You can never underestimate the power of veteran leadership on a college basketball team. At Wofford, they’re taking that philosophy to a whole new level.
When the Terriers host Ohio Valley in a regular-season game on Nov. 25, they’ll do so with Korean War veteran Jack Morris on the bench, serving as the team’s honorary coach alongside longtime Wofford head coach Mike Young.
Wofford surprised Morris with the honor this Veterans Day Tuesday at Eden Terrace, the assisted living center in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where the 84-year-old father-of-three resides.
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"It’s going to be an exciting day," Morris told GoUpstate.com. "I love the game. I lived to play basketball."
Morris’ basketball career both started and ended in the 1940s, when he played forward for Hiram High School in Georgia, just outside Atlanta. Morris told GoUpstate he had offers to play basketball in college, but turned them down and went to work to help support his family.
"They said I was making a mistake, but I don’t think so," Morris told GoUpstate.com. "The good Lord has blessed me."
Two years after graduation, Morris was drafted into the Army, and eventually spent two years fighting in the Korean War before returning home and starting a family (he and his wife, Hilda, married in 1953) — as well as a long-term career as a mail carrier.
After his retirement, Morris would take the role of caretaker after Hilda was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She died in February 2012. Not long after, Morris moved into Eden Terrace with no idea that his new living arrangement would lead to his opportunity to pick back up his basketball career 65 years after it ended.
According to GoUpstate.com, Eden Terrace worked with an organization called Second Wind Dreams to get in touch with Wofford about having Morris spend a day with the team. In addition to sitting on the bench with the team, Morris will also take part in all of the team’s pregame activities.
"It’s going to be a special day for him and a special day for me," Young told GoUpstate.com. "We’re going to have a good time with it. … We’re going to give him as good a taste of it as we possibly can. We look forward to having him inside the program on that day."
And according to Morris’ family, it’s an honor that was a long time coming and much deserved.
"He worked so hard all his life to make sure we had what we needed," daughter Arleca Shadrix relayed to GoUpstate.com. "He just sacrificed so much and never thought about himself."