Smith's Humble Hoop Star
Player of the Year Morgan Morrison ’23 reflects on a spectacular season and her love of sport
Smith College Pioneers basketball coach Lynn Hersey pulled Morgan Morrison ’23 aside as she exited the locker room following a mid-March practice. She told Morrison to call her parents.
“I knew something was up, but I was like let’s not speculate,” Morrison thought as she dialed her dad, Gary.
Hersey told the family that Morgan had been named NCAA Division III Player of the Year by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association. The distinction makes Morgan the Pioneers’ first WBCA Player of the Year recipient.
Silence met the news initially before her mom, Liza, started clapping and Gary cheered.
“I almost didn’t believe it. I was so shocked. I was so happy,” Morgan said.
At first, she kept the news quiet, telling only her sisters. But eventually her housemates Ally Yamada ’24 and Breona Martin ’23 found out when they overheard Morrison filming a thank you video for the WBCA.
The honor surprised Morrison despite her rapidly filling trophy case. Morrison was also named the D3hoops.com Region 2 Player of the Year, New England Women’s Basketball Association Player of the Year, and NEWMAC conference Player of the Year. “I’d thought about the possibility that I’d be an all-American,” Morrison said. “Maybe I’ll be an all-American, keep myself humble. All the awards I’ve gotten this season never crossed my mind.”
She was too focused on the greatest season in Smith basketball history. The Pioneers won their third straight NEWMAC championship and reached the program’s first Elite 8 and Final Four. Morrison first found time to acknowledge what they’d accomplished during the spring break week of practice leading up to the national semifinal.
“It was nothing but basketball,” Morrison said. “We put Smith on the map.”
“In terms of basketball,” she quickly clarified.
Morrison’s love of sports started at an early age. Both of her parents played college sports at the University of Michigan. Her mom, Liza, swam, while her dad, Gary, played hockey and eventually spent parts of three seasons with the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. They passed their competitive spirit on to their daughters, all of whom played various sports while growing up just outside of Detroit, Michigan. In addition to basketball, Morgan swam and played hockey as well as soccer and softball. “Being competitive is ingrained in me. It led to a fun childhood,” she said. “Because everyone played different sports, it allowed me to explore my own interests in sports and be well-rounded.”
When it came time for Morrison to think about colleges, Smith was not even on her radar—until a Pioneers assistant coach recruited her at an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) tournament in Atlanta, Georgia. She didn’t know anything about the college when she mentioned the conversation to her guidance counselor at Detroit Country Day.
Morrison was considering playing basketball at the Division 2 or 3 level or halting her basketball career and attending a large state school. “My parents have always stressed academics come first,” Morrison said. “If you like the sport you’re playing, use it to set you up for a good life.”
None of the other small schools she’d visited impressed Morrison, so she didn’t expect much when she arrived in Northampton to take a look at Smith. But, she said, “it surpassed everything I thought it would be.”
Now Morrison studies electrical engineering with a focus on renewable energy. She completed three weeks of field research in Alaska last summer and interned at an asphalt plant in Boston. “It’s been a long year academically and athletically,” Morrison said.
On the court, she set Smith’s single-season scoring record with 552 points and scored her 1,000th career point in the Pioneers’ Sweet 16 win over Mary Washington on March 10.
“That was something I really wanted. Every day in the gym in practice I’m looking at these banners of all the people who have scored 1000 points. I've always wanted to be up there and have my name on those banners,” Morrison said. “Now I get to join those people. I didn’t think I was going to get to it.”
With graduation just around the corner, Morrison is contemplating next steps that may, or may not, involve basketball. “I’m scoping out my options and figuring it out,” Morrison said. “It’s weighing that and what will be the best decision for my future. If basketball’s in that, I would love to have basketball be a part of that, but I have to focus on what’s best for my future.”