Athlete of the week: Porter Morrell, Elk River, basketball: Total package
by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Porter Morrell has been the quintessential point guard for Elk River the last two years, but sometimes it seems his secret desire is to play low post. A couple times a game, when the Elks face man-to-man, the six-foot, 160-pound senior drops down to the blocks, takes a feed from the wing, pivots, and, more often than not, scores.
“That goes back to playing my older brother on our back-yard court,” laughs Morrell. “By ninth grade, I had gotten taller than him, and when I needed an advantage, I would post up.”
Morrell is content as a point guard, thank you, but, as he explains, he likes to add something to his game every year.
He’s always been able to hit three’s. “That just seems to run in the family,” he said, noting that Tucker hit 120 of them in his career and younger brother Wyatt shoots them all the time, too. Before his junior year, Morrell sharpened his pull-up jump shot. And the project before his senior year was making post-up moves a viable weapon.
“I’ve always been pretty good with my back to the basket. My coach and I agreed that I could post up on a lot of guards in our conference and section,” said Morrell. “So that was something we installed, and after a while we realized it was effective.”
Coach Randy Klasen has great confidence in Morrell and no problem giving him the green light.
“Porter has a complete game — excellent defensive player, great court awareness,” said Klasen. “We run many different offensive sets every night, and usually Porter is the one who makes the calls … He is a great leader, who’s able to make all those around him better.”
Morrell, who nailed a career-high 38 points against Centennial last Friday, is currently averaging 18.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.9 steals, while hitting 42 percent on 3-pointers and 81 percent at the line.
He was team MVP and all-conference last year when he notched 13.4 points, 3.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game on a 14-13 team. He saw some action in 10th grade and led the team in assists with 2.7 per game.
Morrell appears on Elk all-time top-ten lists with 961 points (ninth), 101 three-point shots, 78.3 percent free throw shooting, and 305 assists (third).
At Centennial, he scored 33 of the team’s 46 points in the half, finishing 7-for-10 on three’s, and hitting his last four, in a 62-57 win. The Elks struggled against a matchup zone before Morrell started finding gaps for quick jumpers. “I caught fire. It was the first time in a real game when I was really feeling that every time I shot, it was going in,” acknowledged Morrell, who also had a 30-point game vs. Armstrong.
Klasen speculates that Morrell could play in D-II if he found the right program, probably contingent upon further increasing his physical strength. The coach recalls that Morrell wasn’t strong enough as a 10th-grader to do what he wanted, “but over the past two years his game has taken great strides as he became physically stronger.”
Morrell and the Elks will take a 19-7 record into the section semifinals on Saturday against Moorhead at St. Cloud State. His stated goals are “going to state — in basketball and baseball, too. We’ll have a real good baseball team.”
In baseball, Morrell had an excellent defensive season at catcher on a 10-12 team last year, making zero errors and 22 assists, while throwing out 13 of 27 base-stealers. He batted .254 with seven RBI and eight runs. He also filled in as relief pitcher effectively, allowing one unearned run in 9 1/3 innings. Coach Ryan Holmgren said Morrell “gives us great leadership” from a position where it’s essential to have leadership.
Morrell played hockey until fourth grade when Tucker coaxed him to play basketball. The sibs, a year apart, have usually been teammates ever since. Porter frequently caught for Tucker in baseball.
Asked about career highlights, he listed the Centennial game along with beating Rogers in the River Battle last December. “That’s the first time I have beaten Rogers,” he explained. “We don’t play them in baseball and they always beat us in basketball before.” Oh, yeah, and that Osseo game last week, when the Elks beat the defending state champs (47-46) for the first time since 2006.
Morrell, who is home-schooled, has membership in just one organization besides basketball and baseball, and that is Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Citing “a personal relationship” with Jesus, he declares: “Any success I have, the credit goes to the Lord. It’s to glorify Him.”
THE MORRELL SCORECARD
Personal file — Age: 18 … Family: parents Trent and Brenda; brothers Tucker, 19; Wyatt, 14; and Stewart, 11 … Sports: basketball, baseball … Other activities: Fellowship of Christian Athletes … Academics: 3.7 GPA …. College plans: undecided where; basketball … Ambition: Coaching, maybe sports medicine
Favorite stuff — Class: none in particular … TV show: “The Office” …. Movie: “Miracle” …. Music: country, especially Jason Aldean, Brad Paisley … Team: New England Patriots … Athlete: Tim Tebow … Reading: Sports Illustrated … Kickback activities: hunting (deer, pheasant, turkey, geese, ducks), and fishing … Would like to visit: Baseball Hall of Fame (again)