LAS VEGAS – He was the hometown hero who became Gonzaga’s first superstar. And now he’s received the call to the hall.
The West Coast Conference formalized Adam Morrison’s status as a WCC legend, inducting him into its Hall of Honor with nine others in a ceremony in Las Vegas on Saturday, held in conjunction with the conference’s postseason tournament at The Orleans.
From his days at Mead High School to his days as college basketball’s highest-scoring player to being an NBA lottery pick, Morrison always stood out as a special player. Yet he said at the ceremony that the individual accomplishments have ended up meaning the least to him.
“Ultimately, the individual awards really don’t matter and what you really miss the most when you think back on all of this is the relationships in the locker room and the things that your team accomplished together,” Morrison said.
Which might be true, but there also was no doubt he was a maximum impact player with a knack for the dramatic. With his fiery play, rock-star aura and trademark mustache, Morrison was unlike anything Gonzaga – and the WCC – had seen.
“The attention wasn’t something we were used to,” Gonzaga assistant Tommy Lloyd said. “We’d get off the bus at the hotel and there’d be 50 people there waiting for autographs.
“But Adam’s journey really does parallel our program’s journey. Kind of the underdog coming from nothing to being a part of these huge moments. Adam’s DNA has come to represent Gonzaga’s DNA with its competitiveness, its toughness, its will to win and to not being willing to accept traditional boundaries. There’s no doubt Adam is a Zag through and through.”
Lloyd said what represented that tenacity the most was when Morrison came back to Gonzaga as a student after his NBA career.
“Adam is a super intelligent guy who is interesting to talk to, whether you’re talking politics or finances,” Lloyd said. “He’s got opinions on everything. You’re always going to be surprised with the things he comes up with, and those conversations are always so great.”
But it was Morrison’s play on the court that set him apart.
Morrison and Duke’s J.J. Redick were college basketball’s national co-players of the year in 2006.
Morrison led the nation with a 28.1-point scoring average as a junior, helping the Zags to a 29-4 record and a No. 5 ranking in the final AP poll. He made 49.6 percent from the field, including 42.8 percent on 3-pointers, and 77.2 percent at the free-throw line.
Gonzaga went 14-0 in the WCC and won the conference tournament, earning a third seed in the 2006 NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs lost in heartbreaking fashion to UCLA in the Sweet 16.
Morrison was named the conference player of the year in 2006. He was a two-time All-WCC first-team selection and two-time WCC Tournament Most Valuable Player.
Despite playing just three seasons, Morrison ranks No. 3 on Gonzaga’s all-time scoring list with 1,867 points. He posted five 40-point games. His 28.1 scoring average is third behind all-time GU leading scorer Frank Burgess, who averaged 32.4 points in 1961 and 28.9 in 1960.
Morrison is second in school history with a 21.3 scoring average in NCAA Tournament games, behind Dan Dickau’s 23.5.
What was it like coaching Morrison?
“Sometimes people just assume or it’s even implied that only defense is toughness or competing is all about defense,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “Let me tell you something, you have to compete to make the buckets and deliver night in and night out like he did. The dude delivered time and time again.
“He was as clutch a performer as you’re ever going to coach.”
Others inducted into the WCC Hall of Honor included: BYU’s Tiffany Lott-Hogan (track); Loyola Marymount’s Tara (Erdmann) Welling (cross country/track); Pacific’s Jayne McHugh (volleyball); Pepperdine’s Gualberto Escudero (tennis); Portland’s Stephanie Lopez Cox (soccer); Trevor Newquist of Saint Mary’s (soccer); San Diego’s Ali Cox (rowing); San Francisco’s Orlando Smart (basketball) and Santa Clara’s Caren Horstmeyer (basketball).
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