WASHINGTON, D.C. – Former PBA import and Nike pre-draft campus director Mike Morrison said the other day he would assist Bobby Ray Parks in looking for an opportunity to play in the US, whether in college or the pros, because of his long friendship with his late father Bobby Sr.
Morrison, 45, played three seasons for Shell in the PBA and averaged over 40 points a game in the early ‘90s. The former Loyola College at Maryland star was the Phoenix’ second round pick in the 1989 NBA draft and played 36 games with the Suns in 1989-90.
Morrison and another ex-PBA import Rick Brunson, 41, were on coach John Lucas’ staff that worked the Nike Kevin Durant Skills Academy for high school and college players at the Sidwell Friends School Gym here last weekend. The media group that witnessed the launch of Durant’s Nike KD VI signature shoe was at the Sidwell gym during an afternoon workout with 19 college standouts.
“I’ve played all over the world, including Venezuela, Germany and Turkey but I’ll never forget the Philippines,” said Morrison. “What was my favorite stop? It had to be Manila because I kept coming back. I played three seasons in the PBA and I’ll always remember playing with guys like Benjie Paras, Ronnie Magsanoc and Bong Alvarez. I also remember playing against Tony Harris. I’d love to go back to Manila and look up the guys I played with. Last year, I came close to Manila. I did clinics in China for Nike and went to Singapore.”
Morrison has now worked the past 11 years with Nike. “I heard about Bobby’s passing,” he said. “Bobby was a great guy. If there’s anything I can do for his family, please let me know. I was told he’s got a son in college who’s an outstanding talent. If he wants to explore possibilities of playing in the US, just contact me and I’ll do what I can to help him out. I owe that to his dad.” Morrison left his contact details with The STAR.
As for Brunson, he’d rather forget about the PBA. In 1998, he teamed with Kenny Payne for Ginebra San Miguel but was booted out of the league after a game. His early exit had to do with a disagreement with playing coach Robert Jaworski. The scuttlebutt was Brunson had attitude and being an NBA veteran, refused to listen to Jaworski’s instructions at practice. The Big J wouldn’t tolerate Brunson’s antics and wasted no time in shipping him out.
Brunson didn’t even want to be photographed by The STAR and agreed only after prodding from Morrison. Brunson played four years at Temple University and enjoyed a long nine-year NBA career as a defense-oriented guard. He saw action for Portland, New York, Boston, Chicago, the Los Angeles Clippers, Seattle, Houston and Toronto. In 2005-06, he earned his highest salary – $1.029 Million – with the SuperSonics. The lefthander’s son Jalen is a top high school player set to graduate in 2015.
Lucas, 59, introduced the 19 college stars to the media assembled for the Durant shoe launch. They were Jabari Parker of Duke, Travis Bader of Oakland, Sam Thompson and LaQuinton Ross of Ohio State, Geron Johnson of Memphis, Tyler Harris of Providence, DeAndre Daniels of Connecticut, Markel Brown of Oklahoma State, K. J. McDaniels of Clemson, Alex Poythress of Kentucky, Gary Harris of Michigan State, T. J. Warren of North Carolina State, Marshall Henderson of Mississippi, Winston Shepard of San Diego State, Damyean Dotson of Oregon, Glenn Robinson III of Michigan, Jordan McRae of Tennessee, Cleanthony Early of Wichita State and Isaiah Sykes of Central Florida.
Lucas said the four elements in relating with student-athletes are mentoring, counselling, educating and positive confrontation. “Some of these kids, if not all of them, will become NBA draft picks,” he said. “It’s important that early on, they learn to be disciplined, appreciate the value of hard work.” At the Durant Skills Academy, Lucas’ responsibility is to develop players who are adaptable to different game situations. The model is Durant, a versatile big man who can shoot from outside, post up, put the ball on the floor, pass, rebound and play defense. “Hopefully, these kids will grow up to become Nike athletes,” said Lucas, the NBA’s first overall pick in the 1976 draft from the University of Maryland.
The Durant Skills Academy also brought in 30 high school stars, including 6-9 1/ 2 Justin Jackson, a home-schooled prospect from Houston who’s eligible to enrol in college next year. The Academy course ran for three days. Durant himself participated in the drills, joining the players on the court as a source of inspiration.
Nike will also conduct the LeBron James Skills Academy on July 6-8, the Elite Youth Basketball League Finals at the Nike Peach Jam on July 10-14 and the Nike Global Challenge on July 17-21.