Jordan Morgan’s career at Michigan has seen plenty of highs, but he’s also faced more than his fair share of adversity. He was overlooked as a high school prospect and suffered multiple injuries before he was able to even get on the floor in college. He battled injuries again as redshirt junior as he suffered a sprained ankle mid-way through the season. He was never able to recover fully from that injury and watched as Mitch McGary replaced him in the starting lineup and carried Michigan to the championship game.
As bittersweet as Michigan’s NCAA tournament run might have been for Morgan, he kept his head down and kept working. After playing just 12 minutes total in the first four tournament games, Morgan was ready to play 21 strong minutes against Syracuse in the Final Four with a critical drawn charge and dunk late.
Morgan’s per-game scoring averages have decreased steadily over the course of his career – from nine points to seven to five – but he has been a steadying force in the center of Michigan’s lineup for three seasons. Morgan has never been spectacular but he’s always been solid – and that’s something that many have probably taken for granted.
- Defense: Morgan’s place on the Big Ten All-Defensive team was well deserved and proved that opposing coaches understood Morgan’s defensive importance to the Wolverines. He doesn’t block many shots or grab many steals but he held Michigan’s defense together from the interior and probably led the Wolverines in drawn charges. We documented his impressive defensive statistics several times throughout the season and have no reason to doubt them. Michigan’s defense was best with Morgan on the floor.
- Rebounding: Morgan posted the best offensive (13.4%) and defensive (18.8%) rebounding rates of his career as a redshirt junior. He’s not the biggest five man or the best athlete, but he’s a very steady rebounder. Morgan knows the Big Ten, he’s been through the grind of a conference slate and is a valuable contributor on both backboards.
- Finishing: I’m leaving this as a positive although Morgan’s shooting numbers were worse than his first two seasons and he appeared to develop some case of the yips down the stretch. The majority of Morgan’s field goal opportunities are layups around the hoop and his confidence was completely shot by year’s end – still he finished the year at 58% shooting.
Room for Improvement
- Free throw shooting: Morgan has yet to crack 60% free throw shooting during any season at Michigan. He doesn’t shoot many free throws. It’s tough to imagine him making a notable improvement after four years of relatively stagnant production.
- Offensive versatility: This is Morgan’s bottleneck entering his final season. His offensive game has been limited throughout his career while Mitch McGary’s repertoire of moves is expansive. There’s just so many more things that Michigan can do with McGary at the five than with Morgan there offensively. A mid-range jumper or a go-to low post move would go a long way but right now Morgan’s offense comes from rolls to the basket, drop off passes, put backs and transition looks.
- Confidence: Morgan has to find it again. He was so clearly rattled down the stretch of last season that he was hesitating around the basket, pump faking and passing, traveling and making things more difficult than they needed to be. The hope – and John Beilein has already mentioned this – is that Morgan will regain that confidence now that he’s back to 100% health. However, until he gets back on the court and playing as he’s capable it will be something to watch.
Morgan still had his moments but his injury riddled season never really got off the ground. He only reached double figures five times all year and saw his playing time significantly reduced.
Bottom Line: Morgan could have packed his bags and played his senior year somewhere else. There’s little doubt that Mitch McGary will be “the guy” in Michigan’s front court and the effect that can have on Morgan’s playing time was obvious in the NCAA tournament. Morgan graduated with an engineering degree in the spring and would have had immediate eligibility anywhere in the country to start on his masters.
But Morgan stayed to battle. He’s fought through just about everything else during his time in Ann Arbor and one more challenge isn’t going to cause him to quit.
Morgan has had bright spots and clearly was never healthy after his January injury. There is a very important role for him to play on this team but the adjustment will be difficult. Michigan needs him for his leadership – he’s an ideal captain candidate – but he might play fewer than 15 minutes per game. For a player that’s started 92 games in his career, that’s a difficult thing to swallow. Morgan’s transition will be difficult but his role is also necessary and front court depth could be a critical strength for the 2013-14 Wolverines.