Edmond Memorial coach Shane Cowherd saw the changes coming in practice first, then gradually, in games.
Shaquille Morris was beginning to realize the potential that people had been talking about for two-plus years.
He was transforming from a big, strong, athletic kid who might be good, to a 6-foot-7, 260-pound freight train on the basketball court.
Morris, The Oklahoman's Boys Basketball Big All-City Player of the Year, averaged 17.1 points and 8.7 rebounds for Memorial, and was at his best late in the year as the Bulldogs won their second state championship in three seasons.
“It takes a little bit of time for a kid to put what he does in practice into application in games,” Cowherd said. “But as he started to get more comfortable and gain confidence, everything started to click. He became a much better player, seemingly every night.”
Memorial point guard Jordan Woodard saw it coming, too. He had played against Morris for two seasons when the big man was at Edmond Santa Fe. Then they were teammates last summer.
“His mental edge got so much stronger,” Woodard said. “He just improved so much. It was really great to watch him progress like that.
“But really, it was all mental. He always had the game. He was always dunking on people. He just took it to a new level when it came to rebounding, blocking shots, controlling the paint. He's one of the biggest reasons why we won.”
Morris, who signed with Wichita State in November, had to deal with some pressure, too. There were high expectations for him individually and the Bulldogs as a team. And he heard the outsiders talking him down after he transferred from Santa Fe before his senior year.
“People were saying this and that,” Morris said. “But that didn't bother me at all. I knew I had to come out and work for the team. I just did what I had to do, and I'm glad we came out on top.”