Alexis Morris and two weeks to pursue a WNBA dream — Darius Taylor talks Connecticut Sun — Must-click women’s basketball links

The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, May 3, 2023

As the night grows long at the WNBA Draft, the mood always changes. So it was back in April with Alexis Morris, the well-traveled collegiate player, who met with a small number of us still sitting by the podium at the 2023 WNBA Draft in New York. We had greeted a dozen-plus draftees selected ahead of her. A player who won her last NCAA stop, LSU, a national championship just over a week earlier didn’t hear her name called until the 22nd overall pick, by the Connecticut Sun, on the night of April 10.

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The reasons for this varied. Some teams feared the journey came with too much baggage — leaving the team at Baylor, stops at Rutgers, Texas A&M, ultimately back to Kim Mulkey at LSU. Others wondered whether her slight build — 5’6, thin — would translate at the next level.

Personally? I think she’s someone the Sun need. But it was striking to see her entirely calm and comfortable in this moment as she discussed the road ahead with us. The slights on draft night wouldn’t define her, but she wouldn’t run away from them, either.

“I also have history, so I understand why teams may have been skeptical to pick me at first, but like I said earlier, I’m super grateful for the opportunity,” Morris said. “I’m going to take full advantage. You’ve seen me do it with Coach Mulkey and I came out a national champion and I plan to do that in the WNBA. My will to win is incredible, and my competitive nature is unmatched. Can’t be matched. I’m just grateful, man.”

Seeing what Morris did in the fourth quarter of the championship game against Iowa — 6-for-6 from the field, 15 points — without coming to believe that there’s another gear she can reach is almost incomprehensible to me. Players prove themselves in such moments, just as I am a big believer in differentiating between players who can learn from their pasts and those who simply repeat mistakes.

Morris is open about it all. She credits Mulkey for giving her a second chance, one that paid off well for both of them, but she still acknowledges that her time playing for C. Vivian Stringer is what she’s tapping into to best operate in Stephanie White’s offense at Connecticut training camp.

But the dream of playing in the WNBA, well, she’s got essentially two weeks to prove herself, to turn the dual evaluations of Connecticut general manager Darius Taylor and LSU teammate Angel Reese that she is a first-round talent into the securing of a WNBA roster spot, that rarest of accomplishments in professional sports.

Training camp is less than three weeks long, but the reality is, most teams know by no later than early next week who is staying and who is leaving. The reality is, players have around two weeks, max, to prove themselves.

There are no guarantees, but the player who best understands the task ahead, is equal parts ready to work and believing in herself, must gain an advantage. So in the late-evening faded lights at the draft, it was striking to hear the way Alexis Morris could step outside herself and visualize what the work would entail.

“Go hard every day, be coachable, listen to my vets,” Morris said. “Just go in there and compete and leave it all out there and let the pieces fall where they fall. I believe in God. I don’t think He’ll ever set me up to fail. He didn’t bring me this far to just leave me hanging. I know He didn’t do that.

“I’m going to leave it all out there in training camp and let the pieces fall where they fall.”

The drama of WNBA training camp includes disappointment for many, yes. But for a fortunate few? It is the culmination of a lifelong dream. It is easy to spot the high operatic peaks of a national title game. Alexis Morris sees it in the work to come, as well.

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By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
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Written by Howard Megdal

Howard is the founder of The Next and editor-in-chief.