It’s been a long road for Jordan Morgan since he arrived on campus in the summer of 2009. Before his freshman year even began, he injured his knee was forced to undergo surgery. Once he was healthy, he quickly injured his shoulder and was shelved again. After spending a large portion of the offseason rehabbing, Morgan is finally healthy and ready to play.
As it stands today, Morgan is the starting five man on this year’s squad. He’s risen above Michigan’s other two options at the five, Blake McLimans and Jon Horford, but it remains to be seen how he will fare against bigger and stronger competition. All three players bring vastly different games to the table but Morgan’s appears to be pretty simple: rebounding.
Early exhibition returns are certainly positive. Facing off against SVSU’s undersized front line, Morgan was very impressive in Michigan’s exhibition — he cleaned up the glass (10 def. and 5 off. rebounds) and finished a number of looks around the bucket (9 pts). Obviously he isn’t going to pull down 15 boards per game, but he played the style of game that Michigan needs from him — rebound the basketball and make easy baskets.
Reasons to Be Excited
- Rebounding: Morgan has the tools to be a good rebounder at this level. He’s not an explosive athlete but he is solid around the basket and can use his body to secure rebounds. Pulling down 15 boards in his first (exhibition) game is a good start.
- Finishing: Morgan appears to be an able finisher around the rim. He’s not going to dunk on everyone but he was 6 of 8 from the field in Europe and will play within himself offensively – mostly scoring off dump offs and put backs.
- Shooting Stroke: This one is more of a work in progress. Morgan isn’t going to be shooting threes but he continues to develop his 10-15 foot jump shot (despite his ugly attempt in the exhibition game) and seems to have a steady stroke at the free throw line.
Reasons to Worry
- Injuries: The fact that he’s had two serious injuries just a year into his career is reason enough to worry. Morgan can’t help the team if he is on the bench or under the knife. It is extremely important for Michigan that he stays healthy all year.
- Shot Blocking: Morgan appears to be a very good rebounder but early returns don’t point to him being a terrific shot blocker. It doesn’t seem that Morgan has the athleticism or length to change the game by blocking shots in the post. Will he be able to defend opposing five men in the Big Ten? Will he be able to provide adequate help side defense?
- Back to the Basket Offense: Morgan’s offensive game is certainly a work in progress. At this point he’s not a player that you dump the ball to in the post and let him score. Most of his points will be off wide open looks or be set up by his teammates penetrating the lane.
Morgan’s role is very different than McLimans’ – stretching the floor – but the two should complement each other well. Morgan needs to be the grinder – the person that cleans up on the glass, sets screens, and does the dirty work in the post. Whether he’s ready or not, he’ll be the guy called upon to bang against big bodies in conference play like Jared Sullinger or Derrick Nix.
Offensively he doesn’t need to be featured but needs to score his points by staying active and making his bunnies. Hit the offensive glass, set good screens, finish off dump offs from guards, and hit the occasional mid-range jump-shot. It won’t be glamorous but if Morgan can do enough of the little things, Michigan won’t need him to over-exert himself on the offensive end.
Something like 4-5 points and 5-6 rebounds in 25 minutes per game seems like a reasonable estimate for Morgan’s production. It might be better to judge Morgan’s performance not by his individual numbers, but by opponents offensive rebounding numbers. Rebounding is certainly a team effort, but if Michigan is posting a respectable defensive rebounding percentage, that’s a sign that Jordan Morgan is doing his job.