Freshman Focus: Juwan Morgan

  • 06/23/2015 11:26 am in

“Freshman Focus” is an Inside the Hall series on each of Indiana’s three incoming freshmen. Over the next couple of weeks, we will take an in-depth look at all three newcomers. Today: Juwan Morgan. (Previously: Thomas Bryant)

It didn’t take long for Waynesville, Missouri coach Chris Pilz to realize he might have a high level Division I player in his program back in the 2011-2012 season.

It was the first year at Waynesville for Pilz and he got to know Juwan Morgan quickly after he wrapped up his football season as a freshman. Once Morgan’s football responsibilities were finished, he started working out with the basketball team. Pilz wanted Morgan to play for the junior varsity. But Morgan told Pilz he would prefer to start out playing freshman ball.

“I told him I was new, he was new, so that would be fine,” Pilz recalls with a laugh. “About a week later he started playing JV. I’d had the opportunity to coach some other Division I players that had played at a major level and shortly after working with him, I told him he had the opportunity to be a major Division I player if that’s what he wanted to do.”

Morgan confirmed to Pilz that’s exactly what he wanted to do and his ascent in the Waynesville program began.

His first varsity action came in a Holiday tournament during his freshman year. Pilz put Morgan into the game with 1:30 remaining and he responded with two blocked shots to help secure a win. From there, he brought Morgan along as slowly as he could, but quickly realized that his rapid improvement dictated a bigger role.

“A game in early February at West Plains (Mo.), he got in the game and scored 11 points down the stretch in a one-point game,” Pilz remembers. “We saw him catch two or three balls at his ankles and he caught them and finished. They threw a couple of balls over his head and he caught them and finished them.

“At that point, mid-February of his freshman year, I thought ‘this guy, he’s got a chance.'”

Morgan went on to start the final five games of his freshman season and from there became a stalwart in the Waynesville starting lineup. After his freshman season, Pilz sat down with Morgan and his parents to discuss a plan for his development and to also talk about getting him into the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL).

As his game continued to grow on the court and he began playing with MoKan Elite in the EYBL, recruiting interest began to materialize.

“He could pick things up pretty quickly,” Pilz told Inside the Hall. “And just his improvement on a daily basis and how quickly he grew from really having a hard time running the floor and touching the rim to, in a short time, start running the floor and getting balance and going from not very explosive to pretty explosive in a short amount of time.”

Following his sophomore season at Waynesville, Morgan played on a MoKan Elite team stacked with Division I talent. Among his teammates: Marvin Clark Jr. (Michigan State), Lourawls Nairn (Michigan State) and Shake Milton (SMU).

Morgan wasn’t a standout on that team and he put up solid, but modest numbers in the 2013 Nike Peach Jam of 2.4 points and 5.8 rebounds. The following summer, however, would be a different story. With a year of experience, a year to work on his game and a growth spurt that added two to three inches to his frame, Morgan returned to the EYBL and won the most improved player award prior to his senior season at Waynesville.

In the 2014 Nike Peach Jam, Morgan averaged 12.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. His recruitment took off even more as several schools, including Indiana, began to prioritize him as a top class of 2015 target.

The Hoosiers won Morgan’s commitment in early September after a highly contested battle that also included Vanderbilt, Washington, Creighton, Stanford and Arkansas, among others. His final season at Waynesville ended on a strong note as well as he was named a finalist for Missouri’s “Mr. Show-Me” basketball award, the Ozark conference player of the year and an all-state selection in class 5 by the Missouri basketball coaches association.

But above those accolades and his continued development, Pilz sounded more encouraged by the person Morgan has grown into off the floor.

“We’re right at 1600 or 1700 kids in our high school and he’s one of our top leaders,” Pilz said. “He’s been brought up to do the right thing, make the right choices. At school, we have a very diverse population and he knows how to treat people and treat them the right way. He can talk to his classmates and to teachers. We’ve put him in situations where he’s had to talk to the community, talk to the press, he’s had a lot of opportunities to handle that.

“We’ve stressed a lot to him the things that are going to separate him. There are a lot of good players (out there) and I think he understands how he handles himself on and off the court is a big factor in being the type of player he wants to be and what he wants to represent as a member of the team and of the university.”

Morgan arrived on campus over a week ago and has started workouts and summer classes with his new teammates. Pilz said that when he spoke to Morgan before he left for Bloomington, he got the sense that his star player realized he was getting a unique opportunity to jump onto a team that should be ranked high in the preseason with a lot of talented returning players.

That said, Pilz is optimistic that Morgan can come in and make an impact quickly, even if the numbers don’t stick out right away.

“I think he can be a very good offensive rebounder, I think that could get him on the floor,” Pilz said. “And defensively, I think he’s an intelligent player. He’s pretty good at timing blocked shots and he’s got a knack for not fouling. There’s going to be a lot of ball screens set at that level and he understands how to guard the ball screen.

“He has a long way to grow. I know he’s looking forward to getting a chance to work with the coaches at IU and develop his game. He has shown a willingness to improve and he will have an opportunity to go against guys who are better than him and challenge him a lot more than we could in our high school gym.”

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  • Ole Man

    Can’t wait to see this kid on the court!

  • TomJameson

    With the way things worked out ibthink he’ll see some minutes .. and I think enough consistent minutes to really help his game develop – maybe 10 to 15 a game with the possibility of a few more as the season wears on.

  • Kyl470

    With no Perea and Davis the door is definitely open for him to get minutes. Hopefully he puts in the hard work so he can be a solid guy off the bench.

  • Hoosier gal in Iowa

    So nice to see these stories where a coach takes a true interest in the kid to help them progress (on and off the court). Thanks for the story!

  • SCHoosier

    A “diamond in the rough” I do believe! That coach did not sound like a guy who blows smoke!

  • IUBizmark

    The work ethic of Juwan Morgan and Thomas Bryant seem to be higher than it has been for the team the last few years. I hope they instill that as a core strength.

  • marcusgresham

    That sounds like the way Vic & Will entered the program. I’d also say that bodes well for Anunoby. You would think he would spend the majority of his time with his fellow freshmen (and not saying at all that he doesn’t work hard, too,) but if they’re in Cook Hall I would think he would be right there with them, and strictly from an athletic standpoint, he’s probably the most gifted of the three. The future is bright for these guys.

  • marcusgresham

    Not to pick on HMP, but the description of Juwan sounds like his total antithesis. Intelligent player (I don’t doubt Hanner is smart, as he was making it academically in his second language, but his basketball instincts weren’t there,) a knack for not fouling, knows how to defend ball screens, great hands. I also like the fact that he has experience as a “role player,” which would seem to indicate a likelihood that he doesn’t roll into town with expectations of touches and shots.
    I hope he’s getting a summer full of trading sweat with guys like Christian Watford.

  • marcusgresham

    Sounds like we should expect something similar to what Holt provided last year.

  • Robert Golden

    I am pleased with out frontcourt. Bryant was the key. Juwan is a dog, dirty work dude. Emmit is a dog with some really nice skills on which CTC can improve and develop. He isnt Hanner ya know; basically exceedingly gifted in height and athleticism but zero bball IQ.

    Go Hoosiers!

  • Ms hoosier

    Great comparison!! That would be a solid freshman season for Morgan

  • dwdkc

    Solid guy, sounds like he can be a high character, high effort addition with some upside too. Banging every day in practice with an experienced senior like Max will help too. Really like what we’re hearing about this class.

  • Eljay

    When I read his coach talking about his ability as a freshman to catch passes that were too low and passes that were too high and then finishing, I couldn’t help but compare that to HMP’s inability to catch anything that wasn’t chest high.

  • Hoosier Fanatic

    Excited to see what he brings to the team. Hopefully he will be a solid backup at the 4 and bring high energy. If he is a gym rat then the sky could be there limit. We have all seen how far players can come if they are willing to put in the work. Super excited to see him on the floor.

  • Outoftheloop

    Only with more minutes and responsibility! (If the Coach will actually use him!).

  • Bk39

    Juwan is going to be really good. Not sure if he will be able to get a lot of playing time his freshman season with Bryant, Holt, Max and Troy and Collin at the 4 &. 5 unless CTC limits the use of a 3 guard line- up. Then he might pull in some min. every game. Any injuries though, he will be great to have as backup like Holt last year.

  • Rushman

    Not to take anything away from Juwan, but after watching some of the earlier videos I would say OG has the most raw athletic ability.

  • I’m not sure why everyone on here delights in knocking Hanner so much. Hanner was doing great.. for a kid that played soccer when he was young. He played almost no basketball before coming to the US and playing at Laporte Lalumiere. I thought he made great strides after a slow start compounded a lot by the NCAA forcing him to sit because his guardian had bought some bumper stickers 15 years prior. I think we’d have been very pleased with Hanner this year.. I think he was set to be a big contributor.. But, stuff happen. So come on already. He’s gone, why can’t we leave him be and quit slamming him?

  • jaywiz

    Realistically I think we are looking at the sort of production Davis had his freshman year, although minutes may be more scarce for him than Davis had.

  • Robert Golden

    HMP is a great athlete. I think we were all waiting for him to become a great basketball player. His footwork and coordination is sub par. Kid could jump through the roof though. Onwards with Bryant, Holt, and Morgan. Onwards!

  • At the Quarries

    Just saw this tweet from Marni Mooney:

    “Juwan is the most organized freshman I have seen! Way to go J!”

  • I agree 100%.. I just don’t see the need to always be doing the ‘slam job’ on HMP… I am really anxious to see Bryant, Morgan, Holt and Anunoby. I think they are going to be fun to watch.

  • Tyler T

    Excellent addition. I really am excited for Morgan.

  • TomJameson

    I’m sure CTC will make the best determination of how to use Juwan to forward the goals of the Team. Since he sees the whole picture and we see a very small fraction. Think of my 62 inch TV as the whole picture … what we see is a 2 inch square in the lower right corner. I think I’ll trust the big picture guy .. LOL

  • TomJameson

    I think Juwan and Holt will be the major relief for TB. I also think Max, Tory, & Colon will be in the 3 – 4 position. I’m really positive that whatever the lineup(s) are … people will complain. But thats only because there are so many plausible line-ups! Great problem to have.

  • marcusgresham

    Davis 2.4ppg, 2.5rpg, 8.8 minutes per game
    Holt 3.6ppg, 3.0rpg, 11.4 minutes per game
    Hoetzel 2.4ppg, 1.3 rpg, 7.7 minutes per game

    I think he’ll be around 10 minutes a game, so we could hope for about 2.5-3ppg and around 2.7rpg.

  • marcusgresham

    I didn’t word that well (too many pronouns)—-that’s what I was also saying.

  • marcusgresham

    Two of the schools recruiting him were Stanford and Vanderbilt, so that’s pretty good indication that he has a lot going one upstairs.


    My sentiments exactly. I think this coming season we would have seen something a whole lot closer to what we were expecting when he first signed on. He finally had the experience, wouldn’t have been always having to play out of position etc etc. Oh well, so much for that line of thinking.


    Who are these Tory and Colon guys that you speak of ? I thought we only had one unfilled scholly. lol There are so many possibilities with the way that you spelled Collin, but being the responsible adult that I am, and even though you left the door wide open, I won’t go there. Can’t believe marcus didn’t make a witty play on that one though. lol

  • TomJameson

    Hahaha … That was a great opportunity, and I’m leaving it like that just for the humor side of things. My house had a very close encounter with a lightening strike a couple of days ago. Blew some breakers and fried my modem, wireless router, and my desktop that used to be connected. Sooo, I was texting that stuff in with my phone. Obviously I need to talk to quality control about the texting skills. LOL

  • Robert Golden