Mikala Morris hasn’t secured the most rebounds in Ohio high school girls basketball history just because she’s always the biggest and strongest player on the floor. She rebounds with her eyes and her mind.
“It helps a lot that I’m taller and stronger than most girls, but I’ve had a lot of good coaches teach me how to rebound, how to read the ball where it’s going,” said Morris, who is 6-foot-2. “You have to read where the ball’s going in order to get it, and I’m pretty good at that.”
»RELATED: Friday’s high school roundup
»RELATED: Friday’s high school scoreboard
Morris entered the weekend needing 22 rebounds to set the state career record. She got 14 and scored 43 points in Friday night’s 73-47 win over Jonathan Alder in her final home game. She set the record Saturday with 11 rebounds in a 34-23 win at Chaminade-Julienne.
“It’s just a really big deal to me,” Morris said after Friday night’s game. “I’ve been working at this for so long. It’s nice to see it’s coming true.”
Morris broke the record of 1,690 set by Kaayla Chones at Eastlake North from 1996-99. Chones had rebounding in her genes. Her dad, Jim Chones, was known for his rebounding prowess as a power forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1970s.
When Matt McCurdy took over as the Cougars’ head coach before last season, he didn’t have to teach Morris to rebound. She already knew how. When he watched video of the team’s previous season, when Morris was a sophomore, he realized he was watching the most intelligent rebounder he had ever seen in high school.
“Her IQ,” McCurdy says and smiles. “You’ll see a shot go up, and she moves to the spot where it typically ends up. And she’s physical, which you have to be to be a rebounder. She does a good job of initiating the contact and keeping the girls behind her and going and attacking the basketball.”
Getting a double-double in points and rebounds is a big deal for a basketball player. But Morris has taken her averages to another level this season, averaging 26 points and 21 rebounds. Her production has led the Cougars (19-3, 8-2) to 13 straight victories.
The 43 points she scored against Alder (14-4, 5-2) were one short of her career high, which came this season against Shawnee. Morris made a variety of shots, including a 3-pointer, with tape all over her fingers. She jammed the ring finger on her right hand in a game on Wednesday and had it taped to her middle finger. She jammed those two fingers on her left hand early in Friday’s game and played with them taped together.
“She’s just a tough kid and continues to play through it,” McCurdy said. “The other girls do a great job of getting her the basketball and being extremely patient and playing off of her.”
The Cougars will enter tournament play with confidence. They lost to Alder by one early in the season. It was the second time recently they beat a team — Tecumseh was the other — that had beaten them earlier in the season. McCurdy said his team is turning the ball over much less, being more patient on offense and playing better defense the second half of the season.
“I want to get really far in the tournament,” Morris said. “I think we have a lot of potential, and right now we’re playing really well. I have total faith in my team that we can get to districts or even past that.”