By Holly Kitten
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
When Casey Morris arrived at Texas Tech in 2009, she was ready to play basketball.
Only, she couldn't. Not for an entire year.
"It wasn't easy having to sit out and watch them play," Morris said, "and wanting to play every day."
At the time, Morris was a sophomore transfer from California and due to NCAA transfer rules, she had to sit out her first year as a Lady Raider.
However, Morris said she did what she could. She gave it her all at practice, and carefully observed the games from the bench.
"To sit out and watch for a little while, and see what I could learn from mistakes and learn from positives on the court just from watching," Morris said. "It was helpful."
Head coach Kristy Curry said she noticed Morris taking her year off as an opportunity to learn and grow as a player.
"She turned it into a positive," Curry said. "Believe me, it made our basketball team that much better having her day-in and day-out in practice, just the effort that she brought."
Not playing that year was one of the most challenging periods in her basketball career, Morris said. But eventually, it ended, and the next season, she was back on the court, ready for a new start.
"It was nice to finally be there again," Morris said. "I mean, I was pretty rusty, but it was fun, and I was happy to be back on the court after that one year that was so, so long."
Though Morris thought she was rusty, her statistics that year seemed to prove otherwise. The sophomore guard started in all 33 games in the 2010-2011 season, scored a career-high 23 points against Texas A&M, and received All-Big 12 honorable mention, just to mention a few.
Morris said it is not her talent that made her so successful, but the talent of her teammates.
"It's nice to have teammates that you can work off their skills and you can use your skills, and know that you got to work together," she said. "When they do well, you can do well."
This season, the Lady Raiders have done nothing but good. Finishing non-conference play with a perfect 12-0 record, the women have continued to climb the polls, ranking as high as No. 13 on the first day of the new year.
Last season, the Lady Raiders made it to the first round of the NCAA tournament, and Morris said she hopes they can do better this time.
"We have maturity and experience now," she said. "I just want to get as far as we can in the NCAA tournament, and do all we can there."
Curry said she has seen Morris mature in particular, especially in her decision-making as a point guard and as a shooting guard. Curry has been impressed with Morris's versatility in the two roles.
There are still improvements Morris said she would like to make, though.
"I want to pick up defensively," she said. "That's one of the things I need to work on."
Off the court, Curry said Morris can make no further improvements because her personality is one that cannot be beat.
"She's a classy kid, both on the floor and in the community," Curry said. "She's a great teammate, a great leader, a great role model, and she's a really neat kid. I know we all say that as coaches, but she's a really special young lady."
Although Morris had to miss a year on the court, Curry said the junior has more than made up for it over the past year and a half.
"It's been a unique situation," Curry said. "There's no doubt she's made us a much better basketball team."