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Baltimore Means 'Everything' To Maryland Basketball's Darryl Morsell

February 10, 2019
Sophomore guard Darryl Morsell routinely stuffs the stat sheet for Maryland men's basketball. 

The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Morsell has the athleticism to slash through the paint and find high-percentage shots at the rim. He's also big enough to compete on the glass against opposing big men for rebounds, versatile enough to guard multiple positions on the defensive end and astute enough to find open shooters on the offensive end.

A big part of his development as a player took place at Mount Saint Joseph, which has one of top boys' basketball programs in the area every year. During a recent Terps off day, Morsell and his father, Duane, stopped into the Gaels' gym.

"I walked into practice and Darryl and his dad were here," Mount Saint Joseph head coach Pat Clatchey said. "His parents and Darryl, they're still very much in tune to our program. They come to the games and Darryl will come in here and work out and things like that."

"He'll come in here during the workouts during the summer," Clatchey added. "I actually had him talk to our team that day. He had been through what they're going through, and he's playing at the next level. He just offered some words of advice that he's gained through his experience both playing here and now playing at Maryland."

Morsell, a Baltimore native who averaged 8.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists as a freshman at Maryland, learned to play basketball as a young child at a rec center in West Baltimore and eventually developed into a high-major prospect with a local Amateur Athletic Union program and at Mount Saint Joseph.

"It's everything to me. Growing up in that city made me the player I am today," Morsell said of Baltimore. "I'm kind of known for my toughness and stuff like that, and I think I get that from playing in the city of Baltimore. Baltimore has a lot of talent, and it's a real tight-knit city. The basketball community in that city is real tight-knit. They support each other."

Morsell's beginnings as a basketball player took place not far away from Mount Saint Joseph, at the Bentalou Recreation Center. Morsell said he played at Bentalou for the first time when he was 5 years old -- with and against kids who were two or three years older than him.

His fondest memory at Bentalou came shortly after he started playing there.

"My second game, I made a game-winning shot," Morsell said. "My father was the coach. He ran on the court and picked me up, gave me a big hug and stuff like that. ... I was like the youngest one in the entire recreation center and I kind of held my own, so I guess he was proud of me."

Growing up, Morsell played most of his AAU ball with DC Assault -- he won an AAU title with DC Assault at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Fla., when he was 8 or 9 years old -- and later played for DC Thunder. Clatchey first heard about Morsell when the player was in seventh grade, and Clatchey eventually recruited him to Mount Saint Joseph. 

As a freshman at Mount Saint Joseph during the 2013-14 school year, Morsell played on the junior varsity team, which went 30-1 with Morsell leading the way. Clatchey's varsity squad that year had guards Phil Booth, Jaylen Adams, Kam Williams and Jordan McNeil, all of whom went on to successful Division I careers. Adams is now with the Atlanta Hawks. Morsell worked out with the upperclassmen, according to Clatchey.

"He had some really good role models to look up to," Clatchey said. "… When you play against those guys and you have a chance to observe how they go about their business, I think it's a great learning experience for a young player like Darryl."

Heading into his sophomore year of high school, Morsell was recruited to play his AAU ball with Team Melo, a Baltimore-based program that competes in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League. Morsell was being recruited by UMBC and Towson when he first joined the program, according to Team Melo recruiting coordinator Dwayne Wise.

Morsell developed into a high-profile prospect with Team Melo's 17-and-under squad, showcasing the versatility, toughness and ability to get to the rim that he now displays in College Park, Md. Morsell was recruited most heavily by Maryland, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Villanova and Pittsburgh, according to Wise. Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon offered Morsell a scholarship in July 2016 after a standout performance during a tournament in Philadelphia.

Morsell announced his commitment to Maryland in November 2016.

"I'm going to be honest with you, I really had no idea that Maryland was going to be the one," Wise said. "I mean, Notre Dame was calling around the clock -- the whole staff, as well. It was a shocker to me. I actually thought Notre Dame."

"I think the deciding factor was the fact that his parents can drive to [Maryland's] games," Wise added.

After committing to Maryland, Morsell got to work on his senior season at Mount Saint Joseph. Led by Morsell and junior center Jalen Smith (now Morsell's teammate at Maryland), the Gaels went 37-4 and won the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference and Baltimore Catholic League titles. 

Morsell averaged 15 points per game en route to being named a Baltimore Sun first-team All-Metro selection. His high school experience readied him for what was to come in College Park.

"One thing I can say I took away from Coach Clatchey, he kind of prepared you for the real world," Morsell said. "He kept everything real with you, regardless of who you were. My senior year, he was toughest on me. Everything, if we lost, my fault. If somebody else had a bad practice, my fault. He's hard on his good players and that's what makes us good players and do well in college and stuff like that. He just kept it real with me."

While Morsell continues to be a mentor to the current Gaels, he also acts as one on his own team. Six of Maryland's 11 scholarship players are freshmen, and Morsell is one of just three non-freshmen who see a lot of playing time, along with junior guard Anthony Cowan and sophomore center Bruno Fernando.

As Maryland grinds through a grueling Big Ten schedule this winter in hopes of claiming a spot in the NCAA Tournament in March, the Terps' freshmen can learn from Morsell's experience.

"As a freshman, you're excited, you get too emotional," Morsell said. "You play a bad game, you're hard on yourself. It's a long season. We've got to focus on the next game. You can't look ahead. You can't feel bad for yourself about the last game. You've got to focus on what's in front of you here, be able to contribute and help your team win."

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Issue 250: December 2018 / January 2019