UMKC teammates closer than most

Thursday, December 13, 2007 | 11:09 p.m. CST; updated 7:56 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — Myleka Emerson and Chazny Morris have been playing basketball together for as long as they can remember. They grew up practicing together as children in Oakland, Calif., and are still playing together as sophomore guards on the UMKC women’s basketball team.

“We’ve known each other since we were 7 years old, we’ve played together pretty much all our lives,” Emerson said.

They ran the floor together their first two years at El Cerrito High School. Then, Morris transferred to Piedmont High School before her junior year. They meshed as friends and teammates. Emerson was the point guard and Morris played on the wing.

“She was a shooter, and I was more of a driver and penetrator,” Emerson said. “So me and her working together on the court was pretty good.”

Morris acknowledged the chemistry also.

“It was great,” she said. “We ran and tried to push the ball. It was always fast-paced. She’s a scoring point guard. She’s really quick, and she got me the ball whenever I was open.”

Their familiarity with each other was one of the reasons UMKC recruited them. Kangaroos coach Candace White-Whitaker said the program was already following Morris after recruiting Courtney and Ashley Paris, who graduated from Piedmont one year before her. Morris’ friendship with Emerson helped get her noticed, and UMKC began to recruit her too.

“When you’re recruiting kids from that far away, it helps to have someone they’re familiar with when they’re so far from home,” White-Whitaker said.

Morris had scholarship offers from Hawaii and UMKC. She decided to come to the Midwest because she wanted the change from California that she felt Hawaii wouldn’t offer, and because she wanted the chance to play with her friend.

“Coming from home, where I knew everybody, and coming here, where I knew nobody, was a big change for me,” Morris said.

Emerson helped Morris deal with moving away from home for the first time, and was the only person she could talk to about life back home in Oakland and life in Kansas City.

Emerson said UMKC was her only option, but she was happy to relocate to Missouri for the chance to play at the Division I level with her long-time friend. The pair helped each other through the transition to college life, the Midwest and a new team. Emerson was glad to have someone she knew with her as she began to adjust from being away from her community in Oakland. Morris was someone going through the exact same thing, and the two were able to talk with each other about being on their own for the first time.

“I felt more comfortable,” Emerson said. “If she wasn’t here, I don’t know how I would survive.”

Morris also was glad to have her friend to lean on. Emerson helped her personally adjust to the new environment, and made it easier to learn the team’s plays and quirks about their new school.

“We can go over them (the team’s plays) in our room. Everything we found out about the school we told each other about,” Morris said. “Learning how to do study hall hours, checking in, just little things like that you have to learn as a freshman, we could help each other and have each other’s back.”

Adjusting to college life has made Emerson and Morris closer. As roommates they are almost always together and Emerson said the two are “like sisters.” Morris agreed, saying the two have become best friends.

“We’re really close,” Morris said. “We’re a lot closer than we were even in high school. Now we’re staying in the same room, going to practice every day, seeing each other all day. We’ve become really close friends.

“She’s just a great person to be around . . . it’s nice to have someone like that.”

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