LAWRENCE, Kan. - It's a trip of about 1,200 miles from their Hunting Park neighborhood to this charming college town with a population roughly one-20th that of Philadelphia, and yes, Markieff and Marcus Morris miss their hometown a lot.
But the 19-year-old twins, who led Prep Charter to back-to-back PIAA state championships before spending last year at Apex Academy in Cherry Hill, made the decision to attend Kansas after passing on Memphis and Villanova and have found the adjustment to college basketball to be a rocky one.
Both have struggled to meet the exacting standards of coach Bill Self, whose Jayhawks won the 2008 national championship but now have seven newcomers. Self follows the old-school coaching dictum of "You play how you practice" and has yo-yoed the pair in and out of the lineup.
Then there was an incident in which Markieff Morris shot a 47-year-old woman with plastic BBs in a university dorm courtyard last August, according to campus police. The woman suffered minor injuries, and Morris agreed to perform 20 hours of community service, admitting: "I made bad decisions."
So it's been a challenge for the twins to adapt, particularly given the spotlight on them because of their renown and the fact they come from the city that gave Kansas one of its all-time greats, Wilt Chamberlain. But they say that being put to the test will help them.
"It's something big to handle, but that's what a Philly guy does," Marcus Morris, a 6-foot-8 forward, said after the Jayhawks' 71-59 win over Temple on Saturday. "Wilt came out here into the spotlight, and he did what he had to do. It's just a big adjustment. I think we're handling it well. I think it's actually making us better because we've been thrown into the fire."
Markieff Morris, who is 6-9 and plays center and forward, said the fact that Kansas fans "welcomed us with open arms" made the spotlight not seem so harsh.
"The games are always packed with 16,000 fans screaming every [home] game," he said. "It sends chills through my body every game just knowing that I'm playing at Kansas."
What has made life easier for the twins is the presence of their mother, Angel Morris, who has moved to Lawrence and offers a receptive ear whenever her sons need it.
With the Jayhawks at 8-2 going into tonight's game at Arizona, Marcus Morris is fourth on the team in scoring (8.9 points) and second in rebounding (5.9) in six starts. Markieff Morris, who got his second start of the season against the Owls, averages 5.5 points and 5.1 rebounds.
Self said Marcus Morris was more of a face-up shooter who can hit from the perimeter and reminds him of Julian Wright, who played two years at Kansas before going on to the NBA. Markieff, he said, is a back-to-the-basket player who has three-point range.
"They both have good touch, and they both can really pass the basketball," Self said. "They think the game right offensively. There are similarities, but they are different. They need to be a little bit different, so that way they can complement each other."
Both Morrises say Self is demanding in practice but only because he is trying to get the best out of every player on the team.
"We came in having to play right away," Markieff Morris said. "Coach has been real tough with us trying to prepare us. We just need to start playing to our potential and doing what Coach tells us to do. But we're coming along. We've just got to get better every day."
"Coach likes tough guys, and I think that's one of the reasons he recruited us," said Marcus Morris. "But you just do what he says, and you're always going to be on the same page with him. He's always going to let you know if you're not doing the right thing. All coaches go through that with players sometimes. But he's a great coach and a great motivator."
One of the more difficult tasks for Self is trying to tell the twins apart. Marcus went with shorter sideburns at one point, but now both have facial hair of similar length. Some teammates simply have resorted to saying, "Hey, twin" when they see them.
"Hey, it happens every day, so I'm used to it," Markieff said. "Even back at home, that happens."
The twins will be spending Christmas in Philadelphia before having to return to school and continue their education, in the classroom and on the court.