Iowa State's Monte Morris (11) shoots during college basketball practice, Thursday, March 24, 2016, in Chicago. Iowa State plays against Virginia in a regional semifinal game in the NCAA Tournament on Friday. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Nam Y. Huh
April 08, 2016

AMES, Iowa (AP) Iowa State point guard Monte Morris said Friday he is returning for his senior season.

Morris led the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio as a freshman and sophomore, and last season he set career highs with 13.9 points and four rebounds per game. Morris also broke the school record with 6.9 assists per game, a mark formerly held by longtime NBA star Jeff Hornacek.

His somewhat surprising return should certainly help the Cyclones.

Iowa State will lose star Georges Niang and fellow starters Jameel McKay and Abdel Nader. But Morris will join fellow seniors Naz Long and Matt Thomas in what should be a loaded backcourt, and junior college transfer Emmanuel Malou is expected to make an immediate impact in the frontcourt.

Morris was largely a facilitator in his first two seasons under former coach Fred Hoiberg. But last year, coach Steve Prohm encouraged him to attack the basket more - which led to his best season yet.

Morris will be even more of a factor in 2016-17, and that could boost his NBA draft stock.

''Ultimately, it came down to wanting to accomplish a number of things, with earning my degree and continuing my development as a basketball player my top priorities. I want to get stronger and become the best basketball player I can before becoming a professional,'' Morris said.

Morris said he planned to explore his options after Iowa State's Sweet Sixteen loss to Virginia. The Cyclones had also prepared for his possible departure by signing junior college point guard Donovan Jackson.

With Morris returning, a team that struggled with depth last season suddenly looks stacked.

Iowa State will also bring back the Big 12's newcomer of the year, Deonte Burton, who averaged 9.7 points per game, along with guard Hallice Cooke - who came on late last season after struggling to find playing time.

But the biggest returnee will be Morris, who should help make the Cyclones a serious Big 12 contender next season.

''The way Monte handled this process speaks volumes about his character and maturity,'' Prohm said. ''From our program's perspective, we are ecstatic.''

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