The NCAA tournament is one of the best sporting events in America. Each spring, as the madness begins, the nation is introduced to a new star from a smaller school. Ja Morant didn’t wait until March Madness to announce his presence to the country, as he has been all over highlight reels and NBA draft boards since December. The versatile guard has led his Murray State Racers to the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive year. The sophomore scored 36 points in the OVC tournament final victory over Belmont. Now he will get another chance to shine on the game’s biggest stage. The Racers are predicted as a 12 seed in CBS sports bracket predictions.
Ja Morant Will Shine During March Madness
South Carolina Made
The former Crestwood High School star was not a big-time recruit. The home town South Carolina Gamecocks were his only Power 5 scholarship offer. While a high school player, he was on the same AAU team as Zion Williamson of Duke and Devontae Shuler of Ole Miss. Ja Morant was overlooked while playing next to two high profile recruits, but he isn’t being overlooked any longer. He went on his official visit to Murray State, felt at home at the southwest Kentucky school, and committed while on campus. He has since developed into a star, averaging 18.5 points, 6 rebounds, and 8.1 assists over 63 career games.
“Once I came to Murray, I just fell in love with Murray and just felt like it was the best fit for me as a player and a person, really,” Morant said about his recruiting. “I started talking to my parents while I was here, and I just told them I was ready to commit because I thought it was the best place.”
The 6’3″ guard has been garnering accolades all season long. His name has skyrocketed up NBA draft boards, and he has been compared to the likes of Russell Westbrook, De’Aaron Fox, and Trae Young. Each comparison is based on a different one of Morant’s variety of skills. He has the length and explosiveness you see in Westbrook and Fox, while he also shows the same flashy passing ability Young exuded last season. His season averages of 24.6 points and 10 assists a game are eye-opening. It is even more impressive to watch him accumulate his numbers.
Ja Morant has been producing at a high level all season. He has been doing it in multiple ways as well. His consistency is his most impressive quality. He has failed to score double figures in only one game this season and is shooting 50% from the field on the year. Morant had a stretch in December and January where he had double figures in assists in nine out of ten contests. This stretch included an 18 assist game and a 40 point scoring effort. He also has three triple-doubles on the season. His vision and athleticism stand out when watching him. He is electric with the ball in his hands, especially when he is attacking the basket. His highlight reel dunks got him noticed, but soon his overall game became the story.
He has 17 double-doubles on the season, including five during Murray State’s current 11 game win streak. Ja Morant lives in the paint, whether he is finishing above the rim, finding teammates for open shots, or getting to the free throw line. His efficiency is more impressive when you look at his workload. He plays over 36 minutes a game but never seems to tire. The Racers has three other players averaging double figures, but it is Morant that runs the show.
Time To Shine
One of the best things about the NCAA tournament is seeing a star player put a team on his back and carry them. After clinching their berth this weekend, Murray State will now look to their star to carry them through March. Ja Morant will look to follow in the footsteps of Wally Szczerbiak, Stephen Curry, and Gordon Hayward. All three of these guys took the big dance by storm and carried their smaller schools deep into the NCAA tournament. He will have his chance in just over a week.
Main Photo Image: