Alex Roux, BTN.com editor, February 25, 2017
For Nebraska sophomore Ed Morrow, moving to Chicago from Lincoln, Neb., at 10 years old meant better basketball competition as a teenager.
It also meant making sacrifices.
Program alert: This week "The Journey" profiles Nebraska sophomore Ed Morrow. The show airs at 9:30 p.m. ET Sunday.
"I was able to walk outside at night and play with my cousins, and stuff like that," Morrow said of his pre-Chicago childhood. "And there were no problems."
That sense of security didn't exist as Morrow came of age on the south side of Chicago. Morrow's mother Nafeesah — a Hall of Fame basketball player herself at Nebraska — knew moving the family back to her hometown would lead to different upbringings than in Lincoln. But she didn't know the extent of the violence in their new Washington Park neighborhood in Chicago until she and her husband made the move.
She met her husband Edward Sr. at school, where he was a member of Nebraska's 1994 National Championship football team. Their efforts to keep their kids safe from the perils of Chicago's toughest neighborhoods were well-documented in a 2013 Bloomberg article on Ed Jr. when he was hooping in high school.
Chicago offered Morrow one of the premier youth hoops pedestals in the country, and the surrounding competition was at a level that Lincoln's developmental scene couldn't approach. He attended Simeon Career Academy for high school, a basketball factory that has churned out Nick Anderson, Derrick Rose, Jabari Parker and dozens of other elite athletes. But even students aren't always safe from the bursts of gun violence that have plagued the area for decades.
The most notorious example of this unfortunate reality is Benji Wilson, who many believe would have been one of the best basketball players to ever come out of Simeon. Wilson was a high school hoops star when he was shot and killed just blocks from the school in 1984. Other stories have lower profiles, like Morrow's classmate who was shot dead outside a Simeon basketball game in 2013. Morrow soon found out the victim was his sister's lab partner at school. Even Morrow's grandfather was struck in the leg by a stray bullet near his Chicago home in 2011.
Despite the risk, Chicago provided the basketball platform and culture that helped mold Morrow into the young man who would ultimately pick the hometown Huskers following a stellar career at Simeon. Other schools pursued him, but Nebraska head coach Tim Miles knew he couldn't let a talented legacy student slip away.
"He was 1A on (my recruiting) list after watching him for 10 minutes," Miles recalled when he found out the kid lighting up the Chicago gym was the son of former Husker athletes.
Morrow showed flashes at Nebraska last year alongside fellow freshman and Chicago native Glynn Watson Jr., but foot injuries ultimately derailed Morrow's season. He returned as a sophomore with a filled-out, 6-7, 240-pound frame and immediately began punishing opponents in the post.
Morrow's struggle with injuries persisted as a sophomore, and they also cast a spotlight on the depth of his impact on the 2016-17 Huskers. Nebraska got off to the best in-conference start in 41 years with Morrow as an anchor in the post, winning three out of their first four Big Ten games. Then he went down with another foot injury, and the Huskers went 1-6 in the games with him on the sidelines.
The Huskers have split the four games since Morrow returned, and he's averaging a sturdy 9.4 points and 7.7 rebounds in his second season.
"If you look at those big wins that we've had, Ed's right in the middle," Miles said. "That's why we love him, and that's why we need him healthy."