Michael Morgan: Morgan to zero in on hoops

Jon Olender Photo Michael Morgan

Jon Olender Photo
Michael Morgan

Editor’s note: This story about Mill River Union High School’s Michael Morgan is part of a four-part series about three-sport senior athletes in Rutland County.

Michael Morgan will be playing college basketball next winter at Castleton University. It’s a big step up from Division II high school ball but Morgan will have an advantage he has not enjoyed in years: he will go into a basketball season without his body being bulked up or beaten down by three months of playing football.

Photo by Albert J. Marro Mill River's Michael Morgan (12) drives the baseline on Otter Valley's Tyler Peterson, back, and Payson Williams (11) during Saturday's playoff game in North Clarendon. MRU won.

Photo by Albert J. Marro Mill River’s Michael Morgan (12) drives the baseline on Otter Valley’s Tyler Peterson, back, and Payson Williams (11) during Saturday’s playoff game in North Clarendon. MRU won.

“That’s the problem here (in high school),” Morgan, one of Rutland County’s top three-sports athletes, said this week. “I never really got to develop my body or skills for one game. It’s always been going from football, where you are big and running into people, and then basketball, where it’s more finesse, and baseball, where it’s totally different. Now I will focus on one and develop myself into a basketball player.

“I’m not sure how it’s going to be because I’ve always played different sports,” Morgan said. “There’s not really any set time for one. It’s going to be nice to focus on one and develop my game and see what I can become.”

Morgan has carved out an impressive career while compressing three sports seasons into a school year for four years at Mill River Union High School. Sports fans of the North Clarendon school have had no trouble tracking him on the football field (quarterback, linebacker, kicker), basketball court (a 1,000-point-scoring guard) and baseball diamond (third base, catcher, pitcher).

Morgan has a pile of accolades (see inset box) in his time at Mill River, and he’s put in a lot of time and effort to earn every one.

Morgan has been shooting hoops and taking grounders in his backyard since his early years, and he’s learned that playing three sports is very demanding and necessitates being able to manage your time. That is a skill that will serve Morgan well in college, where his routine might seem rather tame compared to the past four years.

On a typical day, Morgan gets up and gets ready for school, spends a little time with his friends, attends classes, goes to practice or plays in a game, and heads home for homework, dinner, a shower and bed. Then he gets right back on the treadmill the next day.

And there’s only a small window of time between seasons to heal up and rest up.

“You never really have a lot of down time,” he said. “Usually, every night you have a practice or a game or something you have to do. You’re just committed every day. I would maybe get a week off (between seasons) but that’s about it.”

Morgan says he thought briefly about kicking for the Castleton football team, but that the overlap between football and basketball would preclude that. Nor will the time committed to basketball — the game he calls his true passion — allow him to play baseball.

Morgan says he will study business management at Castleton.

Morgan will be part of a solid recruiting class for Castleton basketball. As of this writing, it also included Rutland High School’s Nathaniel Kingsley, so the Spartans, who will graduate forward Chad Copeland, are bringing in some guys who will be able to fill up the basket. Like Morgan, Kingsley scored his 1,000th career point this season.

Morgan will graduate Mill River as the school’s all-time second-leading scorer.

Now Morgan will be able to experience the benefits of specializing. He will be able to maintain a basketball-type body and will be able to devote more time to practicing shooting, something he regrets not having the time to do in high school.

But this is part of turning the page and leaving another life behind, one that includes playing the traditional American Big Three Sports of football baseball and basketball.

“I like changing it up and doing something different each season. Focusing on one is going to be very different,” he said.

If he were to advise a high school freshman planning to play three sports, Morgan would tell them “just to definitely be fully committed,” he said. “Put your work in; get better. If you’re going to commit to all three you have to be ready to work for it.”

A three-sport athlete sacrifices downtime with friends, but there are benefits, like playing in front of an enthusiastic, devoted fan base.

Mill River is coming off a basketball season where the Minutemen won 18 straight games and earned the top seed in the D-II tournament.

Mill River fell short of a state title, but its home crowd packed Dean Houghton Memorial Gymnasium most every night in a very memorable winter season.

“I think the basketball team really brought things to life,” Morgan said, commenting on high school sports’ role in the community. “We filled the gym every night for the most part. It definitely brought people together. For the Mill River community it’s like a gathering place, and I think it’s pretty important to them.

“The people that come out and support us are definitely very nice. I can’t thank them enough.”

Morgan Athletic Profile Highlights

BASKETBALL

  • Four years on varsity (three-year starter)
  • Sophomore and junior years — Vermont Basketball Coaches Association Dream Dozen
  • Captain, junior and senior years
  • Coaches’ All League Team Marble Valley League:
  • Second team, freshman year; first team, sophomore, junior and senior years
  • 2016-2017 North-South senior team
  • 1000-point scorer (1,421 points, second-highest scorer in school history)

FOOTBALL

  • Four years varsity (three-year starter)
  • Captain, senior year

2016

  • Division III first team kicker/punter
  • Division III first team linebacker
  • Division III second team QB
  • All State first team kicker
  • North-South game: punter, safety, placekicker
  • Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl — 2017
  • Passed for school — record 1,676 yards

2015

  • Division III first team kicker/punter
  • Division III first team defensive back
  • Division III second team QB
  • All State first team kicker/punter
  • Passed for school record 1,663 yards

2014

  • All-State second team kicker/punter
  • All-State second team defensive back
  • Division III first team defensive back
  • Passed for school record 1,473 yards

BASEBALL

  • Four years on varsity, four-year starter
  • Captain, junior year
  • 2016 MVL second team
  • 2015 MVL second team
  • 2014 starting third baseman on Division II state championship team

 

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