From a tenacious freshman to a senior leader: Darryl Morsell’s maturation

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

When Maryland men’s basketball senior guard Darryl Morsell arrived in College Park four years ago, he was a gritty defender who played with unrelenting effort. However, entering his fourth season as a Terp, Morsell has become so much more than that, improving tremendously in all facets of his game.

Coming out of Mount Saint Joseph High School in Baltimore, Morsell was bigger and more athletic than many of the athletes he competed against. However, he quickly realized that wasn’t true in college and made a commitment to doing things the right way.

“At this level, [being bigger and more athletic] doesn’t get it done,” Morsell said. “You have to learn the right way to do things and bring it every day.”

As Morsell learned he needed to bring it every day on both ends of the floor–that ignited a competitive fire in him. It also inspired him to impart that mentality on his teammates, which head coach Mark Turgeon has noticed. The Terps have eight new players on this year’s roster and the 6-foot-5 Baltimore native has emerged as the bonafide leader of the group.

“Darryl has probably grown more as a leader than any player I’ve ever had,” Turgeon said. “It’s just a natural thing for him and he’s really good at making practice real competitive.”

Off the court, Morsell is regarded as one of the funniest guys on the team cracking jokes to make his teammates laugh. However, that demeanor completely changes when the senior hits the hardwood with his teammates.

After a truncated offseason with several pauses in between, the Terps are now resuming more of a normal practice schedule the past two weeks.

In those two weeks, Morsell’s heightened competitiveness level has been consistent. It’s become most visible when Morsell has guarded both freshman point guards Marcus Dockery and Aquan Smart. During the entirety of a recent practice, Morsell guarded Smart the full 94 feet of the court, challenging the young guard with relentless effort.

“It was a tough practice,” Smart said. “[Darryl] is a great leader, a great teammate, a great person to be off the court with. He’s just an amazing person.”

However, Morsell doesn’t limit that competitiveness to one end of the floor, as he battles on both offense and defense. This mentality doesn’t only bring out Morsell’s best, but it’s become an infectious attitude amongst his teammates.

When younger players experience that defensive tenacity and competitiveness, it inspires them to replicate Morsell’s effort. That unmatched competitiveness has become a defining characteristic of this year’s team.

“Without a doubt I think definitely a lot of our guys are going to take some of [Darryl’s] personality and the competitiveness that he plays with on both ends,” junior forward Aaron Wiggins said. “[Darryl’s] all about making sure that his team is getting a win. It will bring a lot of toughness and grit to our team.”

Keeping that toughness and grit in my mind, Morsell’s competitive spirit has also helped to galvanize the team’s camaraderie. Despite his willingness to go at his teammates in practice, they all recognize his true personality off the court and genuine care for each of them. He has found the perfect balance between pushing his teammates to the best of their abilities on the court, while still maintaining a feeling of brotherhood off of it.

Setting the tone with his grit and toughness– Morsell’s offensive improvement is evident as well. That offensive production is another sign of his continued growth and evolution as a player. During his first three seasons as a Terp, Morsell made a concerted effort to improve on limiting turnovers, as part of his continued offensive development. 

During the months when he couldn’t work out with the team, because of COVID-19, Morsell focused on improving all aspects of his game including shooting and ball handling. However, the area he’s grown most since the conclusion of last season is his offensive creativity.

“I look to be more creative, to find players, find more creative ways to score,” Morsell said. “I think I’m way more creative with the ball.”

Morsell’s continued maturation as a leader and sustained improvement in the remaining aspects of his game will be vital for Maryland’s success this season in the talented Big Ten Conference.

“Darryl has been terrific,” Turgeon said. “It’s been fun coaching him and I think this is going to be his best year yet.”

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