When Texas Longhorn Sonya Morris steps out on the court, everyone there knows one thing: she is here to play. Morris casually laughs about it, but she’s a competitive player and not shy about making sure that’s clear.
It turns out Morris comes by this competitive spirit honestly. As she explains, competition is just part of the fabric of her family. She tells Swish Appeal, “If you think I’m competitive, you should really meet my dad. He tops anybody that I know! I’ve always been around competitive people, but my family ... that’s definitely where I get it from.”
The trait is something that Morris has come to value in herself. As she puts it, her drive to be the best she can be as much as possible extends to every part of her life, not just basketball — though hoops often take center stage.
Morris took up basketball as one of several sports that she and her sister participated in. She explains that her first memory of picking up a basketball goes all the way back to kindergarten when her dad realized something special was happening. She says, “We touched everything, but he could just see in our eyes that we loved basketball the most.”
The Texas guard can remember the day she decided to commit to basketball perfectly. In a funny way, she has an entirely different sport to thank for her current status as one of the more dynamic NCAA players playing this season. She says there came a time in which she knew she had to choose between track and basketball and didn’t know which way to move ... until all of a sudden the decision was made for her.
Morris says, “My sister and I both ran track, and I was in a 200-meter dash. I got dusted so bad — so bad — and I’m just like, ‘I would never get dusted in basketball.’” She laughs and continues, “I don’t know if I took the easy way out, but I was like, ‘Let’s just be realistic.’”
These days, countless fans are happy that particular dose of reality was delivered just in time. Back in those days, Morris’ game was about defense. As she puts it, “I just loved to run and move, and the competitive one-on-one, person-on-person ... once I found out how to shoot and to play with the ball, it was just so much fun. It just came together.”
The St. Louis native began her career at DePaul, which was an easy decision for her. “I committed on my first visit ... I didn’t even let my parents know. I fell in love with (Coach) Doug Bruno. Even though I left, I love him. I would probably give up my life for him.”
At DePaul, Morris received top-notch coaching: real and honest feedback that she needed to hear. The environment was ideal in a number of ways, from the style of play to the women who were on the team with her. Morris was able to nurture deep friendships with her teammates and the team’s roster of coaches. Despite being only 17 years old when she visited the school, Morris was able to immediately click with the fifth and sixth-year players.
Transferring to the University of Texas for the 2022-23 season was another easy decision, despite her love for DePaul. Morris says, “I remember perfectly: I’m sitting at breakfast with (Coach) Vic Schaefer, (assistant coach) Blair (Schaefer), (director of player development) Sydney (Carter), and (associate head coach Elena) Lovato, and with my parents, and we’re asking him the negative questions — the questions that coaches might try to hide and keep from you. And he was just like (Morris leans back in her chair and mimics V. Schaefer’s ‘this is what it is’ face), ‘Yep, you’re gonna have to get up at 6 a.m. for these workouts.’ He was saying all the stuff that might discourage some. He just kept it so real and so up front, and I just knew he was going to be so demanding to the point that I had no choice but to get better every day.”
To that end, Morris has been following through every step of the way. She is currently tied with Shaylee Gonzales for the team lead in scoring with 11.5 points per game and is hitting 43.1 percent of her 3-pointers. That doesn’t mean every day is a winner, and Morris readily adds that V. Schaefer helps her improve even on her worst days. She says, “Even if I don’t necessarily see it each day, I’m getting better each day. I just knew he was the type of coach that was going to get me to the point that I wanted to be and needed to be at.”
Fitting in at Texas wasn’t hard, especially since Morris has a strong relationship with her teammates. As she puts it, that was the icing on the cake that pulled her in.
“It was so much chemistry, we just clicked together. I could feel it in my heart that this was going to be the place.”
This is Morris’ final year in college, and like a lot of players in her position, she wants to go as far as she can. As she says, “Obviously, I have the hoop dream to go to the league. If I can make it to the league and be good there, that’s what I want to do.”
Until recently, playing overseas felt like too much — too many unknowns, and too far away from home — but it’s something that she’s warming up to. She explains that the leadership at Texas has helped her see there are a lot of paths a basketball player can take.
“I talked to Syd and Lovato over dinner and asked the real of (playing overseas). They told me it’s not for everybody, but everybody should try it. It’s just so many opportunities.”
If there’s one player in women’s NCAA basketball who has what it takes to see and capitalize on the opportunities in front of her, it just might be Sonya Morris. She’s a fighter and a team player, capable of leading and working with her teammates at the same time. She is aware of what areas she needs to grow in as a player and doesn’t shy away from that reality. She says, “Sometimes, I’m just so hard on myself ... you’ve got to have confidence. Especially the type of player I am, you can’t doubt yourself.”
For the most part, doubt doesn’t take up any room in Morris’ mind, in part because she has a strong supporter in her corner: her dad. As she shares, “I talk to my dad before every game. Every time, he says the same thing: ‘This is no different than going up to the YMCA and hooping against the men, no different than open gyms. You just went out there to hoop. Do what you do, play how you play, don’t force nothing. Let the game come to you.”
She laughs and continues, “All the things that players know to do, but sometimes we get lost in ‘Oh, I’m playing this team.’ We get over-anxious. I just tell myself ... just go in. Just play basketball.”
And yes, just in case you’re wondering, Morris (and her family) play a mean game of Uno, because, well, of course they do.