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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Morley plays with a style of his own

At first sight, Zach Morley may not look like the most dangerous player on the basketball court. Whatever initial impressions may be, however, his opponents quickly find the man with shaggy hair, silky-smooth jump shot and litany of post moves means business and yields results.

“I think they look and just see a white guy with long hair and they really don’t know what to expect,” the 6-foot-8 Morley said.

But then again, Morley has never been big on appearances. Look no further than the way he plays the game. Never the flashiest player on the court, the only thing that counts in his book is the end result.


“I just try to find any way I can to get it done,” Morley said. “I don’t care if it looks good or not as long as I get production.”

Production has been the name of the game for Morley in his first season as a Badger. Posting averages of 9.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game, the hardworking forward quickly emerged as Wisconsin’s energizer off the bench.

“I just try to come in with a spark and get the team going,” Morley said of his approach to the game.

What has endured him to the Kohl Center faithful, though, is not his deft shooting touch or crisp passing but his hustle and all-out style of play.

“All of my life I’ve been playing like that,” Morley said. “I have two older brothers, so you had to play your hardest and try harder than they always did when you played against them. I just think it carried over.”

A coach’s son and self-described gym rat, Morley has been around the game as long as he can remember. Thanks to years of tagging along to practices and games, he has developed a basketball I.Q. to match his ability.

“Morley is really going to be a good player,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said. “I like him. He can do a lot of things; he always makes you aware.”

While his play is drawing rave reviews from coaches around the conference, that was not the case after a standout career at Maryville High School. Morley appeared in just 13 games as a senior thanks to a broken left leg, leading him to Indian Hills Community College, one of the nation’s top junior-college programs.

“I got hurt my senior year in high school, and my brother was friends with one of the assistant coaches there,” he explained. “They came and watched and liked what they saw, I guess.”

Bo Ryan and the Wisconsin coaching staff also liked what they saw and managed to lure the third-team NJCAA All-American to Madison following a sophomore campaign in which he averaged 15.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

Back-to-back Big Ten titles and an offense suited to Morley’s inside-outside game made Wisconsin a perfect fit.

“A lot of it was the winning and then the offense, which allows for me to do a little bit of everything, not have my back to the basket all the time or facing up all the time,” he said.

Needless to say, Morley has found a home in the Wisconsin swing offense, which he picked up over the summer with some help from his new teammates.

“[Zach is] a guy that can do different things and seemed hungry when he played. Those are the good parts,” Ryan said. “You like to compete. I can’t say our coaches were all that excited about his haircut — I wasn’t, anyway. He wasn’t recruited because of that, I can tell you.”

No matter how many points he scores or rebounds he grabs, Morley will always be known for his trademark long hair. That notoriety extends far beyond the Madison city limits. Opposing student sections have given the UW sixth man a healthy dose of heckling over his sense of style.

“Maryland was pretty bad early in the year, but they’re all about the same,” Morley said with a shrug. “They say, ‘Get a haircut,’ for a couple minutes, then they forget about it.”

While he does not exactly enjoy the special attention, Morley is not about to let anyone get under his skin.

“It’s not something that bothers me at all,” he said. “It’s fun just to be out there and have them recognize you.”

Morley may not be quite as recognizable tonight in East Lansing, as he recently gave his signature mop a slight trim, much to the delight of his coach.

“He’s the reason I got the haircut,” Morley said of his coach. “I think he was satisfied.”

Ryan also has to be satisfied with the impact Morley has made in 2003-04.

“High school to junior college was a step, and this is just another big step,” Morley said of the move to the Big Ten. “The intensity goes up and everything just magnifies each step up.”

Even though success has come to Morley early and often after the step up to Wisconsin, he is not satisfied just yet.

“I’m still learning,” he said. “I learn something new every day, especially on the defensive end — position, where to be and when to be there. It’s just the little things, the basic principles I know, but it’s just the little things to try and make you a better player.”

For a guy from a small farming town in Missouri, it just does not get any better than Division I basketball.

“To think there’s that many people there to watch us play a game that we enjoy playing and love to play is a great feeling,” Morley said.

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