By Emily Barker | Ball State Sports Link
Ball State freshman guard Jill Morrison grew up preparing to one day be part of the tradition that brings Winchester, Indiana together every basketball season.
“Basketball is definitely a big part of Winchester,” Morrison said. “You see a lot of people at the games and that was just a great environment when I was younger. It definitely drove me to want to play high school basketball.”
Little did Morrison know, her love of basketball would lead her 30 minutes from home to play for Ball State’s Brady Sallee and the Cardinals.
“When I first started getting recruited, I was never going to go to Ball State,” Morrison said. “It’s too close to home. As I got along in my process -- just all the stress and everything -- I was like yes, Ball State. It’s close to home and I wanted people to be able to come and watch me. It’s too important to me.”
Among those who come to watch is Brock Morrison, Jill’s older brother. Brock is her biggest competitor and he only fueled her journey to Muncie. Growing up, she was the younger, smaller sibling and it only motivated her to be tougher and helped improve her game.
“Our relationship is special,” Brock said. “That may come as a surprise to somebody if we were in the same room together, because not a whole lot of compliments are shared back and forth. We are each other’s biggest critics. We want to top each others performances.”
“You know, he is my hero,” Jill said. “He is my biggest role model. He is the person I look up to and kind of follow in his footsteps. Brock and I are both really competitive and I would say probably against each other the most. We probably have the most unique brother-sister relationship out there.”.
As expected with any sibling rivalry, there are several stories that stick in the memory. Brock recalls a heated game in the driveway when Jill was in sixth grade.
“I would always take the ball from her and she would get upset with me and I wouldn’t let her get by me, “Brock said. “She thought I was fouling her so I said you have to protect the ball.
“She said ‘take it from me one more time, see what happens,’ so I took it from her one more time. She reared and punched me in the face. Then, she took off running inside and hid behind Mom like she always used to do when she was a kid.”
Even with a sibling competition – and a few punches along the way -- Morrison said she is her older brother’s biggest fan.
Brock played Division III basketball at Anderson University. Jill always envied her older brother, but now, the tables have turned.
“Growing up she was always jealous of what I had, and now I am jealous of what she has,” Brock said. “All of her records and all of her great accomplishments. Now, she made it to the Division I level.”
At Winchester, Morrison averaged 27.8 points per game and the collegiate stage does not seem to intimidate her.
She has played in all 22 games and is averaging just under 10 points per game this season. The freshman scored a career-high 26 points in a win over Western Kentucky.
“It has been an adjustment,” Morrison said. “I have had to learn and really learn to accept my new role at the Division I level. It is definitely different than it was in high school, but I enjoy it. I feel like I understand it and the season is going pretty well.”
Although she is only a half hour from home, Morrison said the move has been difficult because of the fan base and the confidence of playing in Winchester Field House.
Ball State veterans helped to ease Morrison’s transition and calm the freshman nerves of playing Division I basketball.
“Brandy Woody, Brittany Carter, Nathalie Fontaine -- all of them -- have been there for anything,” Morrison said. “Normally upperclassman don’t really accept freshman into a big role on the team. But, they come to us and are like ‘we need you guys to step up and play your game.’ That’s really key for us, to our confidence and helps us out know we can be comfortable and not on our heels.”
The welcoming nature not only helped the transition to Muncie, but also helped the team mold together when they first arrived for practice back in the summer.
“Our chemistry is special,” Morrison said. “We all get along really well. It’s like we are a family and I feel like that is important to be able to be successful. It’s just really fun knowing you have other girls that love you and want you to be successful.”
Being so close to her hometown, Morrison has a crowd cheering at every Ball State game at Worthen Arena. The familiar faces not only include her parents and brother, but also members of the Winchester community.
“The atmosphere was really special at Winchester,” Morrison said. “ The field house was packed on most of our home games. It got really loud in there, it’s a smaller place, obviously than to Worthen, but it was just a really special environment.
“To have them come over here to try and make it that special -- to cheer for all of us Cardinals is just amazing.”
With the tight-knit community still supporting her, Ball State reminds her that Winchester was a great place to grow up and she will always have a special place for them in her heart.
“It’s a really good feeling knowing that people want to support you after high school,” Morrison said. “ It’s fun being able to look back and be like ‘I used to play in Winchester and now I’m at Ball State.’ It’s just great that people travel and watch. Its really special to me.”