Morgan not hesitant to fire away for YSU

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo YSU guard Devin Morgan has a flair for half-court shots.

YOUNGSTOWN — Devin Morgan dribbled up the court with the clock nearing zero as he launched the ball from half-court.

Morgan didn’t see his grandmother, Portia Harris, in the stands at the AAU tournament. She was going though the last stages of cancer.

The basketball left the hand of Morgan, then a seventh-grader, and went into the basket to put his team in the championship.

“After I hit that shot, it was a big turning point for us,” said Morgan, a Youngstown State University junior guard. “It was a big moment for me. I felt good about it. She was watching over me to make that shot.”

He went from high school to Delaware State University, where the Chester, Virginia, native spent his first collegiate season.

He started shooting half-court shots like jump shots.

“People would bet me a suicide (sprint drill) you won’t make it,” Morgan said. “It became a fun thing. I got my teammates involved. Now I do it and my coaches don’t say anything to me. They see me make a shot before the game. I make one or two and the fans go crazy.”

Before games, Morgan tries to make 100 3-pointers.

“I shoot on the line, I shoot off the line. I shoot off the dribble,” Morgan said. “My coaches have confidence in me to make those shots. My percentages have been down, but we’ve had a million talks. They give me the ball, wherever.”

YSU assistant coach Jason Slay, Morgan’s position coach, said he is improving. Morgan shoots a shade over 30 percent from 3-point range.

“He always says he’s the best half-court shooter on the team,” Slay said. “He’s always doing it. At the same time, he shoots shots a little too deep for me sometimes. I try to let him be himself because I know that’s part of his game. Also, I’ll say something to him. Just get a little closer. We let him be him.

“We don’t say much about his shot selection. Still, I think his percentage would go up if he took out some of the deep ones.”

Through Thursday, Morgan has been one of the best practice players in preparation for today’s game at Cleveland State (5-16, 0-8), starting at 7 p.m. YSU is 6-15, 2-6. The two are the bottom two teams in the Horizon League.Only the top eight teams will play in the league tournament.

“The last three days he’s been the best player on the floor in practices,” Slay said on Thursday. “He’s had an extra edge about him for whatever reason. His mental state has been really good. He’s been hungry. He’s been trying to get better, trying to work on his body.”

He’s getting back to the player he was at Delaware State, where he scored 833 career points. He surpassed 1,000 in his career in last Saturday’s loss against Northern Kentucky. Morgan sat out last season at YSU due to NCAA transfer rules.

There were plenty of congratulations to go around, but Morgan wasn’t concerned about the milestone.

“You know Devin is such a competitor,” Slay said. “He was caught up in the game. The season hasn’t gone as well as he wanted to, personally. He was still in his feeling about that.

When Morgan and YSU freshman Darius Quisenberry, arguably one of the best freshmen in the Horizon League, are on the floor, they are the best backcourt tandem.

Slay said Morgan doesn’t mind coming off the bench. It’s about trying to win and change YSU’s culture.

“At the end of games, if you notice, they’re in there together because they’re our best ball-handlers and best passers,” Slay said. “He’s still trying to lead Darius, trying to school him.

“He’s been tremendous with his attitude, still working hard.”