Former Kansas guard Brady Morningstar is seeing the other side of the college basketball world.
He’s riding buses and vans to road games instead of flying on chartered aircraft. He’s walking into sweaty gymnasiums, not swanky 15,000-seat arenas. He’s eating post-game subs and pizza instead of steak and potatoes.
And Morningstar is loving every minute in his new role as assistant coach at Texas Wesleyan, which will defend its NAIA Division I championship this week at Municipal Auditorium.
“I’m enjoying it a lot,” said Morningstar, who played in 116 games with 68 starts at Kansas during 2007-11. “It’s nice having a voice on the sideline and game planning against other teams and actually using what I’ve learned from all the coaches I played for and putting it to use in actual games.
“It’s been awesome. I’m working with a heck of a guy in (head coach) Brennen Shingleton. He lets me do what I feel we need to do and listens to me.”
After his KU career, Morningstar spent two years in the NBA’s G-League and several seasons playing professionally in Finland, Germany and Argentina before the opportunity arose at Fort Worth-based Texas Wesleyan.
Morningstar, 32, and Shingleton were familiar with each other because Doug Compton, one of Morningstar’s best friends from Lawrence Free State, played at Texas Wesleyan, and Morningstar attended a few of his games. So when a Rams’ assistant coach left unexpectedly last offseason, Shingleton contacted Morningstar, who was working as an individual trainer for pro athletes in Lawrence.
“I took a few days, weighed the pros and cons and figured it would be a good opportunity to see if I’d enjoy coaching,” Morningstar said, “and to step into a position where there was not a ton of pressure on the school and the staff to perform.
“This isn’t a money-breaker. If we win, we’re not going to be on national TV, we’re not doing all that stuff, so I can use and teach what I’ve learned.”
Shingleton said Morningstar has been a huge asset for the Rams, 22-10, whose first tournament game will be at 5:45 p.m. Thursday against Graceland (Iowa) University, 24-10.
“He has been such a joy to be around,” Shingleton said. “He’s been enthusiastic, he’s a winner. That helps, not to mention, he’s just young enough for the guys to understand him.
“You’re talking about a guy who played for a national championship team. He’s been coached by arguably the best college coach of all time. The young men have thrived on the fact they have a new voice in here and somebody who played professionally and was part of massively winning programs. That’s big for us.”
Morningstar, who redshirted during Kansas’ 2008 national championship season and was part of three NCAA Elite Eight, four NCAA Sweet 16 and four Big 12 Tournament championship teams, enjoyed his far-flung pro career.
“I made the best of it,” he said. “As a young kid, one of my goals was to play college basketball at the highest level and then get paid to play professionally, whether it was the NBA or the lowest league in Europe, just to reach that goal and say I worked hard enough and did the right things to where a team wanted to pay me for my services.
“That shows how good coach (Bill) Self is and the players I played with at Kansas were for giving me the opportunity to look good. I wasn’t that good of a player. They hid all my flaws, and I have to give them credit because without them, I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in.”
Morningstar, who appeared in 11 NCAA Tournament games while at Kansas, is looking forward to his first look at the NAIA Tournament.
“I think there are a lot of really good players in the NAIA,” Morningstar said. “You’ve got three or four guys on any given team who are talented enough to play (NCAA) Division I … some high major, some at the highest-major and some mid-major. It drops off where you go to the bench.
“But you can’t be any Joe Schmo from a high school team and come into this team and think you’re going to play, because we have some guys who can really go.”