Back in May, we caught up with then-Nets (and now Hawks) shooting guard Anthony Morrow to talk about offseason plans, Twitter, off-the-court hobbies and plenty more. Here’s Part 2 of that conversation, in which the 26-year-old breaks down the arduous path he took from West Charlotte, NC to his first breakthrough performance in the NBA.
SLAM: Tell me a little about your hometown.
Anthony Morrow: I’m from Charlotte—West Charlotte. Me and my moms, a single parent. I’m still close with my dad, though. Just being from here, I always liked the Charlotte Hornets, I always wanted go to UNC-Chapel Hill, but it didn’t work out. But it’s just a real sports-crazy town. I love all my Charlotte sports—Carolina Hurricanes, all my Charlotte sports [teams].
SLAM: You have a lot of hometown pride?
AM: Yeah, definitely man. I have a few Charlotte tattoos, North Carolina tattoos. My whole family’s here, basically. This is my home home, and Atlanta’s like my second home.
SLAM: How old were you when you first got into hoops?
AM: I started playing organized basketball when I was 3. My uncle had a 6- or 7-year-old team, and since I was his nephew he let me play on that team. I didn’t play much, but I remember a little bit—playing, my mom bringing me to practice, stuff like that. It was cool being a little kid on the team and playing with the big boys. I think that helped me out a lot.
SLAM: So you were a big Charlotte Hornets fan growing up?
AM: Yeah, Hornets fan. I still get a lot of Charlotte Hornets throwback stuff, like the hats and stuff. Every time some new throwback-type stuff comes out, I always get it. They had the best gear! They had the best uniforms; they had the best everything back then. Everybody I know from everywhere had the Charlotte Hornets Starter pullover jacket when it was hot in the ’90s.
SLAM: That logo was great.
AM: Yeah I know, man. I want them to come back. They were talking about if the League was to buyout the New Orleans Hornets that they would consider giving the name back to Charlotte, and I thought that’d be great.
SLAM: Who were your favorite players back then?
AM: Larry Johnson, Dell Curry, Alonzo Mourning, a lot of people. Kendall Gill. Hersey Hawkins. Really everybody. I liked everybody.
SLAM: So who’d you model your gave after? Anyone specific?
AM: On the Hornets back then?
SLAM: Yeah, or just in general, as you were getting older.
AM: From the Hornets, Dell Curry was one. His shot is so [great]. And overall, Michael Jordan, obviously. I used to look at guys’ forms on their jumpshot. So Dell Curry, Michael Jordan, Kobe—when I got a little older—Ray Allen, Reggie Miller. Those were the top guys I really looked at.
SLAM: Was there one place in your hometown that was really important to you?
AM: One place I can say outside of like, family and Church, really, the Dowd YMCA. I used to go up there with my brother and play with all the older guys. I still go up there to this day; I’m about to go up there after this and lift weights. It’s just a place where the best competition played at, if you wanted to play pick-up basketball. I remember to this day my brother almost got into a fight—one of the older guys elbowed me in the nose and my nose started bleeding when I was like 10. I was real little back then. That was one of the places that really helped me, kinda built my competitive, street side a little bit that you need—that edge. But everybody was up there playing, even some of the guys from the Hornets.
SLAM: Were you competitive with your brother?
AM: Yeah, we used to fight all the time, like every day. He used to really beat up on me back then, because he was so much bigger, faster, quicker and stronger, and he was always a good defender when he played, so I used to always play against him all the time and try to get my moves better and everything. He really helped me a lot. He still thinks he can beat me, though, so I always beat up on him now.
SLAM: You were Mr. Basketball in North Carolina when you were in high school. Was that a huge deal?
SLAM: Definitely. It still is, but even more so back then, because I went to a private school from ninth grade to 12 grade—I went to Charlotte Latin and played under Coach Jerry Faulkner, who was like a father to me—and that was a big deal for me because back then a lot of people weren’t really recognized coming from private schools. So to get All-City and then become Mr. Basketball in North Carolina, it was like, nobody could envision that. I came from public school, and I didn’t really get a lot of credit for anything I was doing until we started playing public schools around Charlotte and started getting national attention, started beating a couple ranked teams in the country and a couple big-timers. I played well, and then people started to recognize and respect it. I think it was a bigger deal back then because not a lot of people was coming from private schools and doing stuff like that.
SLAM: That must have been a great validation for you—like, OK, I can really play.
AM: Yeah, it was a huge deal at that time. After that, a lot of people started getting their kids out of public schools and into private schools because they saw the story that my mom had, like, “I’m gonna take him out of here, get a scholarship, he might be able to go to the NBA.” Nobody saw the preparation in the years before that—all the hard work my mom was doing, helping my mom do little odd jobs cleaning buildings, working for cleaning services, doing all kinds of stuff like that, and then still going to the gym and putting in the work with my assistant coach at Charlotte Latin. So there was a lot of hard work that went into that; it wasn’t just like I woke up one day and everything just turned around. It was a grind. That reminds me of where I came from and that still pushes me today with anything I do, with any accomplishments I want to achieve. It’s all about that preparation going into it.
SLAM: What kind of effect did that have on you, watching your mom bring you up by herself?
AM: It was tough. But first of all, a lot of people go through a lot—you hear that story a lot. It’s not like I feel like I did something that was impossible or anything like that. But there’s certain things in my mind that I remember not having, or struggling through, not knowing sometimes how we were gonna get bills and certain stuff paid. I remember specific stuff like that that I’ve always kept in the back of my mind—throughout high school, throughout college and here now. For me, I got great satisfaction over just taking care of my parents—getting my mom a house, getting my mom a car, getting my dad straight, taking care of my brother and my cousin and my daughter and the people around me. It just made me appreciate the people around me more to know that family is more important than anything. It’s God, family and basketball with me. That’s what keeps me grounded, so I don’t have to worry about what’s really important. Those are the things I’ve based my life around, so it’s not very complicated. Everything else kind of falls into place.
SLAM: Do you remember wanting anything specific—like a jersey, or a pair of sneakers—that you couldn’t have at the time?
AM: When I was little I remember my first pair of Jordans—my aunt got me my first pair of Jordans. The Jordan Vs. Those are my favorite pair of Jordans to this day; I just got a new pair a few weeks ago. I remember I messed them up because I couldn’t stop on my bike so I had to use my feet to stop and I tore ‘em up real bad.
SLAM: Ah, man. That must’ve been devastating.
AM: Yeah, I was messed up (laughs). It was terrible, man, ‘cause when I got old enough to realize what kind of shoes I had on, I was like, “Mom, how could you let me tear those shoes up like that?” Those were classic, the first ones that came out.
SLAM: How’d you wind up at Georgia Tech?
AM: Coach Hewitt and his staff, they were very sincere when they came to visit me, very honest. They were just coming off the championship run year when they lost to UConn in the championship, and Coach Hewitt just let me know from the beginning, “I’m gonna push you, I’m gonna work you hard, you’re gonna learn more about life and basketball and school—you’ll learn more off the court and out of the classroom as well.” He was like, “I wanna prepare you every way I can,” and he did. I think mostly it was just about mental toughness with him, and it was something that I had to go through to grow up. And I think that really helped with my development, being able to withstand stuff my rookie year in the NBA, with being undrafted. So I’ve always kind of been the underdog—that’s just how it’s always been—and I think he helped with that mentality. Work hard no matter what.
SLAM: Do you think staying in college for four years had a strong impact on your progression as a player?
AM: Definitely. Going to college for four years was one of the best things that ever could’ve happened to me. I think it’s wrong and kind of messed up, but it’s kind of how it is, the way people look at it like if you stay four years there’s something wrong with you. That’s ridiculous. One of my favorite college players this past year was Darius Miller, a guy who stayed four years and he has NBA game, an NBA body, can shoot it, can put it on the floor, can defend—I think he’s gonna be a great pro. And I think that if Coach Calipari keeps more guys for four years, that’s gonna start setting a trend that’s staying four years to get looked at. It was huge for me. Every year I learned something new on and off the court.
SLAM: Was it a shock when you didn’t get drafted? Were you expecting a team to take a shot on you?
AM: I really didn’t, but at the same time, you know you think about Draft day every day. I watch the Draft every year, like I can’t miss it. I don’t care what I have to do, I gotta watch the Draft from start to finish. I knew I probably wasn’t going to get drafted. I watched the Draft with some of my friends—I didn’t go have a big Draft thing or anything like that. I knew I had a solid year but I knew there was a chance I wasn’t going to get drafted. I actually fell asleep during the Draft. I remember I woke up and I called my agent and he had some stuff set up for me for overseas. I played summer league with the Miami Heat, then I played with Golden State, and I did well with both and everything worked out. Before then, he was pretty much just like, “You didn’t get drafted, but right now it’s about the grind.” I had signed to go to the Ukraine for $80,000, and I never went, because I had a chance to play [in the NBA].
SLAM: When you watch the Draft now, do you think back on that feeling of getting passed up?
AM: Definitely. I think about it every year. I still can’t believe I’m here, sometimes. I still can’t believe I’m going into my fifth year in the NBA. Still sometimes I walk around and people recognize me in places I wouldn’t expect them to. We were in Toronto and I was walking in the mall, just being myself, and a group of kids came up. Or I’m in New jersey and a group of kids come up, or even back home. It’s a good feeling, and it pushes me to work harder, but it’s like I pinch myself sometimes.
SLAM: What was the feeling like after you eventually signed a deal with the Warriors?
AM: It was crazy. I remember waking up after the last day of summer league, and I had played well until then. I remember I woke up and I had a call from my agent, and he was like, they’re gonna sign me. I was like, “OK, what, for training camp?” And he was like, “Nah, it’s a two-year deal. You just gotta keep playing well and keep doing what you’re supposed to do, but you’re going to keep getting the money in.” I couldn’t believe it, man. I called my mom, that was the first person I called. She couldn’t believe it, she was so happy.
SLAM: And you weren’t expecting it.
AM: I wasn’t expecting it; I was feeling good with the overseas deal. I had played so well [in summer league] that my salary overseas went from $80,000 to like $110,000 or $120,000, so I was thinking, I’m gonna get $120,000. I had a daughter on the way, and I was like, I’m good with that, because I didn’t know what I was gonna do. I knew I was gonna play, but I didn’t know if I was gonna be in the D-League or whatever. So it was just crazy how everything sort of worked out for me. It got to the point where I was cool with the overseas [offer], because I was thankful that I had something to fall back on. But summer league just turned into, OK, I’m gonna prove to all these teams why they should’ve taken me in the Draft. I remember the same guys I went at—I’m not gonna say their names—but I went at all of them, because they got drafted and they had been looked at more than me, so it was about respect.
SLAM: Then in the NBA you got a few minutes off the bench here and there initially, but in your first start you went for 37 and 11.
AM: Yeah, it was like, I belong. I couldn’t believe it. I tell this story all the time where I was playing that game, and it was a point in that game when I was going back-and-forth with Cuttino Mobley. I couldn’t guard anybody at all back then, so I was going back-and-forth with Cuttino, and Cuttino was really good. I really loved his game back then. And I was scoring, and Coach called a play and I just went and sat in the corner, and was standing there, and Stephen Jackson broke the play up and was like, “Nah, come back and post up! Go at him again!” And he was like, “Don’t stop! Go at him again! Keep goin’!” And it was at that point where it just took off for me. You had Stephen Jackson and Corey Maggette, those guys are behind me telling me they have confidence, they believed in me. That’s all I really needed to see. After the game I went in the locker room, took a shower, came back out, and I saw a bunch of cameras. I wasn’t paying attention, so I turn around and all of them were right there. They were like, “Yeah, we’re here for you, man.” It was crazy.