Blue Demons getting a pair of sponges: Morrow Sisters Commit to DePaul

Provided photos via Miami-Dade athletics (Nazlah Morrow, left) and Baylor Youth Foundation (Aneesah Morrow, right).

In a family line of immensely successful athletes, the Morrow sisters Aneesah and Nazlah Morrow stand poised to be the next up to leave an impact on their respective sport. Aneesah, a 6-2 combo player and defending state champion for Simeon, made her verbal commitment to the DePaul Blue Demons on Saturday.

Demonstrating finesse and power on the hardwood as a junior — Aneesah Morrow averaged 23 points, 3.6 assists, 12.1 rebounds, 3.7 steals and 2.5 blocks per game for the 35-2 Wolverines — her coaches see tremendous upside in her. The Class of 2021 star came up big for the city and 3A champion Wolverines, posting a 22-point, 13-rebound effort in the state semifinals, propelling Johnny Davenport-coached Simeon to a state title win over Morton.

“I hope she comes out and (can) be an even stronger impact player than she was for our program,” Baylor Youth Foundation Director Toi Baylor said of Aneesah Morrow. “Hopefully she can make it overseas and into the WNBA because she’s that type of player.”

Ranked among the top recruits of the class of 2021 in the state of Illinois and top 50 in the country by services like Prep Girls Hoops and Prospects Nation, the Simeon senior will be joined by her sister Nazlah Morrow, a JUCO standout at Miami-Dade Community College who announced her commitment to DePaul on the same day.

Both sisters said they did not base their own decision on the other’s choice.

“I’m extremely excited to play on a team with Nazlah again because I have played on almost every sports team with her since fifth grade,” Aneesah Morrow said. “Me and Nazlah have always talked about playing in colleges together as well.”

The older Morrow sister was strong in her conviction that she didn’t want to influence her sister’s recruitment too much, having already been through such a process herself. Baylor said that Aneesah Morrow was getting serious looks from the likes of Duke, Vanderbilt and Clemson. She said that the choice to choose DePaul came down to “family, academics, location, support, having a good relationship with the coaching staff and being able to represent the city that I’ve grown up in.”

“It was more like our own individual thing,” Nazlah Morrow said. “We were recruited separately, but of course we’re sisters … it was our own individual decision, each part. But it was a good feeling to know that we both liked the school.”

The sisters have an athletically inclined family. Older brother Ed Morrow played basketball at Nebraska and Marquette after first-team all-state selection by publications like the Chicago Tribune. The sisters’ parents, Edward and Nafeesah Morrow (formerly Brown) each played sports at Nebraska, with Nafeesah an all-conference forward on the court and Edward a linebacker on the gridiron for the Cornhuskers.

Provided photo via Baylor Youth Foundation

The sister duo had a chance to play together for the Baylor AAU program, but that time was cut short in bitter fashion. With Nazlah Morros and Aneesah Morrow playing on the same squad with two years between them, Aneesah Morrow incurred a torn ACL in just her second game with Baylor following her freshman season. With that coming after Nazlah Morrow’s junior season, her first and only with the program, the sisters did not play together again.

But that didn’t stop Toi Baylor from recognizing characteristics that made the family unique, saying that the sisters soaked up knowledge and instruction and that they were humble and respectful.

“You have a long history of basketball in their family, which is great thing for a middle and youngest sibling,” Baylor said. “They came over. They were willing to learn. They wanted to get better. We did a lot of player development with them. They were like a sponge.”

Baylor has garnered a reputation over the years that she says often drives young athletes to the program.

“When you have people leaving other programs coming here you only have a misconception of why they’re coming over here, because honestly I’m the program where they had tried out 20 other programs in Chicago and then they’re coming to me as a last resort because they know I get kids in school.”

Baylor said that a few Division I schools were in consistent communication with the elder Morrow sister about transferring to their program, but she was happy to hear the sisters would be reunited. She also said that she thinks Nazlah Morrow was in the right to head south to Florida play at the JUCO level, where she averaged 14.5 ppg and 9.6 rebounds per game this past season.

“I think she needed more player development,” Baylor said. “She only came that summer and played with us that summer and then she was going into her senior year and she needed it for confidence reasons.”

The elder of the two sisters made significant strides in her development as a collegiate freshman, averaging 18.4 points in February for Sharks team that went 20-12 last season. Nazlah Morrow was awarded FSCAA All-Academic and All-Southern Conference first team honors.

Far from the only connection between Miami-Dade and DePaul — Bruno and Miami-Dade coach Susan Summons possess a long-standing basketball relationship dating back to Women’s Professional Basketball League (WBL) days at the turn of the 1980s — Morrow is not even the lone player for the Sharks to go to DePaul. Gail Ash, a former all-North Star Conference honoree for the Blue Demons in 1990, played for Summons at Miami-Dade.

“Nazlah is a middle child, which you already know, you don’t get the pub or the publicity of the first or last child,” Baylor said.

Echoing her travel coaches’ words, Nazlah Morrow cited the competitive nature of things in her family for her working so hard to improve.

“There is no babying or sugar-coating and we loved it,” she said about being coached within the Baylor organization during the offseason from Wolverines basketball. “Just being 100 percent honest with us. We soaked up everything she said. And we are sponges. We love love the game, you’re going to be willing to learn it … there’s no other way.”

Coach Doug Bruno’s Blue Demons staff has maintained consistent contact with the now Miami-Dade sophomore, making their interest and level of personal interest show.

“I guess it was just fate,” Nazlah said. “I don’t know. We love playing with each other and we would talk with about how we miss playing with each other and stuff like that, but it never really … it’s always been like ‘imagine if we went to the same school,’ but it wasn’t like that was our main goal. It just happened.”

Following Aneesah’s injury, Baylor said the young baller came back driven and came out of her shell over the next few years.

“Her most personal growth she was basically coming out of the shy spot with us, because our program, we basically have a sisterhood and we pretty much motivate these kids to be the best that they can be and when I tell you that Neesa came off of that energy and was really focused and ready to expand her game, she pretty much came in and worked with us on and of the practice time,” Baylor said. “She trained with my husband. She trained with our program We have like a revolving door.”

Provided photo via Baylor Youth Foundation

With steady training and a consistent aggressiveness on the hardwood, the only trace of that injury is a large knee brace Aneesah wears. Nazlah, who talks of her sister with admiration, is looking forward to rekindling the on-court relationship the two have experienced before.

“I feel like whenever I was in the gym, so say when I was in high school and she was in grade school, she would come and practice with me in high school,” Nazlah Morrow said. “It was never like a skill-level difference. We both have our own game. As you know, Nees is really aggressive, in-your-face type game and I had grew a more finesse-type game, but I’ve grown since high school.”

And now, with family excited to see the sisters play on the hardwood for the Lincoln Park neighborhood program, the time counting down to that reunion begins.

“For them to be able to see both of us go into it together they’re just happy and excited,” Nazlah Morrow said. “They’re really happy for us.”

“The bond that we have goes onto the court, we sometimes think the same thing and the best part of playing with her is that we push each other,” the elder Morrow sister added. “It makes it better just knowing that it’s us. It makes it fun.”

Aneesah is strongly looking ahead to the academic and athletic side of things.

“I am planning on getting my degree, networking and developing on personal level,” she said. “On the floor I plan on helping my team become champions and elevate my game to be able to compete and dominate on the next level and after college.”

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