Harris, Morrell - contrasting styles

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   One guy is the hometown hero, while the other is a junior college transfer.
   But despite the different backgrounds, Milligan College men's basketball players Michael Morrell and Jonathon Harris have two specific things in common.
   They like to score points and they're both leaders.
   Morrell and Harris are the leading scorers on Milligan's team, and both of the juniors provide leadership that's necessary due to the lack of a senior on the squad.
   As of last weekend, Harris led Milligan in scoring with 17.5 points per game, and also topped the squad with 7.5 rebounds-per-contest.
   Morrell is second on the team in points scored with a 14.3 points per-game clip, but that was before his 23-point outburst against Covenant last Saturday night.
   Everybody knew about Morrell coming into the season. The former Elizabethton High standout had already asserted himself as a major scoring threat in the Appalachian Athletic Conference.
   Harris came into the picture from Cleveland State Junior College in the Chattanooga area, and provided another scoring punch that was needed.
   An early injury to Morrell put Harris in the spotlight, and now the two players have led Milligan to a respectable start.
   "I think Jonathon developed a lot when I got hurt," Morrell said. "I got hurt and was out for five or six games. His numbers really progressed right there. And then when I came back it's like 'we've got to work more together.' I think that's helped our team out a lot.
   "But Jonathon is a great player, and it was a big relief. I think coming in this year we were kind of worried that we didn't have many people who could put it in the bucket. We knew we were going to be pretty sound defensively, and we have been. We are one of the top in the conference defensively. Jonathon has definitely helped us out in the offensive category. He and I working together along with Craig (Emmert), we're carrying the load right now, and we're looking for each other. We're getting into the meat of our schedule, and we've just got to keep doing that."
   Morrell originally signed with Roane State only to change his mind and come to Milligan. It turned out to be a good move, as Morrell has contributed since he was a freshman.
   Morrell has grown into one of the top players in the AAC. He learned his freshman year from players like Gabe Goulds, Caleb Gilmer and Nathan Jenkins, then learned last year from sharp-shooter Lance Ashby.
   "Coming in as a freshman, I was here to learn," Morrell said. "I didn't play a lot, but I got some quality minutes with guys like Gabe and Caleb. It taught me a lot. We're trying to do some of the same things here, but we're not on that level that we were there, and that's what we're striving to become. That was probably the best team Milligan has seen in years. The difference now is I've got to lead by example more, because we don't have any seniors, and Roy and I are the only returning juniors. The difference between now and then is night and day. I think I'm a lot better all around, and stuff like that.
   Morrell has developed an all-around game at Milligan. Playing under coach Tony Hardin at EHS, Morrell was relied on to be just a scorer, and he did that well.
   Morrell is tied with fellow Elizabethton High School greats Elvin Brown and B.J. Miller for the most points in a single game by a Cyclone with 39.
   Morrell has been willing not only to score in college, but also create opportunities for others and play great defense.
   "In high school I was deemed just a scorer," he said. "In Coach Hardin's system, I got to shoot a lot. When I was a freshman and sophomore (at Milligan) I came in and if I had to score I would score. I just did whatever it took to play. I wasn't giving anything, and in Coach (Tony) Wallingford's system, you have to work and you have to play. Sometimes I look back on my freshman year, and I'm like 'God you know I got a chance to play on an awesome team, and I got the chance to play with some awesome guys.'"
   Morrell wants to get back to the point the program was at during his freshman season. Morrell wants the rest of his team to know how great the feeling of going to the national tournament is.
   "Roy (Richmond) and I right now being the only two guys who made it to the national tournament when we were freshmen, we're trying to get it through to these guys that's where it's at," Morrell said. "That's where we want to get to. If they can just get out there and see it, then that can just make next year so much greater. We've seen it, and we're just trying to say that's where we want to get to."
   Harris has adjusted fine from the junior college ranks. Harris has handled it really well considering he was not counted on to be that big scoring threat at Cleveland State.
   "I've been put in a bigger role than I was at Cleveland State," Harris said. "Here they depend on me a lot more than they did at Cleveland State. I have to concentrate more on my team, and getting my teammates involved. I have to be a leader on the floor at all times in all situations. That's one of the major things that has progressed from Cleveland State to now."
   Harris has raised his game to another level. Harris said that Cleveland State had plenty of scorers, but he has been put into a situation at Milligan where he needs to score.
   "At Cleveland State we had a lot more scoring threats," he said. "We had a lot more shooters, and a lot of guys that were just as athletic as me. If it wasn't me that night it was somebody else. But here it's me and a couple of other guys that are really on the scoring. It puts my numbers and all that I've done this year a little more in perspective, and more out there than they were at Cleveland State."
   With several players leaving the program or being ineligible, the Buffaloes have had to come together this season. But Milligan is still in the upper half of the Appalachian Athletic Conference standings despite all the adversity.
   With all of the unfortunate happenings, the Buffaloes have needed leaders. Morrell was expected to lead, but Harris has also become a floor general for this squad.
   "A lot of the team I feel looks up to me as a player not only on the offensive end, but also on the defensive end," Harris said. "On the defensive end, I feel that's our key. I feel my team looks at me to lead them. I try to do everything. Everybody has their little roles, but I feel the team does look towards me for all types of energy on this floor."
   Morrell and Harris will be back for another season, but with these two men scoring and leading, good things should be in store at Milligan for quite awhile.