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Morton closing in on record

Isaiah Morton was already a good point guard when he decided he wanted to be great.

Isaiah Morton was already a good point guard when he decided he wanted to be great.

So Morton, a senior at St. Augustine Prep, worked hard over the summer in preparation for the 2010-11 Cape-Atlantic League basketball season.

If all goes well, the 5-foot-8, 170-pound guard will become the first Cape-Atlantic League boy to eclipse 2,000 career points since Tim Burns finished 2004 with 2,043 for St. Joseph.

Morton needs 58 points to break the school's career-points record of 1,707 set by Anthony Farmer in 2005.

During the summer break, Morton played with his AAU team, the Kingdom Elite All-Stars that are based in Vineland, against tough competition.

He worked out with his father, Omar Morton, a former high school point guard. He toiled alone in a gym, taking 1,000 shots a day, mostly from NBA three-point range. He worked on the free-throw line, hoping to improve from an 80 percent shooter to 90 percent. He gained weight and increased his vertical leap.

Morton said his father helped him with his shooting, ballhandling, and the mental part of the game, while he worked on the physical aspects.

"I'm more athletic [this season]," Morton said. "I can play over the rim. I got stronger. My decision-making and my defense are better.

"I put on 10 pounds. My vertical is 39 [inches]. Last year, it was 32. I can do windmills, dunks. It's fun."

This all pleases St. Augustine Prep coach Paul Rodio and the rest of the Wildcats, who finished last season with a 23-7 record and have the players to make a statement in the American Conference, the league, South Jersey, and the state.

"We have a chance to be one of the better teams in St. Augustine's history," said Morton, who averaged 24.3 points per game last season and will attend Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., on a basketball scholarship. "Everyone's good. Everyone works hard."

The Hermits have experience, speed, size, and depth on their side.

Senior Steve Rodio moves to point guard when his father, the coach, has Morton move around the floor. Like Morton, wing man Brett Slotoroff is Division I-bound, and 6-6 Charlie Monaghan is one of the best forwards in the league.

Austin Johnson, a 6-4, 220-pound junior, is a force in the low-post area, and, if Johnson sits, 6-5 Ry'n Bland can step in.

"We move [Morton] around the floor, so he is difficult to defend, to the wing and other spots," Coach Rodio said.

"He is a tremendous passer. From midyear on [last season], he played his best basketball. He became more of a floor leader, a team leader. He got everyone involved, so passing might be his best attribute."

Morton, who averages 5.4 assists a game, said he suddenly felt more confident in his abilities around the middle of last season. Still, the Hermits lost to Camden Catholic, 62-51, in the South Jersey Group A championship game. The Irish also eliminated them in a playoff semifinal a season earlier.

"They're always good," Morton said of Camden Catholic. "We're looking forward to that game if we play them. We're paying back teams that had beaten us.

"There was no payback [to the Irish] last year, but this might be the year."

Make that Morton's year, too.