OGDEN — Brenden Morris is 6-foot-7 with a smooth shooting stroke.
The Ben Lomond High School alum, who was a Standard-Examiner First Team All-Area player as a senior, briefly followed a path to play Division III basketball at Southern Virginia.
That wasn’t for Morris, though. After two weeks, he returned home without an exact plan but with a sure feeling.
“This is where I grew up. I used to come to Weber State and watch games, I’d watch high school state games with my dad all the time. I always wanted to play here and play in front of these fans. It’s that sense of just being home, of community,” Morris told the Standard-Examiner before the 2019-20 season.
“I had people come up to me and tell me ‘hey, you could go somewhere else and play.’ But this is home to me ... Division I was my ultimate goal. I wanted to experience that no matter what.”
Shortly after returning home from Virginia, Morris made Weber State’s team through a walk-on tryout prior to the 2015-16 season.
Now, Morris will be honored Monday with Jerrick Harding and Cody John during WSU’s senior night as perhaps one of the rarest types of players in college basketball: a five-year walk-on (though, to be technical, a late change left a scholarship open and Morris was granted a scholarship for one season).
Morris has played in 23 total games at 3.9 minutes per appearance, usually taking the floor only in lopsided wins or losses, or in games against non-Division I foes.
Will he see the floor Monday against Idaho State? To Morris, that’s secondary.
“Just being honored before the game is good enough for me. If I get time, then I do. If I don’t, I don’t,” he said. “I just want to be honored at the beginning just for what I’ve done for all five years I’ve been here. I’m really looking forward to that.”
The focus of Morris’ anticipation wasn’t surprising to head coach Randy Rahe.
“That’s why I love the kid to death,” Rahe said. “He’s totally selfless, he’s about team, he doesn’t get a lot of reward — other than his teammates love him, his coaches love him. That’s been his attitude every step of the way ... I think the world of him.”
Morris carries Utah college basketball in his blood. His mother, Maleesa, identifies the genesis to Brenden’s great-grandmother’s brother, Vern Gardner — a two-time All-American at the University of Utah who teamed with the likes of Wat Misaka to lead the Utes to their second NIT championship in 1947. Gardner later moved to the Ogden area and coached at Bonneville High.
Among basketball figures related to Vern who branch out from there, according to Maleesa: Mike Gardner (BYU, 1962-65, coached at Davis High), Ken Gardner (Utah, 1968-71), Scott Gardner (Weber State, 1973-75), Vern’s son Chene Gardner (Weber State, 1986-88), Joel Gardner (first and longtime Mountain View High head coach) and his son Jeff Gardner (Idaho State, 2003-05), Gary Gardner (former coach at Ricks College and Tooele High School), Jeff Schofield (Weber State, 1986-88), and Brody Van Brocklin (Weber State, 2006-08).
Morris said Weber State has brought him lasting friendships with players like Zach Braxton, Ryan Richardson and more, plus unforgettable experiences like making the NCAA Tournament and getting to travel to The Bahamas.
On the court, his favorite memory is his first. After redshirting the 2015-16 season, WSU opened the 2016-17 campaign against Antelope Valley. With buckets dropping fast and furious for the Wildcats, Morris checked in for the final eight minutes.
His first college points came on an alley-oop dunk passed to him from Richaud Gittens — the first in-game dunk of his life, he says.
Morris dunked one more time in that game, then dropped home a 3-pointer for WSU’s final basket — points 126, 127 and 128, which set a new single-game team scoring record for the program.
It’s the last make that sets Morris apart despite his limited minutes. When he gets an opportunity to play, he can step on the court and knock down shots.
“He can really shoot it,” Rahe said. “When he plays on the scout team, he always plays the shooter that we don’t want to let get shots. And he frustrates you because he’ll make all of his shots and, defensively, you’re not supposed to let them make shots. He can sit there for a bunch of games in a row and if we’re in a game where we get a lead and get to check him in, and every time he shoots it — whether it’s practice or he checks into a game — I think he’s making it.”
In limited minutes on even more limited touches, Morris is a career 40% 3-point shooter (6 of 15).
This season, he scored five points (2 of 2 shooting, including 1 of 1 from 3) with two rebounds and one assist in seven minutes in a 130-50 win over West Coast Baptist, again helping WSU set a new single-game team scoring record (and largest margin of victory).
Morris’ college journey includes marrying his high school sweetheart, MacKeely, after the 2015-16 season. The web and user experience major says he never really had an expectation to play in a game, so appearing 23 times has “been huge” for him.
“As long as I’m working hard and my teammates know I’m working hard, that’s all I really care about,” Morris said.
Walk-ons, at least at WSU, put in the same work scholarship players do, plus learn opposing schemes on the fly to perform on scout team during practice. So many will remember the uniqueness of Morris staying for five years and the attitude he’s carried.
“B-Mo has been as important to us as a lot of guys we’ve had come through here,” Rahe said. “He comes to work every single day. All he wants to do is try to make our team better, whatever he can do to make his team better. He’s a wonderful teammate, high character, guys love him, incredibly supportive.
“He’s going to be one of those that, whenever I’m all done with this stuff, I’m going to look back and remember B-Mo. To me, he’s that special of a kid.”