Ben Malcomson: Juwan Morgan Leaves Lasting Impression on Senior Day
Written By: Ben Malcomson (@malcomsonben)
What better way to start this piece than to read off Juwan Morgan’s stat line:
25 points (11-13 FG; 1-2 3FG; 2-2 FT)
7 rebounds (4 defensive; 3 offensive)
22:05 of action.
Talk about efficient! But, this column is not about breaking down stats and analytics. This is about the atmosphere surrounding yesterday’s game before, during, and after IU fans said farewell to five Hoosiers. No offense to Zach McRoberts, Evan Fitzner, Johnny Jager, and Quentin Taylor - they all have made impacts in their own way, but none more so significant emotionally than Juwan Morgan.
A young man who has battled through injuries to become not just the leader of this team, but a player who embodies Indiana basketball - tough, gritty, athletic, disciplined, and driven. The fans embraced him from day one when he made his first appearance on the court. He was a player who was willing to do whatever it takes for his team to succeed. Winning the game was just a big bonus.
Before the game
Chris Corley and I arrived on the scene well before the players even hit the floor to shoot around. There was a sense of calm before the storm. A quiet arena filled with IU personnel getting primed and ready for another game day. I had been to multiple games during the season, but the environment just felt different yesterday. It was electric. It was refreshing. And, that was before the crowd made its way in doors.
During warmups, I observed a team getting ready for action. Before, it felt more like a group of individuals more so independent from one another than unified. This time, they looked loose. They looked both mentally and physically ready. Most importantly, they appeared to be having fun with one another. A team living in the moment.
During the game
Going into the tip, I was hoping that same electric feeling I had sensed during pregame would reflect on the court. I was not disappointed. The Hoosiers came out looking efficient. They were lead by their senior leader Morgan. From my observation, he looked dominant. He was moving down low with ease, holding his ground against anyone that wanted to challenge him, and drove in not the least bit concerned about contact. The opposition, on the other hand, did as the lane opened up for him time and time again. Morgan’s effort laid the foundation for that constant theme with his confident, high percentage looks that were created by himself and by his teammates.
He would go on to finish the game in fitting fashion with an emphatic dunk followed by a standing ovation exit to put an exclamation point on a memorable senior day.
After the game
The post game senior day festivities went quickly. Not surprising with five guys who prefer to let their actions speak louder than words. Juwan went last as he received a standing ovation for what felt like 5 to 10 minutes before he even spoke a word. I made the comment to Chris that we were going to see a tearful Morgan. I think we both knew that we couldn’t blame him. He was finishing the last home game of his collegiate career. I like to think about what was going through his mind while the sea of cream and crimson cheered for him. The good times and the bad flashing through his head.
I kept coming back to this final thought:
I bet he was thinking how rewarding this moment was.
That this moment is what it is all about.
This is what battling through the ups and downs is all about.
This is what Indiana basketball is all about.
In that moment, I even got teary-eyed. As well as, many Hoosier faithful. It is hard not to be! I was thinking how fortunate I was to have the opportunity to cover this team during a season in which I thought I would firmly remember Romeo Langford the most.
In the end, I was wrong. (No offense, Romeo)
Instead, it was Juwan Morgan who left the longest lasting impression.
If you were to ask him right now what he thinks about a chapter in his life closing, he would tell you this:
I am not done yet.
No, you are not. And, IU fans are happy about that.