- Associated Press - Thursday, June 23, 2011

PHOENIX (AP) - The Phoenix Suns need toughness, especially on the front line. Markieff Morris says he’s just the man to provide it.

The Suns made the 6-foot-9, 245-pound power forward from Kansas the 13th player selected overall in Thursday night’s NBA draft, addressing the No. 1 need on a team that has more than a few others.

“My toughness comes from just being from Philly, man,” Morris said in a conference call with reporters in Phoenix. “Philly guys have a different toughness from anybody you’ve probably ever met. That’s what I hang my hat on. I’m a tough guy. I’m ready to battle with anybody.”

Morris played alongside twin brother Marcus at Kansas. Marcus Morris, considered more of a small forward than power forward, went right after his brother _ at No. 14 to the Houston Rockets.

Unable to ever recover from the departure of one of the game’s top power forwards, Amare Stoudemire, the Suns failed to make the playoffs last season, with rebounding and defense the most obvious deficiencies. That made it almost automatic that the team, with its only pick of the draft, would select someone such as Markieff Morris to beef up the front line.

“We have a team that is resilient but he offers us a mental and a physical toughness that is almost impossible to quantify with numbers,” general manager Lance Blanks said, “so he’ll be able to balance out our front line and offers us a toughness that is much-needed here.”

While power forward was the logical area of concern for the Suns, the team had been part of the Jimmer Fredette buzz after his impressive workout in Phoenix. The Suns were spared any fan pressure to go for the dynamic BYU guard when Fredette was selected at No. 10 by Milwaukee, with a trade sending him to Sacramento.

Markieff Morris averaged 13.6 points as a junior last season, leading the Big 12 in rebounding at 8.3 per game and field goal accuracy at just under 59 percent, including 42 percent from 3-point range. In his three-year career with the Jayhawks, Morris shot 55 percent while averaging 8.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.

“He has a maturity that is rare for a young man his age,” Blanks said. “I think we saw that during the college season and we saw that on the visits and in the workouts.”

Morris said Phoenix was his preferred destination for the chance to be a teammate of Steve Nash.

“Just watching Steve Nash growing up, and what he did with Amare,” Morris said. “You can’t play with a better point guard than him. He makes his big men good.”

Morris is especially anxious to run the pick-and-roll with the Suns‘ playmaker.

“I’m definitely going to work day-in and day-out with him trying to perfect it,” Morris said, “because that’s my game.”

This is the first draft for the front office of Blanks and President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby.

“This gives us an opportunity to lay our imprint on this organization and this team,” Blanks said, “a pick that reflects who we are and what we want to be about.”

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