Tom Crean wants Juwan Morgan to become the most versatile player in the country.
Two weeks ahead of Indiana’s season opener against Kansas, the sophomore forward seems willing to embrace that title.
During Friday’s annual Haunted Hall of Hoops team scrimmage at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, Morgan demonstrated his capacity to play situationally and occupy whichever role is necessary. The indefinite absence of senior forward Collin Hartman underscores the need for somebody to bring versatility to the rotation, and right now, Morgan appears positioned to do so.
“With a guy like Collin not being there opening night, it’s comforting to know that you have a guy that you can play at the backup one, two to three, and then have the intelligence to execute all the offensive schemes,” Indiana assistant coach Chuck Martin said. “(Morgan) has the intelligence defensively to help the young guys with rotations against an opponent like Kansas in two weeks.”
After undergoing surgery after last season to repair a nagging separated shoulder injury, Morgan is back to full-contact work. The 6-foot-8, 230-pound Morgan participated in individual drills during the summer, but only returned to full-speed, five-on-five work within the last 10 days.
Between the two, 10-minute scrimmages Friday, Morgan scored seven points, including one 3-pointer. He was most impactful with his floor game, combining for five rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block between both ends of the scrimmage.
Offensively, he spent time bringing the ball up the floor and running the point. At one moment in the second game, Morgan handled the ball atop the key and drove toward the free throw line, before spinning around and passing to freshman Devonte Green, who sank the open 3-pointer.
“I thought last year, coach Crean did a great job with Juwan and preparing him throughout the entire season in our team scrimmages,” Martin said. “He would have Juwan be the backup point guard. At times, he’d have him matched up with Yogi Ferrell, and I think he’s really embraced that versatility role. A year later, you’re starting to see, I think, a guy that can play multiple positions.”
According to unofficial statistics, junior James Blackmon added 16 points, including four 3-pointers. Robert Johnson, meanwhile, led all scorers with 22 points between both ends of the scrimmage.
Just as Morgan missed the summer due to surgery, Johnson also had to wait for medical clearance this summer after undergoing an ankle procedure on April 1.
Johnson, too, is back to looking the part of a serious contributor.
“He’s a tremendously hard worker,” IU assistant Rob Judson said. “He worked tremendously hard over the summer with the things that he could do, even though his surgery was in the healing process. He has a high basketball IQ, just like Juwan, just like Collin, and you could see that out there tonight.”
Green and fellow freshman guard Curtis Jones also acquitted themselves well. Jones, a shooting guard built in a similar mold to Blackmon, poured in 13 points and Green added seven points.
Their 6-foot-10 classmate De’Ron Davis was the night’s most notable absence. Davis dressed and sat on the bench, but did not participate. Afterward, Judson said Davis recently tweaked an ankle.
“He’ll be fine,” Judson said.
Hartman and junior college transfer Freddie McSwain also did not play.