Morgan's game develops

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."

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IlliniMike05 wrote on June 07, 2013 at 11:06 am

Going by the rules that you can only compare white players to other white players, Morgan seems like he could be a better version of Robert Archibald, with a pick-and-pop skillset Arch didn't have and a little bit more fluidity to his game overall. He might not be more than an end-of-the-rotation player his first couple of years (obviously contingent upon what other recruits we get in the '14 class) but I think he has a chance to be really good as an upperclassman. Even if we don't get Leron Black or big Cliff, I think DPaul/Colbert/Morgan/Finke is gonna be a nice, deep, versatile frontcourt in a few years.

ptevonian wrote on June 07, 2013 at 12:06 pm

I like the combination of players, too (with the obvious and humongous caveat of "Three of the four haven't played a minute of college hoops yet").  With Morgan, Paul, Colbert and Finke we seem to cover the bases of serious size, active low-post, athletic body and big man shooter.  It would be nice if they could all be two or three of those things, and they may develop that way.  I also love that Morgan went from a guy that only the small school were looking at to the Ohio Player of the Year.  There's enough talent perennially in Ohio to make that award mean something.

IlliniMike05 wrote on June 07, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Well, the mitigating factor about Morgan winning that award this year is that it was supposedly a historically bad year for talent in Ohio, but I'm nonetheless excited about his potential. He's huge, has skills and the improvement he made from his junior to senior year suggests he has the requisite work ethic.


One of the things I love about Groce is that he builds a staff with an emphasis on skill development.  It sounds like an obvious thing to do but, well, not so much. That was one of Weber's biggest downfalls at Illinois.

Moonpie wrote on June 07, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Didn't know about that rule above, which seems to suggest some racist undertones. Oh, well. Instead of worrying abouty a player's race, worry about whether Morgan and Colbert can play right away for a team that has almost no bigs without them. I wish  Morgan well and much success. He seems to have a Big Ten body. And Groce seems good enough to do very well when he gets some help at bigs.

IlliniMike05 wrote on June 07, 2013 at 12:06 pm

It's a joke, you troglodyte.

JohnUI82 wrote on June 08, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Sergio Garcia's comment about serving fried chicken to Tiger Woods was a joke too. That excuse didn't work for him either.

IlliniMike05 wrote on June 08, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Super. Except what I said was obviously in no way comparable to Garcia's joke. It's a pretty standard trope when it comes to comparing basketball players. Therefore, equally obvious: I didn't make any excuses becaues I didn't do anything requiring one.


The running joke is that white players always only get compared to other white players by commentators/analysts. The meta joke is to acknowledge that you're only allowed to compare white players to other white players (or, conversely, that you're breaking said rule if you compare a white player to a black player or vice versa).


If you've never heard this because you're just a casual basketball fan, I understand. If you really think it's racist after you now know what it means, one of us needs to go. We can't both be on this planet together.

Nice Davis wrote on June 09, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Quiet down now, Michael Loyd Gray

lmaran wrote on June 07, 2013 at 7:06 pm

I think Morgan's size offers possibilities in situations where the opposing team has a big bulky center. We definitely need size in such situations. I still ache when I recall how James Augustine was handled by the Tar Heel center in that national championship game.

NaplesIllini