LSU senior Alexis Morris had the same intention at each stage of her basketball odyssey.
The Beaumont, Texas native signed in 2017 with Baylor and coach Kim Mulkey out
of Legacy Christian High School where she expected to enjoy a career playing for one of the nation’s top programs, under one of the game’s greatest coaches.
That dream lasted one season.
Morris transferred to Rutgers where after two years that included a redshirt season, she
left after having played in seven games. She arrived back in her home state, this time at Texas A&M, where she played in 20 games and averaged six points a game and entered the NCAA’s transfer portal.
“Every destination I went to it was mindset that’s where I was going to finish,” Morris said. “I never thought it was going to be a pit stop. I said everywhere I went this is where I’m graduating. This is it. Things didn’t work out that way. I wouldn’t say unfortunately because it’s turned into a fortunate situation. I’m appreciative for those experiences because I don’t feel like I would have grown as much if I didn’t.”
When Mulkey left Baylor after 20 seasons and three national championships and retraced her roots back to Louisiana and became the coach at LSU, Morris eagerly took notice. Even three years after being dismissed at Baylor for a violation of team rules, Morris envisioned reuniting with Mulkey whom she’d built a relationship with since the seventh grade. She botched her first opportunity to play for the Hall of Fame coach, getting dismissed two days after her arrest on misdemeanor charges of assaulting another woman. Three months later, she was arrested again for marijuana possession and possession of a dangerous substance.
“When I got to Baylor, coach Mulkey taught me structure, organization, discipline,” Morris said. “Being uniformed, being on time. Those were things I needed in my life, that’s why I said I needed her in my life. When I did depart Baylor, other places didn’t have those things and it was weird. I was looking for it.
“I didn’t get it when I was with her, but it all started clicking when I left,” Morris said. “My behavior off the court showed that I was unappreciative of my opportunity at Baylor. I’m appreciative now. I’m a better person, better player. We did big things last year and it’s behind us.
“There’s a quote I live by in life: ‘Keep going’,” she said. “Whatever it is, keep going forward. If you fail, fail going forward and learn from your failure.”
From the time of her dismissal at Baylor until the time of LSU’s first team meeting last March, Morris and Mulkey had not spoken. During that span Morris, the former Texas Gatorade Player of Year and McDonald’s All-American, continued her basketball journey at Rutgers and Texas A&M, playing under Hall of Fame coaches in C. Vivian Stringer and Gary Blair, but left both experiences with an empty feeling.
Morris believed she could find her piece of nirvana once again at her fourth school with a second chance to play for Mulkey at LSU.
“I thought it was a big move for her because I knew how passionate and loyal she was to Baylor,” Morris said. “I knew how deep-rooted she was in Waco. That’s a big move, going back home to Louisiana. Why not reach out? What was the worst she could tell me? I’ve been told no before. I could take the rejection.”
She was welcomed back with open arms and Morris flourished on a team that went 26-6, finished second in the SEC regular season and won an NCAA Tournament game.
This season, with LSU off to a 3-0 start going into Wednesday’s 11 a.m. game at home against Houston Christian, Morris is averaging 14 points, 5.0 assists and shooting 50% from the field.
“For her to contact us and want to come back speaks volumes about her growing up and maturing,” Mulkey said. “I recruited her at a young age, watched her grow. I knew what she was capable of doing. Nothing she did last year surprised me.”
Because of Mulkey’s second chance, the 5-foot-6 Morris begins an unprecedented second season at the same school and as the team’s lone returning starter, will be counted on for her experience and leadership.
“She’s going to push you,” LSU sophomore guard Kateri Poole said of Morris. “She’s going to talk crap back to you. She’s going to get on you. She’s a vet and you can’t expect anything less. She’s in the gym at night. She’s in the gym in the morning. We stay after practice sometimes.”
Morris was the second-leading scorer at 15 points on last year’s team, shooting 46% from the field and earned second team All-SEC honors. She reached double figures in her first 11 games and wound up with 22 double-figure games with a high of 30 points on Jan. 2 against Texas A&M.
LSU certainly missed having Morris’ explosiveness in the lineup when she suffered a MCL sprain in the first minute of a home game with Alabama. The Tigers were able to gut out a 57-54 road win over Tennessee to secure second place in the SEC, but clearly weren’t the same team offensively without her.
Morris returned in the team’s first round NCAA game and was 8-of-9 from the free throw line to help LSU rally from a 10-point deficit and defeat Jackson State, 83-77. She gutted out 13 minutes, scoring three points, in a 79-64 loss to Ohio State that ended the season.
Morris is back for one final run with a knee that’s 100% rehabbed through strength training in the weight room. She’s been named to the preseason Nancy Lieberman watch list for the nation’s top point guards and has been named the preseason All-SEC first team by the league’s coaches and second team by the media, an example of just how far she’s traveled on her journey.
“I’ve been in college for a long time,” said Morris, who will graduate in May in a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with minors in Leadership, Sociology and Sports Management. “I could easily be bored but I’m finding new things, new ways to stay in love with the game. I have a lot of new teammates with no experience.
“Last year was a big year for me,” Morris added. “I had to relax a bit, be happy and have fun with my new team. I’m happy with being back with my coaching staff that I’ve known my entire life. I’ve always believed in me. That’s one thing in my journey I never stopped believing in me. I’ve always known who I was as a player.”
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