Ja Morant stole the show in Hartford on Thursday, but the Murray State flash opened eyes nationwide with his triple-double performance that led his 12th-seeded Racers into the second round in a blowout of Marquette.
Among the observers wowed by the sophomore point guard was another former NCAA Tournament darling, former Davidson dynamo Steph Curry.
“What he did on Thursday, it shows you he’s ready for whatever,” Curry told Yahoo Sports. “That transition to the NBA isn’t going to be difficult at all for him.”
Morant posted 17 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds, becoming just the eighth player to post a triple-double in an NCAA Tournament game and the first since Draymond Green at Michigan State. Green was paying attention, too, telling Yahoo: “That was my first time watching him play and he’s for real.”
Curry was a sophomore in 2008 when he carried Davidson to the Elite Eight, scoring 30 or more in all four tourney games. He sees stardom in Morant.
“From what I’ve seen, he’s a beast,” Curry told Yahoo Sports. “He’s athletic, knows how to play, he’s fearless and he shows up for big games even though everybody knows he’s coming. That speaks volumes about his game.”
Morant averaged 24.6 points, 10 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game this season at Murray State.
He’s in the discussion to be a top-five draft pick, and Thursday’s big show did nothing to raise doubts about his readiness despite the relatively humble college surroundings in the Ohio Valley Conference.
“I don’t know if they played some heavy hitters, but it doesn’t even matter. If you can play, you can play,” Curry said. “Damian Lillard at Weber State was like that as well.
“I’m sure the tournament is the first time most people get to see Ja. There’s no preparation for it because in the tournament, everybody wants to play in it, but it hits you in the face with the attention and the adrenaline rush. It’s a small window where everybody’s eyeballs are all on you and you can surprise a lot of people. But the biggest thing for me is I had the confidence going in and it sets you up to be ready for that moment.”
As Marquette, the fifth seed in Hartford, bowed out of the tournament on Thursday, former Duke guard and current Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski had some high praise for Morant.
“Ja Morant makes a lot of plans look bad. I mean, I’ve been in this for a while. He’s as good as any guard that I’ve coached against, or played against, and I’ve coached against and played against some outstanding ones,” he said. .”.. The best thing about that kid is his decision-making. I mean, you’re talking about an elite, elite decision-maker, who’s got elite athleticism. And, you know, when you’re talking about a point guard, you should always start with decision-making. And he made great, great decisions, and he makes everyone around him better.”
—Field Level Media