Union’s Morris blossoms into two-sport leader

By ROBBIE ROBERTSON,

When school started this season, Union’s Casey Morris kept on telling boys’ basketball coach Josh Luckett that he wanted to play his senior season.

“I was like whatever,” Luckett said, knowing that Morris is known as somewhat of a jokester. “But he kept on talking about wanting to play. He kept on and kept on and as we got closer to starting practice, I told him if he wanted to play that I would give him the opportunity. I told him he could practice with us for a week and we would go from there.”

Morris made it through that first week and eventually made the team, giving the Yellowjackets some much-needed depth inside off the bench this season.

“He’s definitely a late bloomer in basketball,” Luckett said. “My first year, he was supposed to play but he was doing a lot of baseball stuff and just wasn’t able to play. This year, I have the baseball guys because Coach (Dustin) Hamrick is doing softball, and he (Morris) just kept after me to play. He worked hard on rebounding and has been a pleasant surprise this season and has given us some real depth. If we didn’t have him, we would be real slim around the basket. I have a freshman there, but Casey is a senior and a lot more mature physically and mentally.”

Against Newton, Morris had his best game of the season as he scored 11 points and helped the Yellowjackets dominate the post and take a 57-54 win over the Tigers, the first of Luckett’s career over Newton.

“He really battled on the boards against Newton,” Luckett said. “I told them going into the game that I thought we had an advantage on the inside because they didn’t have much size. I thought we would be able to get the ball inside and pound the ball on the inside and that’s what we did. I was really glad I let him come on out for the team after Friday night.”

While Morris is a role player for the Yellowjackets on the hardwood, he’s a key part of the baseball program.

In baseball, Morris is expected to be a district starter on the mound for the Yellowjackets and is likely the No. 3 hole hitter in the lineup.

“If I had to make my lineup out right now, he would be hitting in the No. 3 hole,” Union baseball coach Dustin Hamrick said. “He will probably play in the outfield most of the time. He might fill in at first base but he’s mainly a pitcher and an outfielder. On the mound, he’s likely a district starter for us.”

On the diamond, Morris led the Yellowjackets with a .359 average with a team high 28 hits. On the mound, Morris was 3-7 with a 3.88 ERA and led the team with 52 1/3 innings pitched.

“He is a well-rounded baseball player,” Hamrick said. “He is one of my best hitters and my best pitchers. Even though he is a left-hander, he could play anywhere. He can play outfield and first base. There were a couple of times last year where I had to play him at other infield positions. But he’s just a really good athlete and a good competitor.”

Despite the record, Morris and teammate Lane Hanna impressed the coaches at Copiah-Lincoln Community College to earn scholarship offers, which both signed this fall. Morris is signing as a pitcher.

“I just know that when he is on the mound, he is going to give us a chance to win,” Hamrick said. “If the game is on the line, I want him at the plate. He has a real good eye and good instincts. He may not be the fastest kid we have but he gets really good jumps on the ball in the outfield and makes hard catches look routine.”

Hamrick said Morris is a typical left-handed pitcher with a fastball in the low 80s and an array of off-speed pitches including a changeup, curve ball and knuckleball that he feels comfortable at throwing at any time.

“He’s going to keep batters off balance at the plate,” Hamrick said. “He’s going to throw a lot of different pitches and keep batters guessing and is going to change speeds. He just knows how to pitch.”

And Hamrick isn’t surprised to see any success he has in basketball.

“He has really slimmed up this year,” Hamrick said. “He’s a tall kid, I don’t know how tall but probably 6-foot-2 maybe. I know he looks good on the mound. And he’s a fun kid to be around. I know he picks around with folks and is just fun to be around. He’s a respectful young man and will talk to adults and there aren’t a lot of kids who know how to talk to adults in this day and age.

“He has matured a lot in the last couple of years and I’m proud of who he has become. He is a leader on the field for us and confident in his ability and carries himself well.”