From the moment he joined the Maryland men’s basketball program, Darryl Morsell’s calling card has been his defense. In four years with the Terps, the Baltimore native has been tasked with locking down stars of all shapes and sizes from across the Big Ten. His efforts have now been recognized in glowing fashion.
Morsell was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year by the league’s coaches on Tuesday, March 9. He is the first Maryland player to ever win the award; it’s the Terps’ seventh season in the Big Ten, and the ACC had no such award until 2014.
“It is truly an honor to be selected for this award by Big Ten coaches,” Morsell said in a press release. “I would not have achieved this without the support of God, in addition to my family, teammates and coaches. I know this is an individual award, but it is truly a team award. We accomplished this together and I cannot say enough about the guys in our locker room who made it happen.”
Morsell anchored a Maryland defense that allowed the second-fewest points in the Big Ten, holding opponents to 64.7 points per game on 40.4 percent field-goal shooting. The Terps played an undersized lineup for the majority of the season, with four guards and no traditional center, but their length and quickness have allowed them to hold their own against talented, larger foes.
Head coach Mark Turgeon and Maryland players alike have referred to Morsell as the Terps’ “heart and soul” throughout the season. Teammate Aquan Smart led a social media campaign for Morsell to win Defensive Player of the Year, and now the Terps have gotten their wish.
“I am so proud of Darryl for earning this prestigious award as the best defender in the best league in the country,” head coach Mark Turgeon said in a release. “To be recognized by Big Ten coaches shows how much respect he has earned over the last four years. Darryl worked incredibly hard to reach this point and to see it validated is extremely special.”
Morsell was also named to the Big Ten’s All-Defensive Team, alongside Illinois’ Trent Frazier, Michigan State’s Aaron Henry, Penn State’s Jamari Wheeler and Rutgers’ Myles Johnson. Maryland has now had an all-defensive honoree in four straight seasons; Morsell joins Jalen Smith in 2020, Bruno Fernando in 2019 and Anthony Cowan Jr. in 2018.
Three Terps — Morsell and junior guards Eric Ayala and Aaron Wiggins — earned All-Big Ten honorable mentions. It’s Morsell’s second such selection and the first for the junior duo. Morsell was also Maryland’s Sportsmanship Award honoree.
It’s a fitting culmination of a four-year career built on hard work and Baltimore toughness. Those who have seen Morsell throughout the last four seasons have witnessed his growth both on the court and as an everyday leader. His defense was always the headliner, but his offense became quietly consistent as well — he’s averaged 8.7, 8.5, 8.5 and 8.8 points per game in his four years, slowly improving his shooting along the way. Morsell scored his 1,000th career point against Nebraska on Feb. 17.
The Terps enter the Big Ten tournament 15-12 overall and 9-11 in league play. A five-game winning streak in late February vaulted Maryland into the projected NCAA Tournament field, but losses last week at Northwestern and against Penn State have added stress to the final week before Selection Sunday.
Maryland is the No. 8 seed in the conference tournament and will face No. 9-seed Michigan State at 11:30 a.m. ET on Thursday, March 11.
See Also: Baltimore’s Own: Darryl Morsell, Jalen Smith Look To Fuel Maryland Men’s Basketball (Oct. 2019)
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