As a freshman, Marcus Morris was considered by his coach to be a complementary player. That evolved into becoming one of the most consistent performers for Kansas last season.
Now Morris can be touted as the best player in the Big 12.
The 6-foot-9 junior forward for the league champion Jayhawks was the overwhelming pick as The Associated Press Big 12 Player of the Year in balloting released Tuesday.
"When you look at Marcus, who's been more consistent?" said Kansas coach Bill Self, the Big 12 Coach of the Year. "He does everything. He's a guard playing a big and he's a big who can play a guard. And there's not too many guys out there who can do that."
Morris averaged 17.3 points and 7.0 rebounds a game while helping Kansas win its seventh consecutive Big 12 regular season title. He received 15 of 22 votes from a panel of sports writers and sportscasters who cover the conference.
"You can make a case for others, too, because there are good players in our league," Self said. "But at the end of the day, in my biased opinion, the right guy won because he was the best player on the team that won it."
Morris was one of two unanimous selections to the All-Big 12 first team. He and Colorado sophomore guard Alec Burks were the only players listed as first-teamers on all 22 ballots.
The rest of the first team is Kansas State senior Jacob Pullen, Texas sophomore Jordan Hamilton and Baylor senior LaceDarius Dunn, who last weekend became the Big 12's career scoring leader.
Texas forward Tristan Thompson is the Big 12 Freshman of the Year and Missouri junior forward Ricardo Ratliffe, the nation's top junior college player last season, is the league's Newcomer of the Year.
Morris is the fifth Jayhawk to be named Big 12 Player of the Year, and the first since Wayne Simien in 2005.
"Coach said it a few times that he thought I could be. Winning basically makes that possible," Morris said. "I don't think it's so much being the best player in the conference. I think it's because we won and how we weren't picked to win the Big 12 but we won it."
Pullen, who got five votes for player of the year, is the only repeat first-team selection from last season. The 6-foot guard needs only 62 points to overtake Mike Evans for Kansas State's career scoring record and has already joined Hofstra's Charles Jenkins as the only active Division I players with 2,000 points, 300 rebounds, 400 assists and 200 steals.
"Jake's earned everything that comes his way. He wins. He produces. He's accountable," coach Frank Martin said. "He's a standup kid. I wish I'd been that standup when I was 21 years old."
Kansas' Markieff Morris, an inch taller than his twin brother Marcus, is on the All-Big 12 second team with Thompson, Missouri junior Marcus Denmon, Iowa State senior Diante Garrett and Texas A&M sophomore Khris Middleton.
Markieff Morris leads the Big 12 with 8.3 rebounds per game and a .598 field goal percentage (158 of 264), which is just ahead of Marcus at .597 (197 of 330).
Marcus Morris averages only about 27 1/2 minutes a game for Kansas. Imagine what kind of numbers he might have if he played more and took more shots.
"We're a team with balance. It's not like one guy on our team takes the majority of shots. There have been numerous games where he's taken single-figure shots. That's just how we play," Self said. "Had he played a little differently, his numbers would be different, too. But that's not how we play."
Burks, the Big 12's top freshman last season, followed up his outstanding Colorado debut by averaging 19.5 points a game this season. Hamilton has 18.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.7 made 3-pointers a game for the Longhorns, even while shooting only 30 percent overall (32 of 107) his last six games.
Hamilton and Burks each got one vote for player of the year.
Dunn, the Big 12 leader this season with 19.8 points and 3.3 3-pointers a game, broke Andre Emmett's career scoring record with 22 points in a loss Saturday to Texas. He enters the Big 12 tournament with 2,274 career points and a Baylor-record 387 3-pointers, two short of matching the conference record held by Texas' A.J. Abrams.
In the game Dunn became the Big 12's top scorer, Thompson had 19 points and 13 rebounds. That included nine offensive rebounds, several of them leading to spectacular putback dunks.
Thompson, a 6-foot-8 Canadian, leads the Big 12 with 2.3 blocks while also averaging 13.5 points and 7.7 rebounds a game.
AP Sports Writer Doug Tucker contributed to this report from Lawrence, Kan.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)