Butler’s Ethan Morton named Trib HSSN Boys Basketball Player of the Year

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Wednesday, April 8, 2020 | 3:29 PM


Ethan Morton just wants to play basketball.

Whether it’s in the PIAA tournament or on a playground court.

The coronavirus pandemic has taken away that competition, the camaraderie, the memories and, well, basketball in general.

When the coronavirus outbreak quarantine ends, Morton says he will “Probably go play basketball, even if it’s just with my friends. Just go play some pick-up. Just get to see everybody.

“That’s been the hardest thing about all this, not being able to see your friends, especially at this point in the year when you are close to graduation. Just to get to enjoy some moments like that since we lost out on a lot of that time.”

The 6-foot-6 point guard was in the midst of leading Butler to its best season of all time. The Golden Tornado (22-4) won the WPIAL Class 6A championship for the first time since 1991 and had advanced to the PIAA quarterfinals, awaiting a matchup with District 10 champion McDowell that may never happen.

Morton averaged 23.4 points, 13 rebounds and 8.3 assists this season. A Purdue recruit, he was named as the Gatorade Pennsylvania Player of the Year as well as the Maxpreps Pa. Player of the Year.

“This year more than any, I think he got even better and perfected the art of doing what needed to be done for the team to win,” coach Matt Clement said. “If a guy was struggling, he would get him the ball because he knew that would reap benefits for us down the road.

“That’s what winners do. It’s not about their individual performance. It was about figuring out a way to win and what the best method was.”

A two-time all-state selection, Morton is a four-star recruit ranked the 79th best senior in the nation by rivals.com.

After a 2018-19 season where he averaged 27.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and 8.1 assists, he committed to Purdue over 21 other Division I offers, including Pitt, Penn State, West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio State and Indiana.

During his decorated high school career, he has accumulated 2,198 points, more than 900 rebounds and nearly 700 assists. He also helped Butler reach the WPIAL title game three times.

For his effort and accomplishments this season, Morton has been selected the Trib HSSN Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

What have you been doing to keep busy during the coronavirus shutdown?

I took some time to make sure my ankle was getting better since I rolled it during the playoffs. Just doing stuff to take care of that and get my cardio back and staying in shape. I’ve been doing whatever type of workouts I can at the house, whether it’s for my body or shooting, dribbling. You still have time on your hands, whether it’s playing games or spending time with your family. It helps keep your mind off everything that’s going on.

Are you still hopeful you will get to finish the PIAA tournament?

I’m hopeful. I have conflicting feelings. Every time you hear information about other leagues and pro leagues, which is what everyone is going to follow the lead of since they started everything. I’ve been more pessimistic recently with everything the NBA has been saying. But then I read MLB thinks they might be able to play, it gives you hope. Whatever happens, happens, but I am hoping we get a chance to finish it. The situation is so unprecedented. Whatever the circumstances are, I think every team still alive in the playoffs would want to finish it because you’d like to have that feeling of closure.

How did it feel to win the WPIAL championship?

It was really special. Having a feeling every other year of losing there twice and seeing other teams go on and win it, you never forget that feeling. When you’re on the other side of it finally, and that weight is sort of lifted off your shoulders, it’s just an indescribable feeling, pure happiness and joy, not just for me but for Coach Clement and the rest of the coaching staff and the rest of the team and the community and fans and students. There was such pure joy and excitement. I’m so happy we were able to accomplish one of our main goals for the season. It was a special memory for everybody.

What made the difference this year and put Butler over the top?

We were battle-tested before the year even started. I think we faced adversity, even through the summer when I wasn’t there as much. Guys stepped up and figured out how to play in different ways. In the fall when Luke Patten went down, I think we faced another layer of adversity trying to figure out how to fill holes without him. It came from a lot of different people. I think Devin (Carney) really stepped up and helped carry the scoring load this year and took some pressure off me. I think some younger guys like Raine Gratzmiller and Charlie Kreinbucher really stepped up in the rebounding department. Mattix (Clement) really stepped up and had some huge games in the playoffs. Mason Montag had some big games and really helped rebound and play defense. Everybody bought into their roles and really excelled in them. With everybody believing in each other, we were able to take the next step this year.

When will you be reporting to Purdue?

June is the plan. Until they tell us otherwise, that’s when we’ll report.

What do you anticipate your role being?

It’s definitely going to be a challenge. They are pretty guard-heavy next year. There’s seven guards on the roster, so there’s going to be competition from Day 1. That experience will definitely help in the long run. Coach (Matt) Painter obviously isn’t one to promise anything. So, I just have to try and work as hard as I can and bring something different to the table every day, which hopefully I can. Just being a bigger guy who’s versatile, can play multiple positions and distribute the ball and hopefully figure out how to be usable on defense and guard multiple positions, keep improving as a shot maker on and off the ball, keep improving as a rebounder and defender. Whatever role I have, I just have to keep working to make it bigger. I just want to have an impact on the game and make guys better and win a lot of games there.

What do you plan to study?

Something with finance. I’m sure that could change. I want to get into coaching when I’m done playing, but that’s not really a major.

What was the primary reason you chose Purdue?

The university is obviously amazing. All those amenities, which a lot of schools have, are amazing. But I just think what set them apart is the consistency they have, especially with Coach Painter. He’s coming up on his 16th season. Just the consistency they have with winning games and making the tournament and just having a really known style and they’ve had success with certain types of player. Also he’s able to adapt and has been a great coach. And the relationships I was able to build with the coaching staff and players. And the support they get and playing in the Big Ten, I think all that kind of added up to it being a really great fit for me.

Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at bhartlep@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TribHSInsider.

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