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March 3, 2014
Jordan Morgan ready for the final push
When fifth-year senior Jordan Morgan left the court in Atlanta, after the Wolverines dropped the NCAA Tournament National Championship Game, he wasn't sure if he would ever put on a Michigan jersey again.
Morgan had played 25 total minutes in six NCAA Tournament games (4.2 minutes per game) and watched then-freshman Mitch McGary burst onto the scene as a postseason monster, helping the team advance all the way to the title game.
Like Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Jr., Glenn Robinson III and McGary, Morgan had a decision to make. His did not involve early entry into the NBA Draft, yet it was a big decision all the same.
"It was a thought [to leave]," Morgan said. "I am not going to say that I was out the door or anything like that, but it was a thought. But, at the end of the day, I took some time to myself when the season ended, and just kind of put a lot of thought into it."
When asked if other schools had expressed interest in Morgan, who could have used his final year of eligibility at another school as long as he enrolled in a graduate program there, he said, "I would say there were other options to do other things."
But Morgan stayed. And, as Bo Schembechler's famous motivation phrase goes, those who stay will be champions.
By coming back, Morgan secured another Big Ten title, his second championship ring in the last three years.
"When I made the decision to come back, it was independent of talking to coaches or knowing what would happen with Mitch and Glenn," Morgan said. "That stuff, I didn't want it to factor in. I wanted it to be a choice that I made on my own.
"For me, there were a few factors that went into it. First off, it was a love for Michigan. It would have been really hard for me to turn my back on this place and move on. Secondly, it was my confidence in myself and knowing how hard I would work to be better and how hard I'd work to be a part of any success we had going forward. Lastly, it was my faith in God and believing in Him."
There was still a question of how much Morgan would contribute on the court, with McGary coming back for his sophomore season.
But McGary suffered a back injury that has required surgery - and Morgan has been a rock in the middle, helping the young Wolverines storm through the Big Ten slate with a stellar 13-3 record with two games to play.
Morgan is shooting 68.2 percent from the field this year, averaging 5.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per game this season.
"It goes to show what faith does for you. God moves mountains," Morgan said. "For me to be here in this position, after everything I have ben through, even the start of this year, with Mitch coming back and all that stuff, who would have thought that I would be right here, playing so confidently and having so much fun with this team and so much success? It's unexplainable, and it goes to show you what faith can do."
Redshirt junior forward Jon Horford, Morgan's roommate, has drawn inspiration from Morgan's resurgence.
"Strong will, self-belief, perseverance, all things you can attribute to Jordan's character," Horford said. "I applaud him for that. It takes a lot of inner strength to endure."
With senior day festivities right around the corner - Michigan's final home game of the season is Saturday's contest vs. Indiana - Horford knows it will be an emotional day.
"He is such a caring guy, he is very emotional," Horford said. "I definitely expect some tears and a lot of emotion. Overall, it's going to be all good. It's something that he is going to enjoy, I'm going to try to keep him laughing instead of laughing."
And, Morgan will be the lone member of the team honored.
"I am planning on coming back. No senior night for me," said Horford, a fourth-year player. "I wouldn't even have one next year, I hate stuff like that."
Right now, Morgan is just enjoying the ride.
In his true freshman year, the Wolverines took a step back, missing the tournament after making a run to the Big Dance in 2009.
Since then, Michigan has made four-straight NCAA Tournaments (including this year's), earned a share of the 2012 Big Ten regular-season title, advanced all the way to the 2013 NCAA Tournament National Championship Game and are one the verge of clinching the program's first outright Big Ten title since 1986.
"It is fun," Morgan said. "It is fun to feel the excited from the fans and so much support in the area from everyone, who are all so happy to see us doing well. And to look at the history books and see where we stack up. This will be our 14th Big Ten Championship. We know we're a part of something so big at this school, where so many amazing things happen. It's humbling.
"And these guys, it's amazing how mature they are, doing the little things and stepping up, They make the adjustments and are very coachable. They have been great. You can get a little stressed out or worried about how a young team will respond in a situation like that, but time and time again, these guys have come through, all the way to the youngest players on our team, like Derrick Walton, and were clutch when it mattered most."
But the Wolverines still have work to do, starting with Wednesday night's date with Illinois in Champaign.
"It's a Big ten conference game," he said. "They all mean just as much as the last one, regardless of where we're at right now. We want to take every game very seriously. Every opponent we face, we take them very seriously.
"We're not done. That wasn't the goal. We're not going to celebrate until this year is done, I don't think."