The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, November 01, 2016 5:11 am

Hoosiers hoping Morgan grows into his bigger role

Chris Goff | The Journal Gazette

BLOOMINGTON – Indiana’s roster lists Juwan Morgan at 6-foot-8, regardless of how high the flattop grows.

"They never let me count (my hair)," Morgan said. "Otherwise I’d probably be around 6-11 or 7-foot. I trimmed it down a little bit. But it grew back just as fast."

His game, though, has a lot of growth potential.

The Hoosiers open exhibition play tonight at home against Hope College, a Division III program out of Holland, Michigan. The game at Assembly Hall will mark the beginning of Morgan’s sophomore season, and he’s fine if that means talk about his hair rather than his left shoulder.

With the serious preseason injury to Collin Hartman, Morgan takes on an even greater role for Indiana, whose regular-season opener is Nov. 11 in Hawaii against Kansas.

Morgan played in 30 games off the bench last season, averaging 2.4 points and 2.1 rebounds per game, but those modest numbers might have looked a lot better had he not dealt with a continually dislocated left shoulder. The hope is that offseason surgery relegates those painful moments to the dustbin of history.

"I feel 100 percent," Morgan said. "(I felt ready for contact) probably two or three months ago. But that’s why I’m not a doctor."

Morgan was recently cleared by the Hoosiers’ medical staff for full contact, cleared to endure all of the banging down low that he hopes will occur during the exhibition slate. At this point, it’s about getting acclimated as quickly as possible with Kansas looming in 10 days.

A solution for Morgan’s dislocations has been a long time coming. The shoulder has been popping out since his junior season at Waynesville High School in Missouri.

"The first time it happened, I was kind of scared," Morgan said. "I didn’t know what happened. My arm was just kind of dangling. My arm looked seven inches longer."

Teammate OG Anunoby, who like Morgan was recruited by the Hoosiers out of Missouri, is eager to see his friend at full health.

"That’ll be fun," Anunoby said. "He can be a really versatile all-around guy."

Indiana coach Tom Crean knows that. In a pinch, Crean used Morgan to run the offense as a point forward, which is symbolic of the versatility the program seeks.

"I think the most important thing is not to find that one or two guys are just going to set it up and control the tempo but have a team of guys that understand how to make the game easier," Crean said. "Again, it’s building skill. Juwan Morgan at the end of the year when Rob Johnson was (injured) was our backup point guard."

Morgan, who weighs 230 pounds, is of course not a point guard. But the Hoosiers are eager to see what kind of forward a healthy Morgan can truly be.

"There definitely is a freedom being out there not having to worry about, ‘Oh, I can’t do this because it (the shoulder) might come out,’ or having to be careful with this because it might come out," Morgan said. "I’m ready."

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