As a kid growing up in Charlotte, N.C., Dallas Mavericks guard Anthony Morrow always dreamed big.
Morrow told his mother that he was going to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He followed that by telling her he was going to play in the NBA.
Check and double check.
After a solid career at Georgia Tech, where he connected on an ACC-high 44.8 percent of his 3-pointers as a senior in 2008, Morrow was not drafted and went from one NBA training camp to another in an attempt to convince coaches and general managers that he deserved a shot in the league. Finally, Morrow caught the watchful eye of then-Golden State Warriors coach Don Nelson.
“He was just one of the guys invited to the team in training camp, but I figured he’d probably be cut,” Nelson said. “We always have about 18-19 guys there, and a lot of them we just take a look at, they work out against the vets and then you let them go.
“But man, he caught my eye when he could shoot it like that. Next to Chris Mullin he’s one of the best shooters I’ve ever coached.”
Morrow, 6-foot-5, was just appreciative of the chance Nelson gave him.
“Coach Nelson will give anybody an opportunity,” Morrow said. “He let me come into training camp. I had been playing pretty well, working hard and God blessed me with the opportunity, and I just took advantage of it.”
Morrow became an instant hit with the Warriors, as he shot a sizzling 46.7 percent from 3-point range and became the first rookie to lead the NBA in 3-point shooting.
“I was there and we had a lot of guys get hurt — I was one of those guys — and he just slid right in,” said Mavs center Brandan Wright, who was a teammate of Morrow’s during the 2008-’09 season. “He had an opportunity to play and he was in there playing and he made shots.
“He’s earned the reputation of being one of the best shooters in the league. He has a tremendous work ethic, he works at his craft, and he’s going to succeed just because of his work ethic.”
Morrow said he learned the value of hard work from his mother, Angela, who worked three jobs so she could pay to send him to Charlotte Latin, a prestigious prep school in North Carolina. Angela Morrow owned her own cleaning service, but also worked as a licensed cosmetologist and a driver’s license examiner.
“My mom is my heart,” Morrow said. “She went out of her way to do a lot to help me get to where I am today.”
As a rookie at Golden State, Morrow knew he couldn’t cut corners if he wanted to reach his goals.
“He’s a gym rat,” Nelson said. “I’d go to the office sometimes late at night and walk in there at 11 o’clock and he’s shooting.
“He’d come over at night and shoot until 11 or 12 clock at night, and then go to bed.”
The Warriors traded him to the New Jersey Nets in 2010 after Nelson retired.
Morrow spent two seasons with the Nets before they traded him to the Atlanta Hawks last summer as part of the Joe Johnson deal.
The Hawks traded Morrow to the Mavs on Feb. 21 for Dahntay Jones after an old college back injury shelved him.
“When I went to Atlanta it just wasn’t a great situation for me at all in terms of playing time,” Morrow said. “I think they wanted to go in a different direction.”
The Mavs are hoping the Hawks’ loss is their gain. So far, Morrow seems to be a good fit.
“He was a great spot-up shooter at Golden State under Nellie,” forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “You can never have enough shooters to spread the floor.
“If he’s out there, that’s obviously some guy that opponents wouldn’t leave, and that should open up some of the stuff for our smaller guys to get in the lane.”
Morrow, 27, has been such an efficient shooter that he ranks fourth among active players and ninth all-time in NBA history in 3-point shooting at 42.5 percent. That’s one of the reasons the Mavs acquired him.
Meanwhile, after being selected Mr. Basketball in basketball-rich North Carolina in 2004, and setting a school free-throw record at Georgia Tech with 86.7 percent shooting, Morrow can return to play NBA games in Charlotte, where he used to attend as a kid.
“I used to come to the games as a kid and we always had the nosebleed seats,” Morrow said. “I never sat close in those games, but I used to love going.
“Now, my family gets to see me play, and they’re so proud of me. A lot of my high school coaching staff and some people I went to school with also come to the games. It’s a real blessing to be able to go back and have that kind of support from people back at home from your school.”