Morgan fills unheralded role for Michigan

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The other starters have the accolades, be it from a famous last name, a potential first-round NBA game or as a dynamic recruit.

Jordan Morgan had none of those things coming out of University of Detroit Jesuit. He was the No. 232 power forward in the 2009 recruiting class, and, in a college basketball culture where redshirts are rare, he took one. On a team with so many stars, redshirt junior Morgan might appear to be forgotten, but he is not.

He has become a consistent starter for No. 3 Michigan with room to grow, even after a 12-point, 10-rebound game in an 80-67 win against Arkansas.

Morgan, though, doesn’t seek out attention. Doesn’t necessarily need it, either.

“It’s not a big deal because, at the end of the day, I’m not forgotten in my role,” Morgan said. “In the things I do well. That’s what’s most important, doing what I can for the team and taking pleasure in that.

“It’s fun to win games.”

Michigan has won a lot this season and is 9-0 for the first time since 1988-89, when the Wolverines won the national championship. Much of the reason for success is because of guys such as Morgan, who embraced what his team needs even if it means less individual success.

Even his role needed some fine-tuning. After redshirting his freshman season to lose weight, redo his body and heal from injuries to his knee and shoulder, he gained comfort in a pick-and-roll game with his former teammate and roommate, Darius Morris.

Then Morris left for the NBA and left Morgan needing to change his game again, as Trey Burke -- then an incoming freshman -- was a different type of point guard than Morris. Morris’ length allowed him to see over defenders. Burke’s speed lets him blow by them.

“Darius Morris certainly spoiled him early in his career finding him with pick-and-rolls. Trey Burke was able to find him at different moments in transition, different than the half-court sets Darius provided,” Michigan assistant coach Bacari Alexander said. “Sometimes you kind of fall in love in that aspect of the game.

“To Jordan’s credit, we were able to recalibrate him back towards a defense and rebounding mindset, and add the offensive opportunities, as well. What you’re seeing is a more complete player and a more mature player at this stage of his game.”

That maturity came more from a physical transformation -- he went from 245 pounds of fat his freshman season down to 225, and now up to 250 pounds of muscle -- and an understanding that he had to mentally stay in the game to physically remain there.

It can still be a struggle. Against Kansas State, Morgan played six minutes because he would enter the game, commit a foul, sit and have the process repeat.

It was a glimpse of his past, when mistakes compounded into more errors and kept him from being able to be on the floor for long stretches. Through all his physical improvements, this is where he says he improved the most.

“Just my mental stability, probably, playing off of mistakes and being able to step up and be a leader for this team,” Morgan said. “Through adversity, staying focused and moving on to the next play. If I make a mistake or something happens I might not agree with, just moving on.”

It sometimes is still a struggle, but he has committed more than two fouls in a game just once this season -- that Kansas State game -- and has learned to harness his emotions and stay more level.

The result has been this: on a team of stars, Morgan might never get the most attention. But he has gone from his freshman season, when college success was “not necessarily” something he thought could happen, to being a consistent starter on a top-five team.

If he keeps playing as he did Saturday, there will be no chance he'll end up being forgotten.