With a few detours and speed bumps along the way, the road to the basketball court has been a winding one for Harlem’s Haley Morris.
The senior frontcourt player started playing basketball at a young age, then left the game to pursue her interests in dance. She returned to play her freshman year for the Lady Bulldogs, then missed the next two years before returning this season to finish out her high school career.
“I didn’t play my sophomore year. My cheerleading coach wouldn’t let me,” said Morris. “She said if I cheer football, I gotta cheer basketball. I played all summer before my junior year, then tore my shoulder in cheerleading and had to sit out my junior year. And now, senior year, I’m here. I sprained my ankle, but I don’t care, it’s all good.”
The Lady Bulldogs have won just one game this season, and Morris has done all she can to help the young team.
“I’m the only senior and we’ve got Brandy (Hardaway) and Olivia (Fitzgerald) who are juniors and the rest are freshmen,” Morris said. “I know I’m not where I need to be ability-wise, so I try to do as much leadership as I can and then balance it out like that.”
Girls head coach Kim Chambers appreciates her toughness and what she does for the team on a daily basis.
“She’s a leader, starts all the drills for us. She makes sure everybody is motivated,” said Chambers. “She’s just fun to be around. I wish she had played a little bit more throughout her four-year career, but she did competition cheering and different things.”
The learning experience is showing Morris the career path she wants to take.
“I want to go to college, hopefully Georgia College and State University, and major in athletic training and be an athletic trainer,” she said. “I’ve had enough experience with injuries, I ought to do something with that. And eventually I want to coach. I like being a coach.”
During the spring she keeps the scorebook for the Bulldogs baseball team. Her dad is an assistant coach for the team, and it helps fuel her passion.
“I’ve always been in the baseball world,” she said. “I love sports. Anyway, if I can get into some kind of sport, I’ll do it.”
She thought she wanted to be a teacher for a brief period until she did her senior project teaching literature to sixth-graders at Harlem Middle School. While it turned her away from the profession, she was able to see teachers in a new light.
“Coaching, you don’t have to come up with lesson plans or make up tests or quizzes,” Morris said. “They have to have patience. ... I have huge respect for (teachers). Their job is not easy at all.”
When it’s time to graduate and move on, it will be bittersweet for Morris.
“I’ll miss the people,” she said. “We all got real close, real fast, and I’m going to miss them.”