Donald Crocker/The DePaulia

DePaul freshman forward Aneesah Morrow looks to get past her defender versus St. John’s on Friday at Wintrust Arena.

Aneesah Morrow is taking over the Big East — one rebound at a time

January 31, 2022

Aneesah Morrow rarely talks trash during a basketball game. No matter the situation or the opponent, she won’t commit her attention to talking to the other team. 

The goal? To win. 

“If you pay attention, most of the time I don’t talk,” she said. 

Will other players talk smack to her? Possibly. But most other players are also not putting up 20.8 points and 12.8 rebounds per game in their freshman season, and most freshmen aren’t setting their conference record for most rebounds in a game — which Morrow did on Sunday at Seton Hall, grabbing 27 boards. 

But will her family talk some trash during pick-up games? Most definitely. 

“My mother, like, when we play, all the time and she talks stuff,” Morrow said. “But that’s how my family is, so you have to get used to it.”

Morrow, who is 6’1”, is letting her game speak for her as she continues to dominate any opponent that is put in front of her. Entering Wednesday’s game with No. 10 UConn, the freshman forward from Chicago put up 12 consecutive double-doubles — the longest streak in the nation. 

But she had yet to face an opponent like the Huskies, who present a matchup nightmare in the post with multiple players taller than 6-foot-1.

No problem. Morrow still went on to put on a clinic inside the paint against UConn, going for 30 points and 14 rebounds. She was only the fourth player in the previous 20 years to score at least 30 points and grab at least 10 rebounds in a game versus the Huskies, per ESPN’s Stats and Information.

DePaul ended up losing the game by two, 80-78, via a game-winning layup from UConn’s Caroline Ducharme. And, yet, after the game, UConn head coach Geno Auriemma — who is the winningest coach in women’s college basketball history — only had positive things to say about Morrow. 

“I don’t think that there’s another player in our league like that,” he said. “I don’t think that there’s another player in our league that plays like she plays.”

Not bad for a freshman to hear that from a Hall of Fame coach. 

In the midst of that performance, Morrow didn’t feel the need to talk back to some of the UConn’s players — even if some of them might have been chirping the other way. 

“I feel like [Wednesday’s] game was the most I ever talked, and all I said was ‘And-one,’” Morrow recalled. 

The numbers are speaking for themselves, and the awards and recognition that Morrow is racking up on a weekly basis are speaking even louder. 

“I just feel like it just shows all the work I’m putting in, and my determination for the things that I’m going to accomplish,” she said. 

‘I felt like she listened more’

DePaul freshman forward Aneesah Morrow is averaging 20.8 points and 12.8 rebounds per game. (Donald Crocker/The DePaulia)

Basketball is in the Morrow family’s genes. Long before Aneesah Morrow was born, her mother — Nafeesah — was shredding college

basketball defenses at Nebraska.

Nafeesah Morrow spent three years at Nebraska from 1991-94, where she was an all-conference player and averaged 20.2 points and 10.1 rebounds per game as a senior. 

In those couple of years at Nebraska, she ended up meeting her husband — also Aneesah’s father — Edward Morrow, who was a linebacker for the Cornhuskers. He was part of the 1994 national championship-winning team, as well.

So when Nafeesah and Edward had children, their athletic gifts were passed down to their kids. Aneesah’s brother — Ed Morrow Jr. — also had a highly successful high school basketball career before committing to Nebraska and then transferring to Marquette. 

Their sister — Nazlah Morrow — is now at DePaul, as well, after spending her first two years at Miami Dade junior college. She has yet to appear in a game for the Blue Demons this season. 

“[Aneesah] had almost, honestly, a cheat-sheet because she had three siblings go to school before her,” Nafeesah Morrow said. “I think she got to watch and see the process in that, and then listen to the process in which we had. I think that helped her kind of know where she was born and think literally about what she wanted to do.”

With all the talent in the Morrow family, Aneesah has always connected with her mother from a basketball standpoint. 

“When we first started, she was like the one that, really, I connected with, more than my other two daughters,” Nafeesah Morrow said. “I felt like she listened more.” 

The lessons that Morrow was able to learn from her mother has propelled her into putting up big numbers in high school — at Chicago’s own Simeon Career Academy — and now at DePaul. 

She led Simeon to a 35-2 record and the school’s first girls’ basketball state championship in 2020. During that run, Morrow averaged 28.4 points, 14.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. 

“They [my family] helped me a lot because I was always around basketball; my mother was a coach for high school and I had something before me,” Morrow said. 

When it came to sifting through all the colleges that were recruiting Morrow, she got help and advice from her family, who already went through this process before. The decision itself, however, came down to a simple thing: staying closer to her family. 

“When it comes down to making a decision, they [have] already been through it,” she said. “And, me, personally, I knew I didn’t want to go far away from home.” 

‘She’s a tough kid’

DePaul freshman forward Aneesah Morrow set the new Big East record for most rebounds in game — 27 — in a win over Seton Hall on Sunday. (Ben Zebrowski/The DePaulia)

Before the start of every game, Morrow has a ritual that she follows — she prays. 

Praying helps set her mind to the right mentality before stepping on the court. But it’s also a part of who she is and where she has been able to get to in her life. 

“I wouldn’t be where I’m at without my family or without God,” she said. 

Growing up in Chicago has helped shape Morrow’s identity. The determination and fight that she plays with on the court, to grab every rebound and finish inside the paint, comes from that grit and toughness everyone so often hears about when it comes to Chicago athletes.

Morrow is no exception. 

“I know when you grow up in Chicago there is always a chip on your shoulder about anything,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of things that kids should never have seen, so knowing that I’m trying to get away from that and better myself, helps me a lot.”

Off the court, Morrow is that same, tough woman that people watch either at Wintrust Arena or on television when she’s getting rebounds over two or three defenders and then scoring over them.

“She’s a tough kid,” her mother said. “Even in conversation off the court, she’s off the court, you can’t get a lot by her.” 

Morrow continues to get advice and support from family, but, in particular, her mother. Nafeesah Morrow recently sent her daughter a text message reaffirming her belief about hard work.

“Like I told her recently in a text message, I said, ‘See, hard work does pay,’” she said. 

‘She showed she was going to have a major impact’

There have only been 23 games in Morrow’s college basketball career thus far, but the stats she’s posted have put her in rarified air for freshmen. 

Not only is she leading the nation in double-doubles and recently picked up her 15th consecutive, but she is only one of a couple of players this season to post multiple 30-point, 10-rebound games this season.

Even her mother didn’t expect this type of success so soon from her daughter. 

“She’s actually got me thrown backwards because I thought she would be successful, but I just didn’t know it would be on this level,” Nafeesah Morrow said. 

DePaul head coach Doug Bruno also recognized how good she could be from a very young age, which is why he and his staff heavily recruited her in high school. 

“We saw her when she was in eighth grade — we knew the mother and we knew the family — she showed she was going to have a major impact,” Bruno said.

Over the course of this season, Morrow’s numbers have also steadily improved, giving DePaul the needed size and physicality it needs to compete with some of the bigger teams. 

In the last eight days, Morrow has recorded three 30-point games and has averaged nearly 15 rebounds per game in that stretch, with one of those games coming against No. 10 UConn. 

“Aneesah gives us something that this team really needs — we need rebounding, we need interior strength, interior presence, post presence and we need rebounding,” Bruno said. “Aneesah did a great job [on Wednesday] against a really strong UConn team. 

Like most young players, there is obviously room for growth. Morrow’s exceptional start has garnered local and national attention, which puts her in prime position to win both Big East Freshman and Player of the Year. 

But she has goals beyond that. 

“Well, of course, when you play basketball, the goal is to play in the WNBA — or the NBA — you have to say the sky’s the limit for your goals,” Morrow said. “But I see myself setting school history.”

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