two scoring figures in league play for ISU over the last seven seasons, better even than the Marquis Poole-Scott Henry inside-outside combo who averaged 37.7 points in league play in the 2003-04 season.

Watching these two blossom in recent weeks has been pure joy. Gilchrest capped his emergence with a big steal and a thunder dunk Saturday night, right after it looked like PSU had snatched the momentum with a controversial non-call and a technical foul against O'Brien. The Reed Gym crowd was already in a frenzy over the officiating and PSU had rallied to claim the lead when Gilchrest swooped in, stole the in-bounds pass near half-court and followed with a throw-down, sparking a Bengal rally. ISU lists Broderick at 6-foot-1, but O'Brien says he's really closer to 5-11, making the dunk all the more dramatic.

Both Gilchrest and Morgan have shown they could score from the get-go this year, but what has really made them unguardable has been their recent emergence as three-point shooters. Morgan shot only 27 percent, Gilchrest just 26 percent from the arc in non-league play; in the Big Sky, Morgan has elevated his shooting percentage 41 points, Gilchrest 22 points. Both already had great ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the glass. Now, defenders have to close out hard on them or risk their draining a three.

The Big Sky season is only half over and we know league coaches will be watching plenty of video and devising new schemes to slow down the dynamic duo. The law of averages surely will play a role, as well; nobody expects Morgan to finish the conference season at 68 percent from three-point range. And the heavy workload (Morgan is averaging 39.8 minutes a game in league play, Gilchrest just 39 -- slacker!) could eventually get to them.

So Chron Tatum and Austin Kilpatrick will have to continue their recent offensive productivity, and hopefully Demetrius Monroe, Donnie Carson and Sherrod Baldwin will provide more consistent contributions. In the end, however, it will be the dynamic duo of Gilchrest and Morgan who will carry this team on their shoulders. It will be fun to see how far they get.

The Next Amorrow Morgan?

The Bengals will return five scholarship perimeter players next year if all goes according to plan: Gilchrest, Baldwin, senior-to-be Mike Lacey, redshirt freshman Eric Segert and Phyllip Taylor, who is sitting out this year while trying to get his grades in order. But the player most likely to become the next Amorrow Morgan, at least eventually, may still be playing high school basketball in Arizona.

The Bengals inked 6-4 wing man Andre' Hatchett during the early signing period in November, and he is having a very nice senior season. Hatchett was named to the all-tournament team of the prestigious Arrowhead Desert Classic in Glendale at the beginning of this season. He's averaged over 20 points a game over his last four games of the season, even while having to share the ball with Terrell Stoglin, Tucson's all-time leading scorer and an early signee with the University of Maryland.

O'Brien said on our coaches' show Monday night that Hatchett reminds him a lot of Morgan, who came to ISU out of prep school. They are similar height and weight, and Hatchett is confident putting the ball on the floor and attacking the basket, which has always been Morgan's biggest strength. Like Morgan, Hatchett is playing a lot of small forward in high school, so there will be an adjustment period for him learning to play the two guard and expanding his shooting range at the college level. But if Hatchett has the work ethic of other recent Bengal two-guards -- Logan Kinghorn, David Schroeder, Matt Stucki and Morgan -- he should contribute early, and be an all-conference quality player by the end of his Bengal career.

With center David Busma expected to be granted a medical redshirt for this season and return next year, O'Brien will have to sign six players this spring, and he only has seven campus visits left to offer under NCAA rules. He's going to have to be very judicious about who he brings on campus, and may even have to convince a player or two to sign without an official trip. The spring signing period begins April 14.

--Brad B.


tuffgong said...

Brad, that was an AWESOME blog.. I'm so proud of Amorrow as a friend, and even more as a student-athlete. He is a coaches dream, and has gotten better every year. I REALLY hope the coaches can hit it outta the park with the JUCO's they bring in, but for now I'm worried about it.

idaho said...

Thanks, Tough. Joe really has a good group of kids. I really enjoy it when they do well.