Morgan fills unheralded role for Michigan
December, 8, 2012
By Michael Rothstein | ESPN.com
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The other starters have the accolades, be it from a famous last name, a potential first-round NBA game or as a dynamic recruit.
Jordan Morgan had none of those things coming out of University of Detroit Jesuit. He was the No. 232 power forward in the 2009 recruiting class, and, in a college basketball culture where redshirts are rare, he took one. On a team with so many stars, redshirt junior Morgan might appear to be forgotten, but he is not.
He has become a consistent starter for No. 3 Michigan with room to grow, even after a 12-point, 10-rebound game in an 80-67 win against Arkansas.
Morgan, though, doesn’t seek out attention. Doesn’t necessarily need it, either.
“It’s not a big deal because, at the end of the day, I’m not forgotten in my role,” Morgan said. “In the things I do well. That’s what’s most important, doing what I can for the team and taking pleasure in that.
“It’s fun to win games.”
Michigan has won a lot this season and is 9-0 for the first time since 1988-89, when the Wolverines won the national championship. Much of the reason for success is because of guys such as Morgan, who embraced what his team needs even if it means less individual success.
Even his role needed some fine-tuning. After redshirting his freshman season to lose weight, redo his body and heal from injuries to his knee and shoulder, he gained comfort in a pick-and-roll game with his former teammate and roommate, Darius Morris.
Then Morris left for the NBA and left Morgan needing to change his game again, as Trey Burke -- then an incoming freshman -- was a different type of point guard than Morris. Morris’ length allowed him to see over defenders. Burke’s speed lets him blow by them.
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioForward Jordan Morgan was one of five Michigan players to score in double figures against Arkansas.
“Darius Morris certainly spoiled him early in his career finding him with pick-and-rolls. Trey Burke was able to find him at different moments in transition, different than the half-court sets Darius provided,” Michigan assistant coach Bacari Alexander said. “Sometimes you kind of fall in love in that aspect of the game.
“To Jordan’s credit, we were able to recalibrate him back towards a defense and rebounding mindset, and add the offensive opportunities, as well. What you’re seeing is a more complete player and a more mature player at this stage of his game.”
That maturity came more from a physical transformation -- he went from 245 pounds of fat his freshman season down to 225, and now up to 250 pounds of muscle -- and an understanding that he had to mentally stay in the game to physically remain there.
It can still be a struggle. Against Kansas State, Morgan played six minutes because he would enter the game, commit a foul, sit and have the process repeat.
It was a glimpse of his past, when mistakes compounded into more errors and kept him from being able to be on the floor for long stretches. Through all his physical improvements, this is where he says he improved the most.
“Just my mental stability, probably, playing off of mistakes and being able to step up and be a leader for this team,” Morgan said. “Through adversity, staying focused and moving on to the next play. If I make a mistake or something happens I might not agree with, just moving on.”
It sometimes is still a struggle, but he has committed more than two fouls in a game just once this season -- that Kansas State game -- and has learned to harness his emotions and stay more level.
The result has been this: on a team of stars, Morgan might never get the most attention. But he has gone from his freshman season, when college success was “not necessarily” something he thought could happen, to being a consistent starter on a top-five team.
If he keeps playing as he did Saturday, there will be no chance he'll end up being forgotten.
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BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
Final Washington State 45 Colorado State 48 Final 20 Fresno State 20 25 USC 45 Final Buffalo 24 San Diego State 49 Final Tulane 21 Louisiana-Lafayette 24
Final Pittsburgh 30 Bowling Green 27 Final Utah State 21 23 Northern Illinois 14
Final Marshall 31 Maryland 20 Final Syracuse 21 Minnesota 17 Final Brigham Young 16 Washington 31
Final Rutgers 16 Notre Dame 29 Final Cincinnati 17 North Carolina 39 Final Miami (FL) 9 18 Louisville 36 Final Michigan 14 Kansas State 31
Final Middle Tennessee 6 Navy 24 Final Ole Miss 25 Georgia Tech 17 Final 10 Oregon 30 Texas 7 Final 14 Arizona State 23 Texas Tech 37
Final Arizona 42 Boston College 19 Final Virginia Tech 12 17 UCLA 42 Final Rice 7 Mississippi State 44 Final 24 Duke 48 21 Texas A&M 52
Final Nebraska 24 22 Georgia 19 Final UNLV 14 North Texas 36 Final Iowa 14 16 LSU 21 Final 19 Wisconsin 24 9 South Carolina 34 Final 5 Stanford 20 4 Michigan State 24 Final 15 UCF 52 6 Baylor 42
Final 13 Oklahoma State 31 8 Missouri 41 Final 12 Clemson 40 7 Ohio State 35