Morris Udeze’s Offensive Improvement Gives Wichita State Depth at Center

morris udeze
Wichita State center Morris Udeze (Courtesy photo)

Morris Udeze scored on a spin move in a December game, the kind of basket cheered and then forgotten by most.

Mention that moment to Udeze and his coaches and they smile and nod.

“That’s stuff you work on during the summer, instead of taking two dribbles, take four dribbles and beat my man,” Udeze said. “If I have a smaller person on you, take advantage of it.”

That baseline drive, around Oklahoma’s Austin Reaves for a basket during Wichita State’s 80-75 win, represents evidence of Udeze’s growing confidence in his offense. He can overpower opponents, yet his footwork and agility is coming into play more often.

He has continued on that path into American Athletic Conference play. No. 16 Wichita State (15-1, 3-0) can hit opponents with starting center Jaime Echenique and keep the pressure on when Udeze enters off the bench.

The Shockers play at Temple (9-6, 1-3) on Wednesday (8 p.m. ESPNU). Wichita State is the American’s lone unbeaten and they finish off a two-game road trip before facing Houston on Saturday in Wichita.

Udeze, a 6-foot-8 sophomore from Houston, is contributing in many ways. His flashes of strong moves and footwork in the post are an addition to his usual physical defense and rebounding.

Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall sees Udeze using a greater variety of moves than last season when he was largely limited to simple, direct moves to the basket. Good health is also a boost. He missed the final two months of last season due to shoulder surgery.

“This year, he can make a move and hit a jump hook,” Marshall said. “He’s got a step-through (Kevin) McHale move. He seems to be stronger because he’s been able to do some conditioning and weights.”

Shockers assistant Isaac Brown works with the big men also sees growing confidence as Udeze gets healthier.

“He’s very skilled, because he can put the ball on the floor,” Brown said. “That move he made (against OU), that’s what I’m telling you about. He caught the ball, ripped it to the baseline and the guard tried to cut him off. He spun back to the middle and it was so quick a guard couldn’t even guard him.”

New call-to-actionUdeze averages 6.0 points and 3.8 rebounds a game and is shooting 61.3 percent from the floor. When his scoring isn’t needed, his defense is also a plus.

He took a charge in the second overtime in Sunday’s win at UConn that helped the Shockers preserve an 89-86 victory.

In a 75-69 win over East Carolina, he made two key defensive plays in the final minutes, diagnosing a backdoor play and stealing a pass and following that with a blocked shot to deny the Pirates a layup with 33 seconds to play and the Shockers up four points.

“I saw (a teammate) get beat, so it was instant reaction, go to the rim and get it,” Udeze said. “We needed stops to win the game.”

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