Signed with to the team with just four games remaining in the regular season, former University of Michigan standout Jordan Morgan joined the Canton Charge as they were in the midst of a playoff push.
With his size and leadership ability being two of his biggest calling cards, Morgan was brought in to assist the team in pursuing an NBA D-League Championship, a pursuit that will begin tonight as their playoff series agains that Maine Red Claws kicks off.
Morgan will undoubtedly be laser-focused on helping the team fulfill their highest potential, but his goals in life expand far beyond anything that he could ever accomplish on the basketball court.
These off-court goals are a culmination of events that have brought him to this point and they began when he was just a child. As Morgan grew up, he had lived in nine homes by the time he was five years old, one of which was a homeless shelter.
From that homeless shelter, Morgan eventually went on to join the prestigious University of Michigan. During his freshman season he redshirted and the team went 15-17, but much like Morgan himself, they soon grew to be a force to be reckoned with.
During each of his next two seasons they made it to the NCAA Tournament and in his third they were seconds away from capturing an NCAA Championship. Following another Elite Eight appearance, Morgan left Michigan after helping revitalize the program.
In an interview with RidiculousUpside.com, Morgan said that this growth into a national powerhouse was something that he had discussed with Coach John Beilein during his recruiting.
"It was honestly a dream to come as far as we did. It was nice to live out everything we had talked about when I was being recruited about rebuilding the program. It was a lot of hard work from all the guys that were there with us," Morgan said.
"There was adversity and challenges that we faced but at the end of it, all of the players on the team and the coaching put everything we had into winning as many games as possible," he added.
With a National Championship appearance and four consecutive NCAA Tournament berths, Morgan’s on-court resume stacked up well against most four-year players throughout the country. Off of the court, however, there was hardly anyone that could match Morgan.
After achieving his Bachelor’s in Industrial and Operations Engineering, Morgan went on to attain a Master’s Degree in Manufacturing Engineering.
"I would like to think that if I hadn’t played college basketball, I would have gone to MIT. I loved math and science growing up and always had a natural ability for math, while science has always captured me," Morgan explained.
While he had been a defensive anchor throughout his time at Michigan, his box score statistics didn’t do much to jump off of the page. Even with this, he was hopeful that he would be selected in the 2014 NBA Draft.
"I thought that there was a good chance that I could be a second round pick. I had finished my career on a high note and had done well in my workouts and gotten pretty good feedback, so I knew that even if I wasn’t drafted there was a good chance that I would spend time in the D-League or overseas," the prospected told RU.
Though he was hopeful headed into draft day, he wound up going un-drafted. Undeterred by that though, he started to weigh his options and made the decision to head to Virtus Roma in Italy to begin his professional career.
"I knew that I was going to a good situation and a good team in Italy, so I had the choice of staying here and going through the challenges that come with playing in the D-League, or going to live in Italy and Rome for a while so it wasn’t that hard for me. I was willing to try a new experience and my agent had assured me that it would be a good situation, so I just put my trust into that."
He spent time in both Italy and France over the past two years and managed to grow as a player and as a person with the different challenges that living in a different country presents.
"I picked up on it kind of fast, but adjusting to the language barrier is difficult and above that, adjusting to the business of professional basketball was even bigger."
He continued, "Everyone is focused on winning and being a good teammate in college, but thats not necessarily the same at a professional level, where it’s all about production. At this point I’ve just learned to focus on winning and making sure that I do my job. At the end of the day as long as you do your job, you’re in good shape."
In March of last year, Morgan also made a tremendous step towards improving the lives of many underprivileged children. With the formation of the Jordan Morgan Foundation, he set out to develop educational programs for inner city children.
"I’ve always been interested in service and I’ve always done anything that I can to give back. When I finished school and started my professional career, I really wanted to use the platform that I had built at Michigan to my advantage. I wanted to take the opportunity while I was relatively recognizable and build it up while I was playing so that by the time I do retire it is a sustainable non-profit," Morgan continued to convey.
Though his playing career is just starting to take off, he has his sights set on getting his foundation to hit the ground running to help as many children as possible.
"My vision for the foundation is to be the standard in inner cities for youth educational development. My plan for that involves a variety of supplemental educational programs, the first of which will begin this summer and will inspire young students to strive for a better future for themselves that they may have not otherwise reached. My hope is that we can really change the way that people see themselves and see their future."
With his foundation starting to gain steam, the call from the Charge couldn’t have come at a better time. Already establishing himself with 11.2 rebounds per-36 and 1.7 assists in just 15 minutes per game, Morgan is proving that Canton made the right call in signing him.
He has big plans away from the game, but his stint in the D-League could help him tremendously with his playing career.
"I was called here for a reason and I just want to focus on making the best out of it and show to the best of my ability the player that I am. Coming here I knew that I would have the chance to play in front of a lot of people that may not have seen me play in awhile, so that leaves a lot of room for opportunity."
It may not happen this year, but Morgan still hopes to one day call the NBA home. It would not only serve as a testament to his hard work, but it would show the children that his foundation works to support that anything is possible.
"Making it to the NBA would mean everything to me. My story up to this point is unbelievable, really. To go from where I was to where I am now is pretty incredible, so being able to put on an NBA jersey would be so powerful for myself and my story. I could impact so many more people and so many more lives with that platform, so it would mean everything to me to get there," he said.
His basketball career may just be starting to flourish, but in the life story of Jordan Morgan it appears that basketball is only going to be a small piece of the puzzle.