Monday, February 9, 2009

The Shot "Herd" 'Round The World

On January 22 ESPN included a remarkable shot by Marshall University's Markell Humphrey on their "Top 10 Plays of the Day". Humphrey's 74 foot game winner slammed off the backboard and through the hoop at the final buzzer, giving the Thundering Herd a thrilling 53-50 win over the Mustangs of SMU. For most Marshall fans that shot brought back fond memories of an even longer buzzer beater that happened on that same court 24 years ago last week. Could there be a Herd fan anywhere who doesn't remember what happened on February 7, 1985?

There are a set of green painted foot prints on the basketball court at Marshall University's Cam Henderson Center. They mark the spot where Bruce Morris made the longest shot in NCAA basketball history. The setting was a Southern Conference game between Coach Rick Huckabay's Thundering Herd and the Mountaineers of Appalachian State University. Time was running out in the first half when Bruce Morris took an inbound pass three feet inside the baseline with only three seconds remaining. Morris turned, and heaved the ball with all his might toward the Herd's goal, 89 feet and 10 inches away. What happened next made college basketball history.

Nothing but net! ... swisheroo! ... string music!

We weren't at that particular game. It was Linda's birthday. The boys and I were lying in the living room floor watching it on TV. The crowd of three at my house went wild! (Linda was not in the room at the time) Jay and Benji were just kids, but they'll tell you today that they remember "The Shot". A year or so later, when Ben attended Huck's summer basketball camp, the first thing he wanted to do was stand on those footprints. Every kid who sets foot on the Henderson Center floor wants to do the same.

Now, there have been some great moments at the Henderson Center. Herd fans thrilled to the exciting play of guys like Skip Henderson and John Taft. We remember Jason Williams and an exciting , although brief, time of "Billy Ball", when Billy Donovan made his head coaching debut here. And who can forget when "Huck's Herd" hosted the very first visit of the hated WVU Mountaineers? Gale Catlett had tried to play down the hype that was building the week of the big showdown by saying, "It's just another game". Not to Herd fans! Rick Huckabay and his coaching staff showed up on the sidelines sporting tuxedos and green cummerbunds! Just another game? Hardly. The atmosphere was electric! The biggest moment of the game came when a WVU player (gee! I didn't think I'd ever forget that guy's name!) began to exchange words with Coach Catlett on the bench. To the crowd's surprise (and delight) the disgruntled player tore off his jersey, fired it at Catlett, and paraded bare chested off the court, yelling "Go Herd!"

Now Markell Humphrey's long distance, game winning shot joins these and other great moments at "The Big Butterfly" down on Third Avenue. But only one event prompted footprints being painted on the floor - Bruce Morris' shot "herd" 'round the world! Morris etched his name in the annals of basketball history, and became a local hero in Herd territory and on campus. "The Herald-Dispatch" reported that the girls in Buskirk Hall set up a fan club and Bruce 'Miracle' Morris tribute on the wall of the first floor of that dormitory. That's Bruce with his hand on the wall.

Where is Bruce now? You'll find him officiating major college women's basketball, or running his own lawn care and landscaping business, or watching his two youngest daughters, MacKenzie and Madison playing Middle School and AAU basketball (What else would they be doing? It's in the genes. Their mom, Angie, is quite an athlete, herself). On Sunday's (when they're not on the road) you'll find Bruce, Angie, and the girls in their places at Westmoreland Baptist Church, where they are valued members of the church family. The Morris family are one part of the mosaic that make up our local fellowship of believers who can rejoice (not because of painted footprints on the court, but because their names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life)!

By the way. Marshall won that game over Appy State, 93-82.

Happy "Anniversary" Bruce. We haven't forgotten.

UPDATE: Jim Bailey emailed me to remind me that the WVU player's name was Tim Austin. I didn't think I'd ever forget that guy's name, but I'll blame it on having a "senior moment". That WVU game was not the last time the Herd faced Tim Austin. He finished his college career at East Tennessee State University (also in the Southern Conference)
Thanks for the help, Jim!!!


Anonymous said...

He scored off a blocked shot, not an inbounds pass...get your facts straight.

C.J. Adkins said...

I stand corrected. Anonymous obviously remembers the details of the event better than I. But I confess, it has been 24 years - and I have slept since then. My memory chips aren't what they once were. So, with my apologies to Anonymous, I now have my facts straight.
Thanks for reading, and for your comment...

Jen said...

Does video of this shot exist anywhere that you know of it? I'm a Marshall alum living in Northern VA - several of my colleagues and I just visited Huntington and Marshall - it was the first time any of them had been to the campus and were curious about this (and other) Marshall history.