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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Michael Morrison is close to matching oldest brothers' success at state.
By JOE SMITH
Published February 28, 2007
Michael Morrison was mad. Playing with his older brothers, former Lakewood stars Marcus and Sean, in a summer-league game, Michael was largely reduced to the role of spectator.
Marcus and Sean's ball-hogging didn't sit well with their baby brother, who begged for a pass.
"He wasn't just happy to be on the team," their father, Paul Morrison said with a chuckle. "He wanted the ball."
Now, six months later, the ball is in Michael's hands as he leads Lakewood onto the biggest stage. When the 6-foot-9 junior forward steps onto the Lakeland Center court tonight against Jacksonville Robert E. Lee in the Class 5A semifinals, a hefty burden will rest on his wiry shoulders.
Both Marcus, the Times' 2001 all-Pinellas Player of the Year, and Sean have led the Spartans to state championships - in 2002 and '05, respectively.
While many say Michael, an athletic, shot-blocking lefty with a scorer's touch, can become the best Morrison, one fact remains. His brothers have championship rings; he doesn't.
"There's been a lot of expectations on me," Michael said. "People have told me since middle school, 'You're the next one.' I'm just trying to live up to that."
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The last time Lakewood rode the bus to Lakeland for the final four, Michael sank into a seat somewhere in the middle.
A raw but scrawny JV player as a freshman, he wasn't called up for the playoffs.
Sean Morrison and his teammates joked with the fun-loving freshman, "toughening him up with a little brotherly love."
Sean, a bruising guard, was described by one opposing coach as "a man-child." Built like a fullback, he could do it all - rebound, defend, score.
Unlike his older brother, Marcus, nicknamed "Showtime" for his flamboyant personality and electrifying play, Sean was stone-cold serious. Even now at Hillsborough Community College, Sean lets his physical play do the talking.
Marcus, a 6-6 combo guard, went on to play at the University of South Carolina and Middle Tennessee. He works in an after-school program and plans to play pro ball overseas.
"Mike's got a little bit of both (brothers) in him," Paul Morrison said. "He likes to talk a bit, he's got better skills than both of them. He shoots better and is a good ball-handler for a big guy."
Sean and Marcus matured early; by their eighth-grade seasons, "they were dunking, they were legendary," Largo coach Phil Price said. Michael was, and still is, growing. He sprouted 5 inches between his freshman and sophomore seasons, cut short by a torn patella tendon in his left knee. Morrison returned in late 2005, but only played three to four minutes a game.
"Next year," Lakewood coach Dan Wright said, "he could be a dominant player."
"From where he came from last year, Mike's grown leaps and bounds," said Price, whose team lost to Lakewood three times this season. "He may be their key ingredient. He's not their best player, but he can take them to the next level with that inside presence that not many high schools have."
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The brothers' legacies are forever etched on a wall in Lakewood's gym. Between the two state championship banners are poster-sized photos of the championship squads.
Six feet below, in the yellow key under the basket, is where Mike Morrison makes his mark. More of a finesse forward, he can start the fast break or sink a 15-foot jumper.
But Morrison's biggest impact comes on the defensive end. He has the wing span of a 7-footer. Combine that with impeccable timing, and he can be a shot-blocking machine.
Following Saturday's region final victory over Charlotte - arguably Morrison's best game of the season - he flashed his trademark grin and talked about his first chance for a final four victory ...and a shot at validation.
"I want two (state titles)," Morrison said with a grin. "I want it so bad."
The Morrison brothers have had their share of success with the Spartans. Here's the tale of the tape from their state championship years:
State title: 2002
Accolades: Times all -Pinellas Player of the Year, team MVP
Stats: 20.4 ppg, 3.3 spg
State title: 2005
Accolades: Team's Most Improved Player, Best Defender
Stats: 18.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 5.7 apg
State title: Not yet
Stats: 8.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 5.0 bpg, 4.5 apg
Today's schedule A - Calvary Christian (27-2) vs. The Rock (25-7), 11:30 a.m. 5A - Lakewood (28-2) vs. Jacksonville Lee (24-7), 7.
Where: The Lakeland Center
Tickets: $9 per session, $5 for parking.
Directions: Take Interstate 275 to Interstate 4 to exit 31 (Kathleen Road). Turn right on Kathleen Road and continue to Sikes Boulevard. Bear right at yield sign and turn right at the second traffic light (Lime Street). The Lakeland Center is on the right.
On the Web: Times staff writer Joe Smith will post live updates of both semifinals at http://blogs.tampabay.com/preps/.