Morgan's game develops
Maverick Morgan came into his senior season at Springboro (Ohio) High School a bit raw.
Needed time to develop. Grow into his body.
At least that was the word on the street.
The incoming center on the Illinois men's basketball team who arrived on campus Thursday, Morgan improved on those areas last winter for the Panthers.
He averaged 24.7 points, grabbed 9.2 rebounds, made 2.9 blocks and shot 62 percent from the field.
He scored in double figures in every game he played for a 22-5 Springboro squad (Morgan missed one because he had a fever).
His lowest point total was 17 points on two occasions.
All those numbers and solid production landed Morgan the Division I Player of the Year in Ohio by the Ohio Basketball Coaches Association. Division I basketball in Ohio features the largest schools in the state.
"I didn't think that was going to happen," Morgan said. "But I was really happy about that. I thought that was an awesome award."
Even though Morgan is arriving at Illinois following a decorated senior season, he knows he's not guaranteed immediate playing time.
"All five of us were probably the best on our high school teams or one of the better players," Morgan said about the other four freshmen who will join Illinois in Austin Colbert, Malcolm Hill, Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate. "That’s something where in college you have to find your role and just be humble about it early on."
The big-bodied Morgan, all 6 feet, 11 inches and 255 pounds, made it a point of emphasis to work on his mid-range shooting last season.
He's now comfortable stepping out on the wing and knocking down 15-to-17-foot jump shots, a part of his skill set he wasn't necessarily productive at when he committed to Illinois last June.
"College basketball is turning into a lot of pick and pop with ball screens," Morgan said. "That’s something that's come a long way and I'm still improving at. I'm a lot more confident with them now."
Morgan plans to major in business at Illinois.
If he takes care of business on the practice court and finds his way into games early, Morgan could give Illinois an added boost down low next to Nnanna Egwu.
"I'm so excited to be playing (at Illinois)," Morgan said. "I'm also really excited for just the whole experience of college."