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Morales embraces reserved role with high character, team leadership

first_imgGreat athletes are often acclaimed for their talent, but something far beyond that is showcased in Wisconsin volleyball’s senior outside hitter and defensive specialist, Deme Morales.During her time here, Morales has massively contributed to Wisconsin’s volleyball program. 2013 was a fantastic year for Morales, as she tallied 406 kills and 403 total digs last season, helping lead Wisconsin to a successful NCAA tournament run, which pushed the Badgers to their second National Championship appearance in history. The tournament ultimately ended in a four set nail-biter against Penn State, resulting in a Wisconsin loss. However, it was there in the championship match that Morales exhibited a stellar performance as she squashed down 15 kills, the second-highest on the team, combined with eight digs and two blocks.Her exquisite and intense play put Morales on the 2013 NCAA Championship All-Tournament and Regional All-Tournament honors. But Morales contributes more to the team than just her statistical numbers and physical athleticism on the court.According to her coaches, the 5-foot-7 senior is one of the most notable players they have ever had the pleasure of working with, but not for her skilled abilities as an athlete. They explain that Morales’ uniqueness is found within her as a person through the selfless attitude she exudes.“Deme Morales is the ultimate team player,” head coach Kelly Sheffield said. “Everyone sees her as a player and a competitor. The thing is she’s twice as good as a human being than she is as a player. She is 100 percent about the team. It is never about her. Her team goals are the only thing that matter to her.”This became particularly apparent prior to the beginning of this season when Morales was switched from being a six-rotation player to primarily a defensive specialist, after losing her front row rotation spot to freshman Kelly Bates.Wisconsin assistant coach Brittany Dildine said after this happened, Morales responded with absolutely no negativity. Dildine went on to explain that when Bates encountered challenges early on in the season, Morales was the first person to be there to encourage and help Bates overcome them.“I think that says a lot for her character,” Dildine said. “If you have a senior that’s beat out by a freshman, that could create a lot of issues within a team, and that’s not what happened here. She’s had meetings with me where she asks ‘How can I help Bates?,’ and I don’t think that’s normal. I think that is special.”Morales has not given a second thought about how she can continue to provide for her team. So far this season she has 105 digs, averaging 1.37 digs per match. Two weeks ago she reached a season high of 11 digs against Purdue. For Morales, it’s all about playing the game while uplifting her teammates.“I hope that other people see me as someone who puts the team first,” Morales said, “And I’d hope that I’m inspiring to my teammates and providing the best that I can for them.”Morales strives to give her all for her teammates and coaches no matter what the situation may be. She set the bar high and translates the outlook and expectations that she has for herself to the court.“You have to commit yourself to what you want to do, and for me, providing for my team was something huge that I really wanted to do as a senior this year,” Morales said. “And really committing myself to a position, no matter where it was, was one of my biggest goals.”The don’t-let-up mentality that Morales possess originates in practices. Each practice she is wholeheartedly committed to getting better and enhancing her skills. Even though this is her final year as a Badger, Morales is constantly asking questions and hungry to learn more.“[People] say ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.’ Well this dog wants a bunch of new tricks. She’s constantly trying to improve no matter what,” Dildine said.Throughout her time at Wisconsin, Morales has showed her ferociousness as a competitor while holding a positive mentality as a team player. Her coaches said that they will miss her personality and humility after the season is over. They appreciate how Morales conducts herself and how she shows leadership each match and every practice through her selfless mentality — a trait that Dildine says cannot be taught.“It’s something that’s really admirable, because the team matters to some people, [but] to Deme Morales, the team means everything,” Dildine said. “It’s simple; all we’re asking out of [Morales] is to lead with heart, and [for her] that’s natural.”last_img read more

USC men’s basketball: In surprise move, Shaqquan Aaron declares for NBA Draft

first_imgMarch could not end without one more splash of madness for USC men’s basketball, as redshirt sophomore guard Shaqquan Aaron declared for the NBA Draft on Friday.The 6-foot-7, 190-pound forward averaged 7.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 20.8 minutes per game this season. Aaron has not signed an agent, leaving him eligible to revoke his draft status up to 10 days after the NBA Combine in May.For weeks, USC fans have dreaded head coach Andy Enfield’s talented young roster disintegrating one-by-one as players declare for the draft, but no one expected Aaron to make the first move.His decision to declare for the draft might come as a surprise given the arc of his season, and, more broadly, his career at-large. He began the year in USC’s starting rotation but failed to win back his role despite sophomore forward Bennie Boatwright’s injury. In late January, Aaron exploded off the bench for 23 points versus UCLA at the Galen Center to lead the Trojans’ to their regular season marquee victory. He earned Pac-12 Player of the Week for his performance. However, he couldn’t replicate that performance down the stretch. In three NCAA Tournament games, Aaron averaged 7.7 minutes a game, but he failed to score.Aaron sat out the 2015-16 season after transferring from Louisville. In March of 2016, he had surgery to repair an old pinky fracture suffered at Louisville. While with Rick Pitino’s Cardinals, Aaron appeared in 23 games and made two starts. He averaged 1.3 points and 0.7 rebounds per game.At Rainier Beach High School in Seattle, Washington, Aaron led his squad to consecutive Class 3A titles. In 2013-14, he won Washington Player of the Year Honors and was ranked No. 26 nationally by 247Sports.com and No. 33 in the ESPN 100.last_img read more