Questions hounded Isaiah Morton with each basket, dribble and pass he made at St. Augustine Prep.
Friends and family from New York City wondered if southern New Jersey was the right place for Morton to develop his basketball talent.
Local fans wondered if Morton would ever be anything more than a player who just wowed crowds with acrobatic layups and NBA-range 3-pointers.
The 5-foot-8 Morton answered all the questions.
Not with his 2,289 career points but with a state championship.
The senior guard led the Hermits to the state Non-Public A title and the Cape-Atlantic League championship. He is The Press Player of the Year and will attend Marist College on a Division I scholarship.
"We proved a lot of people wrong," Morton said. "Going to St. Augustine was a great decision for me, education-wise and basketball-wise."
Morton grew up in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn. His family became close friends with the families of NBA players Stephon Marbury and Sebastian Telfair.
Just before Morton's eighth-grade year, his father, Omar, moved a church the family runs to southern New Jersey. The Mortons settled in Williamstown and then moved to Vineland for Isaiah's freshman year. Kingdom Manna International Church, Omar's church, is located in Vineland.
He arrived at St. Augustine with the reputation of being a basketball prodigy. YouTube videos show him at an early age dazzling playground crowds with his ball-handling skills.
A four-year starter, Morton made plenty of flashy plays as a freshman and sophomore, but the Hermits struggled for victories in big games.
Morton began to show he would be much more than just an individual success as a junior when he led St. Augustine to the South Jersey Non-Public A final.
The Hermits were the top seed in this year's South Jersey Non-Public A bracket. Anything less than a sectional championship and the season would have been a disappointment.
Morton helped St. Augustine come away with more than what was expected.
His performance in the South Jersey and state title games showed his evolution as a player.
Morton did not score in the first quarter of the South Jersey title game against rival Holy Spirit. As a freshman and sophomore, he would have forced shots.
As a senior, he stayed patient and when St. Augustine fell behind by five points in the third quarter, Morton sparked a Hermits comeback.
He scored 15 of St. Augustine's last 24 points as the Hermits won 56-49.
In the state title game, he scored 30 points and his 3-pointer with 2 minutes, 56 seconds left clinched the 71-60 victory over Seton Hall Prep.
Morton and his teammates are the fourth St. Augustine basketball team to win a state title.
His individual statistics rank among the best ever by a local player. Only Bill Robinson of Atlantic Christian (2,695 points), LaMarr Greer of Middle Township (2,637 points), Reggie Miller of Pleasantville (2,505 career points) have more career points than Morton.
St. Augustine's state championship gave Morton's individual accomplishments even more credibility. He was at his best in state tournament games. Morton averaged 24.4 points in St. Augustine's nine state tournament games the past two seasons.
"He's taken us on his back," Rodio said. "He's been one of those kids who's refused to lose and the other kids responded to that."
Rodio stood behind his basketball convictions this season.
Rodio insisted the Hermits could win by playing 10 to 12 players a game.
He insisted Hermits seniors Morton and forward Charlie Monaghan would develop into the type of players capable of leading a team to a state championship.
Several fans doubted St. Augustine and Rodio, but the Hermits proved their coach right with a state Non-Public A title.
Rodio is The Press Coach of the Year. He led the Hermits to a 28-3 record to improve his career record to 736-208.
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