Rebounds

Senior Airman Anthony Morris holds a basketball in an abandoned building outside of Maxwell Air Force Base, Feb. 17. Before joining the Air Force and playing on the Armed Forces basketball team, Morris overcame humble begginings to play college basketball. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman William Blankenship)

Senior Airman Anthony Morris holds a basketball in an abandoned building outside of Maxwell Air Force Base, Feb. 17. Before joining the Air Force and playing on the Armed Forces basketball team, Morris overcame humble begginings to play college basketball. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman William Blankenship)

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala --

“I was lying in bed one night, and it just came to me,” said Senior Airman Anthony Morris. “‘Ok, I’m about to sign up for the Air Force.’ The next day, I went to the recruiter’s office and didn’t look back.”

The small-town high school basketball sensation found himself returning home after spreading his wings on a college adventure. “Tee,” as he’s known to his friends, rebounded from numerous missed shots, eventually finding the ball in his hands with the clock running out.  

“Growing up it was just me, my mom and my brother,” said the 42nd Operations Support Squadron air traffic controller from Skipperville, Alabama. “My mom would work three jobs just so my brother and I would have food on the table. She would still find a way to show up at all of my games, and, no matter what I wanted to do, she’s supported me since day one.”

Morris was a four-year starter for the George W. Long High School basketball team in Skipperville. While the Rebels didn’t win a state championship during his time, most basketball fans in his hometown consider him a local legend on the court. Morris shot the lights out in Skipperville, with the exception of the town’s single traffic light, scoring more than 2,000 career points.

“We’ve been fortunate to have several really good athletes come through school at G.W.,” said Scott Home, Morris’ former high school basketball coach. “Everyone around here knows Tee. He was special, both as a player and a person. That kid could flat out score the basketball in high school.”

As high school came to a close, Morris decided to sign a basketball scholarship to Enterprise State Community College in Enterprise, Alabama, an opportunity that yielded mixed results. On the court, things didn’t trend positively for him, but he did meet his future wife, Brittany, during that time.

“After I signed with Enterprise, a few months later the coach got fired,” Morris said. “I transferred the following year to University of Alabama. One of the assistant coaches that I used to play with in the rec center told me I should come try out for the team as a walk on. I did, and they picked me up.”

He played for the Crimson Tide for one season before his grades negatively impacted his ability to remain on the team.

“After that, I thought my career was over,” Morris said. “I graduated the following year from Alabama and returned to Skipperville to work at a sporting goods store.”

At around 2:30 a.m. a few weeks later, he woke his mom up with the news that he would be joining the Air Force.

“She asked me, ‘Are you sure?’” he said, laughing at his mom’s reaction. “I told her yes, and she cried her eyes out the day I left, but she knew it was a good decision for me.”

Morris became an air traffic controller in 2013, and was assigned to Maxwell Air Force Base, less than two-hours from his home. Shortly after arriving, he was encouraged to try out for the base basketball team. At the base team national’s tournament, he was asked to play for the All Air Force Team. During the joint service tournament, he again was asked to move upward and join the All Armed Forces Team, representing Team U.S.A. in the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe tournament in Belgium.

In the championship game of the SHAPE tournament, Morris hit the game-winning shot, propelling Team U.S.A. to their gold medal win over Lithuania.

“I spent countless hours in my backyard counting down 10 … 9 … 8 … to 1, but I never saw it happening like this,” Morris said. “Everyone back at Skipperville was like, ‘Oh man! Was that Tee? Was that Tee?’ I always laugh when they ask me about it, and yea, that was me.”

Morris credits his mother’s example of hard work and support for him and his brother for where they are today.  While Morris is orchestrating aircraft routes over Maxwell, his brother, Brian Johnson, works for an ABC television affiliate in Los Angeles.

“My mom is the hardest working, most-dedicated person that I know,” he said. “I feel like the strong foundation she provided my brother and I prepared us for whatever may come up in life.”

Morris aspires to continue playing for the Maxwell, All Air Force and All Armed Forces basketball teams.

There is a possibility, however, that someone else may have to take the “last shot” next time. Pending his acceptance to Officer Training School, Morris is hoping to take his talents to new heights as an Air Force officer.