While most of his teammates were playing seven-on-seven football this summer, Aiden Morrissey was playing Amateur Athletic Union basketball for a team from El Paso. Now the sophomore is the starting point guard for the Fightin’ Bucks, who have won two blowouts and lost two close contests this season.
“I love playing the game, and I got extremely better,” Morrissey said. “One of my biggest memories was going to Vegas and playing against future D-1 players. I hung out with one.”
He often practiced hoops after football practice this fall in an empty gym at night. His father, boys basketball head coach Hugh Morrissey, has a key.
“There are certain things he does real well, and certain things I’d like him to improve on,” said Hugh. “These guys needed to make a jump this year if we wanted to be any good. A lot of guys have gotten better.”
One of them is junior Isaiah Nuñez, who has found success both inside and out. He created some of his own drives to the hoop, and scored 14 in a 73-44 rout of McCamey at Sul Ross State University on Dec. 6.
Morrissey had 18 points, including two early three-pointers from opposite sides of the arc. It was the fourth year in a row that the university has offered the Bucks their spacious gym to host a December matchup.
“They need to play in a gym like this,” Hugh said afterwards. “The depth perception is a lot different. We played at Stanton last week, and then this gym. If you’re going to play in a playoff gym, it’s going to be something like this - like Andrews, Stockton, Stanton.”
The home opener at Sul Ross brought a good crowd who saw an Alpine tripleheader sweep. The junior varsity Gold team beat Fort Stockton JV 33-17, before the Purple team beat McCamey JV 49-11.
Tuesday night wasn’t as glorious. While the Marfa varsity team outlasted the JV Purple team 38-35 in Alpine, the other two teams were getting shot down at Fort Hancock. Nuñez led all scorers with 17 points, including five from beyond the arc, although he wished it were 19 points after his layup attempt fell short as time expired. Alpine lost 51-50 in a defensive struggle.
“We have weaknesses that we know we’re going to have to take care of,” said Hugh. “We don’t have great size, but what we do have is a bunch of different guys with the same length who can put the ball on the floor, shoot, and make plays.”
“We’re a good team,” senior Nata Gurena added. “We just need to execute and have more energy in the first quarter. After the first practice, we had a team meeting and said that we are going to be a family, no matter what.”
“It felt like it wasn’t basketball season yet,” said junior Brady Crump. “It felt like we had no break, but that team chemistry that we had in football just carried over to basketball.”
Alpine next competes in the Buena Vista Tournament beginning on Thursday, Dec. 12. After finishing as a runner up in each of the last two years, the Bucks hope to capture the title this time.
“We've got a family, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world,” said Morrissey. “I wouldn’t trade that for a bunch of D-1 players.”