Report Card 2011: Jordan Morgan

Dylan Burkhardt


24 9.2 5.4 0.5 109.0 20.9% 62.6% 10.8% 16.6%

The first of many season review features.

Jordan Morgan committed to Michigan before Zack Novak, all the way back in December of 2007. Morgan was John Beilein’s third verbal commitment at Michigan but by the time he stepped onto the floor to begin his career, after Novak had played well over 200 minutes, he was all but forgotten. Morgan wasn’t highly rated in high school, despite occasional solid performances, and had two significant injuries during his redshirt freshman year.

The Jordan Morgan that we saw this year surpassed even the most optimistic preseason prognostications. To be brutally honest, I figured that the chances Morgan made it through the season uninjured were less than 50%. I certainly didn’t expect an extremely efficient big man that averaged 9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game while providing Michigan’s lone reliable low post threat. And this wasn’t his junior or senior season, Morgan accomplished all of this as a redshirt freshman.

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The Good

  • Two point shooting: Morgan made 62.7% of his two point attempts on the year and 66% in Big Ten play. This isn’t just good, it’s one of the best figures in the country. I can’t find complete 2-point shooting stats but, by my estimation, Morgan’s 63% would rank in the top 15 in the NCAA.  Had Morgan played just a few more minutes this year (he played 59.4% of U-M’s minutes and KenPom qualifies players at 60%), his effective field goal percentage would have ranked 2nd in the Big Ten – behind only Jon Diebler – despite shooting all twos.  A lot of Morgan’s finishes were of the easier variety but to finish as effectively as he did, especially at 6-foot-8, is impressive.
  • Pick and roll: When Darius manages to wire some perfect pass to Morgan rolling to the basket, it looks easy. Morris earns most of the praise for a great pass, but Morgan deserves more credit. He did a tremendous job of reading the defense and slipping screens early to provide a great target. As mentioned above, he also did an adequate job catching the ball and excellent job finishing once he had it in the paint.
  • Toughness and attitude: I don’t have numbers to justify this (Morgan was just an O.K. rebounder) but there’s no doubt that Morgan added toughness to the Michigan roster. With all freshmen big men on the roster, the worry was that Michigan would be Downy soft and not have an answer for bigger and more physical teams. Morgan battled in the post and improved in this regard as the season progressed. By the end of the year he wasn’t just taking punches and standing tall, he was delivering the blow too. Whether it was taking a charge, grabbing a tough rebound, or dunking the ball with a roar, Morgan seemed to change the momentum of several games with his attitude.

Room for Improvement

  • Back to the basket game: I would estimate that roughly 80% of Morgan’s scoring production was assisted, with another 10% coming off of put backs. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it means that Morgan has room to learn to create his own scoring. I don’t think he’s ever going to be a guy that Michigan dumps the ball to 7 or 8 times per game and isolates on the block, but as Morgan’s offensive game develops he will become a more complete player.
  • Fouling: Morgan’s propensity to pick up cheap fouls crippled his productivity. John Beilein doesn’t play players with two fouls in the first half (a debate for another day) and Morgan would routinely pick up a pair, sometimes in less than a minute of game time. Morgan committed 5.3 fouls per 40-minutes and it’s almost impossible to quantify how much more productive he could have been by avoiding foul trouble. A quick run through of play-by-play data yields 19 games (of Michigan’s 35) where Morgan was forced to sit with two fouls in the first half. Discipline, film study, experience and added strength should all go a long ways toward keeping Morgan on the floor.
  • Foul shooting: Morgan was 41 of 73 (56%) at the free throw stripe, a lower mark than his field goal percentage. Morgan shot an improved 63% (19/30) over the last 11 games which could be a good sign for the future. Big men always seem to struggle at the line but they get fouled quite a bit, it would be encouraging if Morgan could get this number up over 70% next season.

Shining Moment: Morgan stepped to the free throw line in Iowa City with :12 seconds left and buried a pair of freebies to send the game to overtime. Morgan finished that game with 18 points (6-7 fg) and eight rebounds but those two free throws probably saved Michigan’s season. A patented “bad loss” likely sends Michigan hurdling toward the NIT, instead the Wolverines ended up in the second round of the NCAA tournament. You expect a guard that shoots 80% at the line to make those shots but for Morgan, a 56% free throw shooter, to hit both is even more impressive. (Second: 27 points on 11 of 13 shooting in a home win over Northwestern.)

Morgan surpassed even the most optimistic expectations for his freshman year. He quite obviously put in significant work on his game and in the weight room. He was efficient, solid on the glass, and played more physically and aggressively than most expected. The question now is where does he go from here? Darius Morris’ return is paramount for his development, as Morris facilitates a majority of his offensive production. It’s also important that Morgan continue to develop his offensive game and learn a couple basic post moves. No one expects him to turn into Jared Sullinger with an endless array of post moves, but becoming a threat on the block is important. At the very least, he should become more disciplined defensively and cut down on the silly fouls, allowing him to stay on the floor longer and become a more productive player.

  • South Florida Maize Rage

    He had a great year. Number one in the offseason for him is working on finishing with his left hand. Missed too many shots trying to come back to his right from the left side of the hoop

  • JimC

    JoMo was great this year…and it helps having a 240-lb big man from the mean streets of Detroit. We have a capable presence on D when he’s in. Now he just needs to become wily to avoid the fouls.

  • gpsimms

    wow before and after picture.

    report cards will be very fun this year. who did not blow away expectations? maybe stu? (and really, i think that’s more personal to me, as I was expecting him to play 35 minutes and become a little bit of a scorer. i don’t think anyone else expected that. self plug here: i remember debating stu’s playing time with others and he ended nearer my prediction of major minutes guy than he did to everyone else’s role player guy…i think he pretty much did get 32+ minutes over the last 10 games or so).

    anyway, in terms of expectation vs. result i think JMo might get the highest grade on the whole team. I remember a preseason practice video where morgan gets a steal, and proceeds to dribble the ball pretty much off his face and lose it out of bounds. then on a following play he drops a dime from darius. i was terrified of all of our bigs. A+?

  • Rob

    So the grade is?? This IS a Report Card, is it not?

  • billiam

    Upon thinking about it, while foul trouble is a hindering thing for him, and he needs to improve it, it shouldn’t be as big of an issue next year. This year, the problem was that Smot would have to go in if he got into trouble. Next year, we’ll have a beefed up Horford who can play good sub minutes (I hope). I agree that he needs to work on not fouling, but it’s not as big of a problem with Horford.

    Also, you never know about how much weight Smot and McLimans might add, nor the possibility for Bielfeldt to be able to play down low.

  • Quick Darshan

    Those free throws against Iowa were, to me, the most important play of the year.

    Good comments above. Like So. Fla. Maize Rage, the thing I’d like to see is his ability to finish with his left hand. Especially, a left handed counter move to his right-handed hook which is pretty fluid and reliable.

    I’m not so worried about the fouls either. I think Horford next year can provide what Morgan did this past year. So, if Morgan can add one or two things to what he already provides, the Center position will be pretty solid (injuries notwithstanding.

  • JD

    Nice write up.

    As far as the fouls go, the ones that aggravated me the most were the ones he picked up on the perimeter when switching off on a guard. He seemed to get one of those almost every game.

    • JD

      Still, a really good first season by Morgan. I think he can at least be a 12 & 8 guy next year.

  • Tyler

    Agreed on almost everything you said. Don’t think he will ever be that guy we isolate on the block multiple times in a game. A lot of times this year I saw him start out in the post with great position only to ruin it with poor techinque. I think defense and adding a 10 foot jumper would be what I would focus us with Morgan. Certainly improved on a lot this year.

    • Champswest

      Agree on the 10 ft jumper. If he is a threat with that, it opens up everything.

  • Sullinger has an endless array of post moves??? :)

    Great write up…Morgan was awesome this year…

    • Sullinger’s gpatented post moves:

      1.) Get fouled
      2.) Repeat

  • What a great and unexpected year from the big fella. He totally shocked me. At one point I was hoping he would de-commit. If he continues to work hard, he is going to be an absolute beast for the next 3 years. Gotta give some credit to coach Alexander for this one as well.

  • Giddings

    The free throws at Iowa were huge, which brings up another point – it’s amazing how many “make or break” moments we had this season. If Morgan misses those free throws, if Novak’s late 3-pointer at Minnesota doesn’t fall, if THJ doesn’t go nuts in the final minutes at PSU… of course, I guess those are all balanced out by the moments that went against us (Gasser buzzer-beater, etc).

  • Pat

    Great writeup Dylan.

    One thing I haven’t seen mentioned that I’d like Jordan to work on is his decisiveness. By this I mean making quick snap decisions sometimes with the basketball. It’s an odd criticism to levy, but sometimes Morgan was TOO patient after getting the ball in great position to score (he appears to over think his post moves at times). Hopefully he’ll find a better balance as a more experienced sophomore.

  • Merlin

    Bacari tweeting about this writeup-players read what is on here-not sure that is a great idea even though this post is really positive. Its weird to think things that are written “like I don’t want Beilfleldt” or McLimans should … are read by the players. Everyone should have an opinion just scary if the players take any of it seriously.

    • SJWolv

      During D-Mo Journey episode they showed his dorm room. Jordan is his roomie and he was on his computer and I swear his screen was on this website.

    • JimC

      I always wondered if players came through here.
      Just one more reason to keep the trollish/flaming comments out.

  • Kenny

    Morgan can live off the pick and roll his entire career, it would be very nice if he add a mid-range jumper that makes Karl Malone so effective. I am not sure that he needs to be a back to the basketball player, but he needs to learn how not to miss lay-ups like South FL Maize Rage says.

    J-Mo had a great season, the only disappointment I have is that he didn’t make the Academic All Big Ten.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      The engineering school is no joke!

  • Azad

    The before and after for Morgan is awesome. With respect to post offense, Morgan has a very active body and moves well all around the court. He had his guy sealed many times this year, but it was very rare for us to throw him a post entry. That is still an important skill that should not be forgotten. Someone made an allusion to Sullinger’s “endless post moves”…the guy just puts himself into great position and has good touch. There’s no reason why Morgan cannot improve on that and become a more well rounded player.

    Also, Morgan has made his share of 10 footers in the lane this year; I bet he comes back taking those shots more comfortably and confidently. He may not be the #1 guy ever but he’s going to be a great supporting player. I feel good about the offensive side; I would just like to see the rebounding/defense take some positive steps. I’d love to see some more shot blocking capabilities from our defense as a whole (although taking as many charges as we do does make up for it some).

  • ScottGoBlue

    Loved Jordan’s play this year. Obviously, a very pleasant surprise. Going into the year as a fan, I was hoping for Jordan or Blake (as redshirt freshmen) to step in and be productive. But seriously, Jordan was way beyond that. He wasn’t intimidated by the big names or the big lights. He was very productive. Loved it. You know, I keep harping on how Horford could get major minutes next year. But really, it’s gonna be hard to surpass Jordan. Well done, big fella. “A” in my book.

  • Greyblue

    It was great to watch JM go from a wounded afterthought to a solid D1 basketball player, with a productive Wolverine future on tap.

    He was tentative at the rim at first, but now slams ’em home.

    If he stays interested in school and basketball, we will be very, very sorry to see his eligibility erode over the seasons.

    Can’t wait until the three B’s get to Ann Arbor.

  • KingLouie

    Like every player on this team, Jordan has been a delight to watch this year. I am in agreement with those who think that the next stage in his development should be in perfecting the mid-range jump shot, from the free throw line in. If he can be a consistent threat to score from there–and he has a nice stroke, as shown by the oft mentionedd Iowa free throws and his improving comfort at the line–it will open up the floor even more for drives to the basket by others, and also allow for a high low combination with our other big men. This roster now allows the coaches to have wonderful versatility in their choices of how to attack other teams. I think we will see next year how each player–those that are here and the three newcomers– will have a distinct role that will permit us to play a wide variety of offensive sets and give fits to opposing defenses.

  • mikeb

    Hands. How many tough catches Jordan make? Watching highlights where the camera is under the basket makes you appreciate jordan even more. Darius fires passes in and they move like a knuckleball.

    • Kenny

      I have said this over and over again, J-Mo could be a stud playing TE at the professional level.

      • Beast1530

        Not every basketball players are like Antonio Gates. Antonio Gates is an athletic freak who happen to excel in NFL.

        • Will Wheaton

          Your grammar invalidates your opinions.

  • Mattski

    Two things to add, and a question, for Dylan and others:

    1. Morgan DID show off some pretty moves around the basket once in a while, in increasing number as the season went on, including a little sky hook, no?

    2. His free throw stance and shot are clean and comfortable; I don’t think he struggles like some big men at the line.

    Question: do you think some of the foul calls were ticky-tack, won’t be called as he gains respect? Or is it all on him?

    Thanks for reminding me how great a player JoMo is, and some of his fine moments.

    • gpsimms

      i’d say lots of tickey tack. he got a lot of foul calls, so obviously some is on him, but on the other hand how many times did we have a true freshman going up against a senior?

      I really believe we’ll start getting more “mad respek” calls next year. when smot goes driving towards lighty, and lighty throws himself into the 3rd row, they will call that a charge 100/100 times. next year, smot will do that against a guy with equal or less big ten experience.

      i believe that was a big part of why we couldn’t get over the hump against any elite B10 teams (just a part of it though, we lost for lots of reasons).

  • Lyn

    WRT the before and after pic, the before pic was when he was a freshman in high school, age 13. I also think he surpassed expectations and really grew as a person and player this year. I only expect to see tremendous things from him in the future!

  • Section13Row15

    Thanks for the nice write up Dylan. This is going to sound stupid but bear with me for a moment. I actually played some pick up basketball against Jordan Morgan during his Jr. year of HS over at Lifetime Fitness in Novi. He was already committed to Michigan and I have had season tickets for awhile so I was very interested in seeing what we were getting. I’m 6’5″ so I had the task of guarding him most of the time. He couldn’t have been more than 6’6″ or 6’7″ despite being listed at 6’8″ or 6’9″ in some of the reports. He didn’t really hustle at all, seemed kind of lazy to me, and couldn’t make a 10 foot jump shot to save his life (and trust me, I understand that he probably wasn’t playing his hardest, and in addition he was only 16 and I was 26). But you could tell he had a big frame and could possibly develop over time. The point is, in just a couple short years Jordan Morgan battled through a shoulder and knee injury that some people would have just folded from. He proved to be very coachable, worked extremely hard on the court and in the weight room, and filled what would have been a major hole for us last season. I am very proud of Jordan Morgan. He banged around in the paint with some of the best players in the nation this year (Sullinger, Maurkice Morris, Draymond Green, Juwan Johnson, Plumlee bros, etc.), and more than held his own. He worked tirelessly on making himself into what our team was lacking for the last couple years…a large space eater that can rebound, bring some attitude, and deny opposing bigs the ball. I also have optimism that he can develop a jump shot from the elbow and learn to control his big body to avoid foul trouble. Jordan Morgan proved me wrong in a big way. It just goes to show if you want something bad enough and work hard for it, you can acheive it. PS: a lot of the fouls against him were horrific calls but he needs to read the situations better and be smart about how the refs are calling the game.

    • Beast1530

      Not a real good way to evaluate players when you’re a man guarding a young kid. The age difference pretty much says it all (you’re 26 and he’s 16 at the time). It’s pickup game where D1 player tends not to play hard unlike most people who don’t play basketball for a living.

      I’ve played with LaVell Blanchard. He doesn’t really try unless his team needs a point or two to win a game. When he tries, he’s unstoppable but he is more content to let other do their things by passing the ball to them, giving them open shots.

  • SpencerL

    Are you using full-season stats? MGoBlue only shows Jordan averaging 5.4 rebounds/game in the cumulative season stats.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Yes. Took the data from StatSheet. Not sure why there would be a discrepancy. They have him at 6.5/game and 7/game in Big Ten play.

      • Dylan Burkhardt

        …. just found it. Somehow his rebound total was messed up in the Wisconsin game on their site. I’ll update the post.

        • Section 30, Row 28

          And this is what makes UMHoops such a great site. You are tireless and you care about accuracy. Thanks Dylan.

  • Section13Row15

    Beast, I’m with you on that. Huge age discrepancy and he had a lot more to lose than I did from getting injured, etc. I actually went to High School with LaVell, so that’s pretty cool you played with him too.

    • Beast1530

      yeah, LaVell has been playing at CCRB frequently during the summer. We already know how good he is because he played at Michigan and at overseas. It wouldn’t be fair for opponent or his teammates at the pickup games if he just dominates all the time which he could easily have done it.

      • rlc

        So did he decide to go to med school after all?

  • KJay

    Given the way people had talked about him before this year, I couldn’t believe what I saw from Jordan out on the court. Yes, he had a lot of dunks, but he also flashed a nice jump hook from time to time. To think that he has three years left in college is amazing. Way to represent U of D, Jordan and thanks for making both of my alma maters proud.

  • gordie bell

    I thought Jordan had a spectacular freshman year, this team doesn’t make the NCAA without his contributions. Congrats Jordan

    Hope we see a similar before and after with Smot.

    • Other Matt

      Totally agree. Those 2 FTs at Iowa aren’t just Jordan’s shining moment, but just might have been the point when this team turned the corner.

  • Good article Dylan. Those two pictures are amazing. It just shows you what a good college weight program can do. Hopefully, Sanderson can do his magic on Smot and continue with Horford over the summer to add muscle.

  • Steve A

    Jordan Morgan has a 5* heart & will to win, I love him on this team, he is the future captain of this team.

  • Tom

    So what’s the grade?…

    Great read and terrific analysis of Jordan Morgan’s season. I think he’s a bit better back to the basket than people give him credit for. I’ve seen him catch it in the post off a feed or an offensive board and put the ball on the deck, pivot once or twice, fake, then throw up a little hook that goes in 99/100 times. He could definitely add to his arsenal, but his go to move seems to serve him well.

    This is also worthless statwise, but Some of Jordans dunks were sparks in many of our comebacks and closeouts. He’s a great energy player.

  • Would not be entirely surprised to see Morgan playing in the NBA in 3-4 years time.
    There’s massive improvement to be made. And hey, maybe he grows another inch or two.

  • Bluebufoon

    Jordan Morgan is one of my favorite players. Not only did he over-come the two injury’s his freshman year but he also battled a weight gain situation that easily could have gotten out of hand. Constructively, I am convinced Morgan can get considerably better as his game evolves and he plays with more confidence. Currently he struggles against the bigger/ longer post players, which should improve as JM continues to learn how to seal and wall-off his man by his using body. Hopefully as we go forward, Morgan will be less passive against the top shot-blockers and post defenders. Plus it would help all of our big men to learn how to use the glass with just a soft bank-shot, preferably a baby hook– when done properly its almost impossible to block and its a perfect equalizer around the basket, especially when attacking size. The backboard can makes scoring in the paint so much easier— too many big men fall in love with the dunk shot.

    Do we know if JM and or Horford will be attending any big men camps this summer ? The more experiece our bigs get playing against good competition the better they will become.

  • Champswest

    Jordan is already playing at the level I had hoped for by his Senior year. I think he will continue to grow and improve each year. Credit to him and his coaches. Another example on why we all shouldn’t get so hung up on star ratings.