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Morse 6-11 soph focused on future

01/12/2015, 7:55pm PST
By Kirk Kenney

Tigers standout wants to be known for being ‘intelligent,’ not just ‘that tall guy’

Morse’s Brandon McCoy, a 6-foot-11 sophomore, is averaging 19 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocks for the No. 9-ranked Tigers. As a freshman, McCoy helped Morse win a section Division I title.

When you get a glimpse of Morse High’s Brandon McCoy, the immediate expectation is for the 6-foot-11 center to dominate a basketball game.

He doesn’t. At least not yet.

“You just have to remind yourself and remind everybody else that he’s only in 10th grade,” said Morse coach Bob Sumler. “Brandon didn’t even start playing basketball until about four years ago.

“Before it’s all said and done, he will definitely be one of the top players ever to come out of San Diego.”

Make no mistake, McCoy is a presence on the court. He helped Morse (14-4) to a section Division I championship last season as a freshman. He has shown noticeable improvement this year for the No. 9-ranked Tigers.

“He affects shots,” Mira Mesa coach Paul Tessaro said following Friday’s 67-55 loss to the Tigers. “He’s tough. If you don’t limit (Morse) to one shot on offense, then he’s going to clean up.”

Said Morse teammate Justin Davis: “He brings intimidation because they don’t want to go to the rack with a 7-footer in the paint.”

McCoy is averaging 19 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocks a game this season. Imagine what those numbers could be two years from now, when McCoy has grown into his body, when he’s learned to block out better, when he’s improved his footwork and when he’s had a chance to work on other aspects of his game.

“It’s just him learning his body, getting control of it and used to being that tall,” said Sumler.

“To come as far as he’s come in four years is great. There’s tremendous upside.”

As a youngster in Chicago, McCoy recalled how he “wanted to be an Olympic boxer” — an idea he eventually outgrew.

McCoy was 6-3 as an eighth-grader. He was 6-9 as a freshman. He stands 6-11 now and may not be done growing.

At this point, McCoy is just scratching the surface. In basketball and in life.

“It’s not about now,” said Shaun Manning, who is McCoy’s guardian. “Everybody’s looking at how he is now. It doesn’t matter. It’s about how good he’s becoming. He’s to the point now where I’m just trying to get him mature enough to understand that you have a great opportunity.”

McCoy and those around him are intent on developing the 16-year-old into a well-rounded player. And an even more well-rounded person.

After all, McCoy doesn’t want others looking up to him simply because he’s tall.

“I don’t want people to remember me as a basketball player or that tall guy,” said McCoy. “I want people to remember me as being very intelligent.”

McCoy carries a 3.3 GPA at Morse. He’s already thinking about possible careers. Perhaps a pharmacologist. Or maybe a marine biologist.

He said he won an award a couple of years ago for a middle school science fair project in which he extracted DNA from a banana.

“I explained to the judges which stage of a banana has more DNA, which is the unripened banana,” said McCoy. “Ever since then, I liked experimenting and thought maybe I could make a career out of this.”

It was a recent visit to SeaWorld that sparked his interest in marine biology.

“I saw a lot of sea life and it really impressed me,” said McCoy. “I’d just like to learn more and more about marine life.”

McCoy also has expressed an interest in music. He took guitar lessons when he was 13 and taught himself to play the piano a year later.

“My mom makes sure that I put school before anything,” said McCoy. “She doesn’t care about basketball. All she cares about is academics.”

That’s because, more than anything, McCoy’s mom cares about her son.

It was heart-wrenching for Mildred Davis, an Army master sergeant who is now in the reserves after 19 years of active duty, to send Brandon to San Diego. But Davis did so with the belief that it was best for him.

“I don’t know if you’ve followed all the news about Chicago and the violence,” Davis said by phone. “That was one of my big fears. ... I was working hard to get him out of Chicago.”

Manning has worked as a trainer and coach, but McCoy’s mother said his mentoring has meant the most to her son.

“It felt like he would grow Brandon the way that he really needed to be grown as a man,” said Davis. “I’m a single mom, so I was trying to get him to grasp some things. All the things I was trying to teach him, he got it from there. Because it was coming from a man.”

And she’s seen Brandon blossom.

“He’s doing a great job of being responsible,” said Davis. “I’m very, very proud of him, how well he’s doing and how well he’s adjusting.”

Said McCoy: “I know she misses me a lot. But she was in the military, so she understands. ... It’s hard for us, but we also know that it’s for the good. We thought that I’m not just here for sports. It’s for me to accomplish my goals and go to college and get a degree, and, if the NBA is in that conversation, then getting to the NBA.”

It remains to be seen where life takes McCoy. But he is dreaming big. No surprise there.

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