HARTSVILLE, S.C. – Dan Schmotzer pops out of his office, looks through the window that overlooks the basketball court and sees a familiar scene. On the far end of the court is his starting shooting guard, Andrew Morris, practicing at game speed, again.
"The kid is always looking to improve," the 26-year veteran coach of the Cobras said. "He's one of the finest young men I've ever coached."
It's not easy getting those kinds of words out of the fiery, tough-love coach. But Morris, a 6-foot-4-inch senior from Melbourne, Australia, is putting the finishing touches on a notable two-year spell with the Cobras, so he's earned it. He transferred to Coker after attending New Mexico Junior College and has put his footprint on Coker, both on and off the court.
As a junior, he hit 65 3-pointers and earned third team all-conference honors. This season, in 21 games played, he's averaging 11.5 points and three rebounds per game. Despite missing four games due to a toe injury, he's matched his 3-point total from a year ago with 65 and will surely surpass that before the season ends.
His basketball accolades have been equaled by his off-the-court accomplishments. The business administration major has racked up academic all-conference and all-district selections the past few weeks, but none was bigger than his most recent. Morris was named a Capital One Academic All-American, earning second-team honors. He was the first player from the Coker men's basketball team to achieve All-American status academically since the school became NCAA affiliated.
"It was a surprise," Morris said. "I never expected it. It's a nice award to have."
Words like that seem to define Morris. He's a humble kid at heart – doesn't like the spotlight – just likes working hard and going about his business. He has certainly earned the respect of his teammates and coaches. After Schmotzer told the team about his All-American status, the players gave him a round of applause.
Morris is part of what seems to be an Australian invasion in the men's basketball program. He and current point guard Bryce Arnott came on board last season, and freshman Patrick Emery joined this year. Arnott is also from Melbourne (Emery is from Sydney), but he and Morris did not know each other until they came to Coker. All three are following in the footsteps of former Cobra Tom Wright, a Sydney native, who was the first Australian to play for Schmotzer.
"We've been fortunate to recruit some great Australian kids," said Schmotzer. "Their character and discipline is amazing to see. We hope to keep the trend going in the future."
In addition to basketball, Morris is a member of Coker's Enactus team. Enactus is an international, non-profit organization that brings together student, academic and business leaders who are committed to using the power of entrepreneurial action to improve the quality of life and standard of living for people in need. Morris has been a member since the start of the 2012-13 academic year.
Professors have also been impressed. Morris has worked closely, in particular, with Darrell Holliday, a business professor who also serves as Morris' academic advisor. While he's provided excellent academic advice, Morris says Holliday has helped out with 'life stuff' too, from financial management to resume building.
"Andrew is a real self-starter and self-motivator," Holliday said. "He has a constant balancing act between his studies with his sports, which I find extremely impressive. He's a blue-blood entrepreneur at heart, and I know he will excel in life and whatever career he chooses."
It's been a whirlwind senior year for Morris on the court. He started slow before breaking out over Thanksgiving weekend. With his mother, Rosemary, in attendance, Morris went off for a career-high 37 points against Francis Marion University that really got his season going. The toe injury cost him four games – three that resulted in conference losses – but he's scored double digits in seven of 10 games since returning.
The regular season comes to a close Friday night, and conference playoffs begin Monday. Morris is preparing not just for senior night, but his second chance at postseason play in his collegiate career (the first came last year). To date, his favorite moment as a Cobra was defeating Barton College and having the students rush the floor to cap the upset. But he'd like that to change in the coming weeks.
"Just want a conference championship," he said. "For coach, for our seniors."
Graduation for Coker is May 18. After that, Morris isn't sure what his next move is. He's intrigued by staying in the states to work and possibly enroll in grad school down the road. The resume he's built through junior college and now at Coker is impressive, and should, hopefully, send him where he wants to go.
"Being at Coker has absolutely been the experience I hoped it would be," Morris said. "I've learned a lot and made a lot of great friends. I will definitely be staying in touch with friends and professors after I leave."
One of those individuals will surely be Schmotzer, who is notorious for keeping in touch with players who come through his program.
"I'm anxious to see where he's at in five years," the coach said. "I honestly wish he would be here another two years. It's going to be a sad day when I can't coach that kid again. He's not only going to be missed by our basketball team but by our school as well."
The season is still alive, but once it comes to a close, it's likely Schmotzer will still witness the same sight he does now – Morris putting in hours at the gym, always working, always trying to get better.
Coker College readies undergraduates for personal and professional success through a distinctive four-year program that emphasizes a practical application of the liberal arts as well as hands-on and discussion-based learning within and beyond the classroom. Coker is ranked among the "Best Colleges" in the South by U.S. News & World Report as well as The Princeton Review. Located in Hartsville, S.C., Coker is within two hours of the cultural, financial and recreational resources of Charlotte, Columbia, Charleston and Myrtle Beach.