The two players Juwan Morgan came to Bloomington with are gone.
Instead of preparing for their junior seasons, Thomas Bryant and O.G. Anunoby are getting their first tastes of NBA action. Morgan, a junior forward, remains in Bloomington while his comrades will be going up against the likes of LeBron James and Steph Curry on a nightly basis.
Morgan is driven not only by Bryant and Anunoby but also by the big shoes they left behind.
“It motivates me that those are my best friends growing up, and now they're in the league living out their dream,” Morgan said. “I talk to them every day still, and they still just motivate me, telling me that I have to get there. That's the best thing ever.”
With the departure of Anunoby and Bryant, along with guard James Blackmon Jr., IU has lost nearly 40 points per game from its roster. The Hoosiers will need several different guys to step up, and Morgan can be one of those players.
“With minutes, and how it's dispersed, I think that Juwan has to become an offensive threat,” IU Coach Archie Miller said. "Juwan has to become more of an offensive-minded player from a production standpoint. He's got great skills. I think he's got to do it consistently over the course of some months.”
Morgan has that potential and has developed steadily during his two seasons as a Hoosier.
As a freshman, Morgan played a valuable role for IU, coming off the bench for a team that won a Big Ten Regular Season Championship. He played in 30 games, averaging 2.4 points and 2.1 rebounds per game.
Last season, with senior forward Collin Hartman out for the year because of a knee injury, Morgan was needed to help fill the void. He alternated between starting and coming off the bench, and he averaged 7.7 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.
He showed glimpses of offensive promise when he finished the season by scoring 14 points in each of IU's final two games, losses to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament and Georgia Tech in the first round of the National Invitational Tournament.
In the off-season, Morgan participated in Adidas Nations as a college counselor for some of the top high school players in the country. Some of those players included highly touted Missouri freshman, Michael Porter Jr., and two of the best high school recruits — Romeo Langford and Zion Williamson.
“It was just a great experience being able to guard those guys,” Morgan said. “I think we played four or five games that whole weekend. And just being able to go against the best, it just really gave me, I guess, a measurement of where I'm at.”
Morgan said that at Adidas Nations the coaches gave him free range to shoot whenever he wanted.
Miller said he wants Morgan to have a bigger offensive role, and Morgan has been working on his offensive game in practice by attacking his teammates and not taking any plays off.
He knows what he needs to do to succeed on the offensive end.
“I just have to be aggressive,” Morgan said. “And whenever I see something, I have to take it.”
Miller praised Morgan’s work ethic, but he said Morgan needed to create a new vision for himself with the new role, especially as a player who can be versatile and stretch the floor for the Hoosiers.
“But I think he's having to learn a little bit about responsibility of production,” Miller said. “He's going to be asked to do things and get production in a way that he hasn't, and that's been interesting to kind of see how he's developed."
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