By David Driver
Used with permission
Turning down a graphic designer position in Harrisburg probably paved the way for Wayne Morris to become the pro basketball player he is today.
It began in 2000 when, armed with an art degree, Wayne was offered a job in Harrisburg doing graphic design. Much as he wanted the position, there was one problem. He couldn’t get there. No car.
"I had to turn the job down," Wayne said.
So he turned to his next love, basketball. The former SU All-American star returned home to Philadelphia only to be invited to join the SU basketball coaching staff where he was an assistant for three years. During the off-season, he searched and tried out for semi-pro teams for a chance.
"I saw my friends graduate and get their dream jobs, new recruits came in and tried to beat the ‘old lion,’ and it fueled a fire inside me that I thought died when I couldn’t take the designer job."
After playing minor league basketball for four years, mainly with New Philadelphia, Wayne got his chance. A contact he made through the Internet was starting a sports agency, and after talking off and on for over a year, Wayne was almost placed with a Corsican team but the finances weren’t there. More talk while Wayne worked on getting into better shape and his college highlight film sent him to France.
He played for pay overseas for the first time in 2003-04 with Bordeaux, in the famous wine region. It was not the first time he played abroad. In 1999, thanks to Coach Dave Springer, then assistant coach, he was a member of a travel team to Sweden.
Now, some five years later, Wayne is living in a small town in southeast France where he does not need a car. He spent the 2005-06 season playing pro hoops for Als Basket Andrezieux-Boutheon.
"It’s not really that much different (from the States). When you go to Philadelphia, you have to get used to the new food," said Wayne, who suggested that the same applies to French cuisine. "If you can adapt to certain places, you are okay."
Wayne plays both the small and power forward spots in the French league, which is a few steps below the top pro circuit in the western European country. The 6-foot-6 product of Philadelphia said he was averaging about 21 points and eight rebounds per game in mid-February.
So what’s it like living in the French countryside?
"It’s almost like college again," Wayne said. "You just don’t go to school."
His days revolve around basketball. He lifts weights three mornings a week, practices with the team weekday evenings for the weekend game. On his day off, he works on his shooting skills.
After practice or workouts, Wayne returns to his team-supplied apartment, where he admits he is "into video games."
This is Wayne’s second season with Andrezieux. And in addition to playing, he coaches the franchaise’s women’s team. They practice two evenings a week and play on Sundays.
"My goal is to play at the highest level possible. I am just trying to take it season by season," he said. "Basketball doesn’t make or break me."
His art is still important and it remains a goal to obtain a job in the field for as he said, "I can’t play basketball forever, even though we’d all like to think we could."
He has been to the Louvre in Paris more than once, and seen the famous street artists in the French capital. "For me, that was a dream," said Wayne, who read about French art while at SU. "It is real. It is real."