Diabetic Morrison leads Zags against Texas Tech

By BETH HARRIS, AP Sports WriterMarch 19, 2005
AP - Mar 19, 6:40 pm ESTMore PhotosTUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- Coach Mark Few called a timeout in the first half of Gonzaga's first-round NCAA tournament game against Winthrop. The Zags were struggling and he was mad.
Adam Morrison listened to Few yelling out changes as he checked his blood sugar level. It was high, so the sophomore lifted his jersey and stuck a needle filled with insulin into his stomach. The horn blew, signaling the teams back into action.
``That kid is as tough as tough is,'' Few said Friday. ``He bounces right back out on the floor, bangs in a couple jumpers and moves on.''
The third-seeded Zags (26-4) did, too, advancing to Saturday's game against No. 6 seed Texas Tech (21-10) for a spot in the Albuquerque Regional. No. 3 seed Oklahoma (25-7) takes on sixth-seeded Utah (28-5) in the day's second game with the winner advancing to the Austin Regional semifinals.
Morrison was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a 13-year-old in his hometown of Spokane, Wash., where Gonzaga is located. About 1 million people in the United States have the disease, which can cause heart attacks, vision problems and early death.
``When it came to sports, I was scared and I didn't know how to deal with the disease,'' he said. ``That's the biggest myth of the disease; people think you're limited in athletics. You are in some aspects, but if you have control of it, you're not limited.''
Morrison uses an insulin pump to monitor his blood sugar every 30 minutes, whether he's at practice or in a game. If it's low, he eats something or grabs a high-sugar sports drink. If it's high, he gives himself a shot. A couple hours before games, he eats two 5-ounce steaks, a baked potato and peas.
He scored 27 points and played all but a minute of Gonzaga's 74-64 win over Winthrop. He typically plays 30 or more minutes a game.
``He is an unbelievable inspiration and role model for all the kids out there that have been diagnosed with this,'' Few said. ``You don't have to shut down your life. You can participate in any sports you want or do anything you want to do. Hopefully, that's the message that is getting out.''
Morrison's disease affects his teammates and the coaching staff. He misses portions of every practice to check his blood sugar so he doesn't go into shock. Depending on the level, he may sit down and rest.
That didn't go over well at first with the other players.
``Guys are sweating, fighting, scratching and clawing and Adam is over there chomping on an energy bar and drinking some apple juice,'' Few said. ``You can see where your teammates can get a little frustrated, but they have been unbelievably supportive of him. They became educated on it as we all have been, myself included.''
Unlike a lot of college kids, Morrison has to watch his diet and stay away from excessive junk food and sugary snacks. That's where his teammates help out.
``I usually eat the candy bar for him,'' center Ronny Turiaf said, laughing.
Morrison has emerged this season as a star on Gonzaga's team. He's easily recognizable, with his shaggy dark hair.
AP - Mar 18, 4:55 pm ESTMore PhotosMorrison had 26 points and 11 rebounds in an 89-72 loss against then-No. 5 Illinois in November. He scored a career-high 30 points in the West Coast Conference tournament title game against Saint Mary's.
``If I were a fan or not a coach with a vested interest, I would really enjoy watching him play,'' Texas Tech coach Bob Knight said.
Growing up in Gonzaga's hometown, Morrison never wanted to attend college anywhere else. Of course, no other schools recruited him, either.
Few recalled the first time he saw Morrison play in high school. The coach noticed Morrison's awkward gait, his unique style of shooting the ball from behind his head and a lack of effort on defense. Few was at first unimpressed.
``My assistant called and asked how he looked and asked how many points he scored at halftime,'' the coach said. ``I picked up the stat sheet and he had 30. I said, `We might have something here.'''
Indeed, the Zags do.


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