GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Randolph Morris lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and still might get to play in big games in late March.
Randolph Morris and Kentucky couldn't get past Kansas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. A week after playing in his final college game for Kentucky, Morris went through his first NBA practice Sunday, two days after signing with the New York Knicks.
"That's the best situation ever," Knicks guard Stephon Marbury said. "We were talking about that when we were stretching this morning, how he just went right from playing a game into playing in the NBA. That's definitely a unique situation."
According to the Knicks, Morris is the first player to go from playing in the NCAA Tournament to being on an NBA roster in the same week. He could even see his first action as early as Monday night, when the Knicks host the Orlando Magic in a huge game for New York's playoff hopes.
With New York severely limited by injuries, the 21-year-old Morris may even be thrown into the game against Magic All-Star Dwight Howard, a teammate of Morris' on an AAU championship team from Atlanta in 2003.
"Hey, you never know," Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said.
Morris scored 22 points on March 18 in Kentucky's 88-76 loss to Kansas. On Sunday, he was wearing a No. 5 practice jersey for the Knicks, who began the day 1½ games back of three teams, including Orlando, for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
"It's a weird feeling," Morris said. "They showed the most interest in me and I feel like they have my best interests at heart."
The 6-foot-11, 260-pound Morris originally declared for the 2005 draft but was not taken. He returned to school and played two more seasons as a free agent who was ineligible to be drafted.
Morris said the Knicks had contacted his parents, and he decided to make the jump after Tubby Smith left the Wildcats to coach the University of Minnesota earlier this week.
"It was basically the final factor that made me comfortable leaving because I was teetering back and forth," Morris said. "It just happened that he left and that's basically made me more comfortable making my decision. It would have been a tougher decision for me, because obviously I was comfortable with his system and I had a great season."
Morris averaged 16.1 points and shot 59 percent from the field this season.
Thomas said bringing Morris in now was "almost like having two picks again this year." But even if the Knicks consider Morris a player of the future, he will fill a role now, even if it's just as a practice player. New York is woefully short on bodies, with Quentin Richardson, Jamal Crawford and David Lee all either out or doubtful for Monday's game because of injuries.
Also, starters Eddy Curry and Steve Francis didn't practice Sunday because of flu-like symptoms. So Thomas didn't hesitate when asked if he would feel comfortable putting Morris in a game this season.
"If he can help us win, yes," Thomas said.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press