LAWRENCE, Kan. – Whether they need a ride, a hug, or a home cooked meal, the Kansas players know Angel Morris is there for them.
Her twin sons, Marcus and Markieff, are the team's leading scorers and rebounders. Bill Self is their coach. But "Miss Angel," as the players affectionately call her, is the unofficial mother of the Jayhawks.
When Thomas Robinson's mother died, she flew to Washington, D.C. with the director of basketball operations and helped plan the funeral. A few weeks later, when the motherless young man underwent outpatient knee surgery, Angel Morris picked him up at the doctor's office and brought him home, insisting that he drink every drop of the chicken soup she'd made just for him.
When point guard Tyshawn Taylor was in the doghouse, she lent an understanding ear. She organizes Sunday dinners and outdoor cookouts, bringing together players and their families.
"She does a lot. She's everywhere," Taylor said. "She's there for everybody."
It's just the way she was raised, says the tall, perpetually smiling mother of 6-foot-9 Markieff and 6-8 Marcus.
"My mom had two sisters and one brother," she said. "One sister had seven kids. The brother had 14 kids and the other sister had 10. And we were always close. Every one of us has always been close to one another. A cousin has a baby, everybody is there for her. My mother always stayed as close as she possibly could. Each generation has. That's just the way we are."
When Marcus and Markieff ended their prep careers in Philadelphia and signed with Kansas, there was never any question their mom would move to Lawrence, too. She got a job at a property management company and, as the twins became a bigger part of the program, so did Miss Angel.
"She's just that type of lady," Markieff said. "She's very caring. She feels obligated to do things for people. That's the special thing about her."
It was Self who first started referring to the twins' mom as the mother of the Jayhawks.
"The thing about Angel is she's never in the way, but she's always looking out for others," Self said. "She doesn't do it with our direction and our knowledge. She just does it on her own."
Sometimes a parent who is that involved becomes a meddlesome nuisance. But never Miss Angel.
"She never creates a problem," Self said. "If there is a problem, she helps you fix it. She's done a great job raising the twins, but she's also been a huge asset to some of the other players here, especially the ones who don't have family close."
Taylor, who's found himself in the coach's doghouse more than once, knows he can rely on his "second mom."
"Me and Miss Angel had a bunch of talks when I was going through some stuff," he said. "She's a mother to all of us, a mother figure. I'm glad she's here."
She'll be there, of course, right behind the Kansas bench when the top-seeded Jayhawks meet Richmond on Friday night in the NCAA tournament's round of 16. If a player should be helped off the court injured, rest assured she will not remain in her seat.
During Kansas' game at Oklahoma this year, freshman guard Josh Selby collided with an opposing player and went down hard. At first, it was feared he might have a concussion. So into the locker room he went, followed by the team doctor — followed by Miss Angel.
Self sent word it was OK.
"She's never a problem," he said.
Tyrel Reed of Burlington, Kan., is only an hour away from his close family. His mom and dad are at almost every game. But even he is comforted to know Miss Angel is nearby.
"You know she's always going to be there for you, win or lose," Reed said. "I'm fortunate to have my mom and my family nearby. But things go on in your life. It's nice to have a motherly figure around, somebody's who's going to feed you, care for you, provide a shoulder to cry on if you need it."
All in a day's work, says Miss Angel.
"We're all family here. All of us together are one big family."