Consistency the key for Morgan

Juwan Morgan and OG Anunoby played against each other in high school before joining forces for two seasons at Indiana University.

Sometime in the future, they’d like to share the court again.

The Missouri natives seldom go a day without chatting, no matter the distance, time demands or the international border between them. In nearly every conversation, Anunoby, now a rookie with the Toronto Raptors, provides his close friend with a jolt of motivation.

“He tells me I have to get (to the NBA),” Morgan said. “He says to me every day, that’s the ultimate goal. I have to get there.”

Through the first nine games of the season, Morgan is playing like a man determined to join his friend at basketball’s highest level.

“Juwan is a guy that’s brought his lunch pail almost every day that he’s been here,” IU coach Archie Miller said. “Not many days he hasn’t shown up and given great effort.

“I think he’s a guy on our team everyone’s looking at to get the job done on every given night. And if you look at sort of how he’s playing, I think he’s become a key figure in terms of our stability.”

In this year transitional year for Indiana’s program, the junior forward has been the one consistent presence these Hoosiers have leaned on. He leads the team with 13.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, playing with grit on both ends of the court.

“We need him on the floor,” Miller said. “He gives us a presence offensively, and he gives us a presence defensively. He can guard multiple positions, and he’s rebounding the ball well. So, I also think he’s very comfortable. He understands exactly what we’re asking him to do, and he’s prepared to do it.”

Morgan is exactly the kind of player Miller experienced success with during his six previous seasons as Dayton’s coach — tough, versatile and eager to make the hustle plays.

Just as former IU coach Tom Crean challenged Morgan to become the nation’s most versatile player, Miller is pushing him to use each branch of his diverse skill set to become an efficient, reliable player all over the court.

This summer, Miller looked at Morgan’s approach to the game and predicted a breakout season for the junior.

Across the first four weeks of the regular season, that seems to be the case.

“I think he’s playing with a lot more confidence,” fifth-year senior Collin Hartman said. “And he’s relentless on the boards. When you play with that confidence and you’re relentless, it’s hard to deny. He’s obviously a great athlete to start. When you add the hustle and the mentality to the athleticism, it’s tough to stop, it really is. And I think that’s the biggest thing is his mentality and being relentless.”

The only thing that Morgan hasn’t done well is shooting from beyond the arc, where he’s made only one of his 10 3-point attempts.

While it’d be a nice development to Morgan’s game, Indiana doesn’t necessarily need him taking those long-distance shots. Meanwhile, the Hoosiers are more than happy to have Morgan making 66 percent of his 2-point attempts.

He’s also getting fouled — and making the most of his opportunities at the line, where he’s a team-best 78 percent free throw shooter.

All the while, Morgan has supplied the Hoosiers with the consistency they’ve needed.

“Consistency with every game is something I always pride myself on,” Morgan said. “That way, it gives coach almost like a security blanket knowing exactly what he’s gonna get out of me each game, each practice.”

3 comments

  1. Doesn’t have the full repertoire of post moves and mid-range game, but, as Hartman said, he is relentless.
    He’s sort of like having AJ Moye back with a Hummer-sized frame. No quit in his engine and brings it every night. Sort of player who is imperative for deep tournament runs(given the other pieces are in place…e.g. point guard, depth, perimeter shooting).

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