Jordan Morgan is a 26 year old 203cm forward from Detroit, Michigan playing his fourth professional season and first with Petrol Olimpija Ljubljana (Slovenia-Liga Nova KBM). Last season he played with GS Kymis (Greece-A1) playing 11 games averaging 11.6ppg, 9.0rpg, 1.2spg, FGP: 50.5%, FT: 69.2%. In the 2015-2016 season he split time with Hermine Nantes Atlantique (France-ProB) playing 14 games averaging 9.3ppg, 5.8rpg, 1.2apg, 1.4spg, 2FGP: 54.0%, FT: 56.4%, in Jan.’16 moved to Paris-Levallois (France-ProA) playing 7 games averaging 5.6ppg, 5.6rpg, 2FGP: 54.8%, FT: 55.6%, left in Mar.’16, later that month signed at Canton Charge (D-League) playing 7 games averaging 2.7ppg, 4.3rpg. As a rookie he played with Virtus Acea Roma (Italy-Serie A) playing 24 games averaging 7.5ppg, 6.0rpg, FGP: 48.0%, FT: 66.7%;In the Eurocup he played 18 games averaging 9.1ppg, 6.7rpg, FGP: 62.6%, FT: 78.0%. He played at Michigan from 2010-2014 playing a total of 142 NCAA games and reached the NCAA final in 2013 and Elite 8 in 2014. He spoke to German Hoops before the basketball champions league game against medi Bayreuth in Bayreuth.
Jordan, thanks for talking to German Hoops. Welcome back to Germany. In your rookie season with Rome you played against the EWE Baskets Oldenburg splitting the Eurocup series. Do you have any memory of the loss in Oldenburg or do the number of games you have played in your professional career make it difficult to recollect certain games?
I remember that game well. We lost to Oldenburg. I remember them having a good year. Rickey Paulding also was having a good year as he is this season. We didn´t have one of our best games.
What do you know in general about the country Germany and it´s basketball? Do you have any friends playing in Germany?
My current teammate Taylor Battle played in Germany as did Euroleague player Will Clyburn. Currently my friend Dwayne Evans is playing in Germany.
Your playing your first season with Petrol Olimpija Ljubljana (Slovenia-Liga Nova KBM). After playing in Italy, France and Greece in Europe, what kind of experience has it been playing and living in Slovenia as a fourth year professional?
Slovenia has been great. It has been a very interesting season and I feel that we haven´t hit our stride yet. We had some great wins, but also tough loses. It has been a real challenge playing in three leagues. It´s a lot of games and not many practices. For me it has been good as a player to get experience playing in three leagues. I have gotten the chance and freedom to be able to make mistakes and be able to respond to them,
Petrol Olimpija Ljubljana (Slovenia-Liga Nova KBM) has been struggling in the ABA and Champions League competitions. What have been the main reasons for the club not performing so well yet? Allowing points has been a struggle.
Our biggest problem has been being inconsistent. At times we play very well like winning at Estudiantes and other times very bad. We have to learn to be more consistent by being more focused and playing together.
Do you feel like having just 3 Americans at the Champions League level zoo little to be fully competitive?
I wouldn´t say that. We have lot of talented European players, but it is more about how we were built. We have had the misfortune of having lost our main point guard and best defender for two months. We already had a short rotation with 10 guys to begin with and then to shrink down to 8 was a real challenge. It was a real adjustment period where guys had to play different roles and we were missing weapons on offense and defense.
How vital and challenging is it having a guy like Devin Oliver on board and having the day to day battles. How do you feel have you profited most from his presence on and off the court?
It has been a mental thing being teammates with Devin. I think that Europeans don´t really know difficult it is for Americans to adjust to the game overseas. Devin and I are from Michigan and we have developed a very close relationship. We are always trying to encourage each other to get better and we are always supporting each other if one or the other has a bad game. Focusing on each play and being aggressive is something we push each other to do.
Your having your best season as a professional stat wise and building on your strong season last season. What has been the secret to your stellar play this season?
It has been no secret, but just hard work. I was injured last season halfway through my time in Greece so I had a long off season. I worked in this time in trying to become a more effective player on the court. I have had the freedom to play my game this season. If I miss a shot, I have the freedom to take the next one where I know that it won´t be the end of the world if I miss it.
You’re a forward that can do so much on the court especially score and rebound. To what NBA player would you describe your game best to?
I try to watch many clips of players. Guys that come to mind would be Paul Milsap, Mike Scott and the Morris twins. I try to take a bit from each guy.
You’re a guy that can fill the stat sheet at easy, but what do you feel is still a hidden strength in your game that doesn´t always get noticed right away on the court?
I think it´s my defense as I can be a good defender, but it doesn´t necessarily show on the stat sheet. I´m more of a position defender. I´m not the guy that will get the big blocks, but I rarely get beat 1-1 or off the dribble. I think that I also disrupt a lot of shots. If I didn´t get the block I affected it in some way.
After a tough 2015-2016 campaign where you played for three teams you came back last season with GS Kymis (Greece-A1) averaging 11.6ppg, 9.0rpg, 1.2spg, FGP: 50.5%, FT: 69.2%. How important was last season to finding your confidence back?
It was key. And that all started in the summer of 2016. I changed my agent and then I thought about going to a place where it would help my career in the long run. It wasn´t only about the money and living conditions, but about what situation would help me progress further in my career.
In your last game last season in Greece you produced 29 points and 13 rebounds against Euroleague powerhouse Olympiacos. Do you believe that this game was an eyeopener for Euroleague teams for the future? Especially with your potent season now, the Euroleague could be around the corner for you?
For sure. In overseas basketball you never know what will happen. There have been guys that have gotten signed after only one game. The goal is always to play at the highest level and I´m taking it step by step. I know that I can play at that level, but I need to continue to play complete seasons and work on my weaknesses. When I´m ready for the next step then the opportunity will present it´self.
In the 2015-2016 season you played for France Pro B team Nantes, Pro A team Paris and G-League team Canton. What was most challenging in this season for you and what did you learn from it?
It was most challenging mentally. I felt it was the right offer, but not the right situation. They wanted me to score more, but I wasn´t prepared for that. Two years before I had been at Michigan and been a role player playing with NBA lottery picks. The next season at Rome my role was similar. It was play pick and roll and finish. Having this role and pressure took a toll on me mentally. My next team in France Pro A wanted the same. The G-league time was short, but not significant. It was all in all a good experience. I knew that summer that I had to become more of an aggressive scorer so I worked on it.
With Nantes you played with ex North Carolina Tar Heel Marcus Ginyard. What memories do you have of him and who told more stories from Michigan and North Carolina?
We actually had a small wager on last seasons North Carolina-Michigan game and I lost. He is a quality guy that loves to travel and I still talk to him to this day. He is a real character guy.
With Canton you played briefly with forward beast Nick Minnerath who is averaging 30 points per game in China. Are you surprised a guy like that isn´t in the NBA yet?
I am a little surprised he isn´t in the NBA. He is a walking bucket. He was a good and funny guy. He dominated so many games in the G-League. The whole NBA process is sometimes a little deeper and doesn´t make sense.
As a rookie you played with Virtus Acea Roma (Italy-Serie A) playing 24 games averaging 7.5ppg, 6.0rpg, FGP: 48.0%, FT: 66.7%; in the Eurocup you played 18 games averaging 9.1ppg, 6.7rpg, FGP: 62.6%, FT: 78.0%. What were your fondest memories of Rome and were you able to visit everything in that one season?
I was there the whole year and saw everything and a bit more. When my then girlfriend and now finance came to visit she always had a list of things to do. We saw midnight mass with the pope on Christmas eve, and even traveled around to other parts of Italy to Naples, Capri and Pompei. I loved Italy. The fans were so passionate and the food was second to none.
Was ex NBA player Bobby Jones like a mentor for you? What memories do you have of his sheer presence on and off the court?
He was pure energy on the court, always left everything on the court and was the complete warrior. I remember him having some bouts with ref´s, but he was all about passion and always wanting to win. I actually talked to him a few days ago and gave him a hard time about his Chiefs losing. He definitely was a mentor for me as a rookie. He had played in Italy for years and showed me the ropes and talked about the ups and downs of overseas basketball. It is always good having a guy around that has already played there. He is a guy that I will never forget.
You played at Michigan(NCAA) from 2010-2014. Was the guard power of Burke and Hardaway and your high defensive responsibilities a reason you couldn´t have higher scoring and rebounding stats?
Yes my role was different. Coach Beilein relied on outside shooting and finishing. My role was simple and that was to dunk everything and play good defense. I remember being named to the Big Ten All-Defensive Team, but I wasn´t leading anything in the stats, but did so many other things not seen in the stats. Coach was always looking for us to take the best shot. That was his style.
What memory of the disappointing 75-72 NCAA final Elite 8 loss to Kentucky is most vivid in your mind still today that you probably will never forget?
We had been to the title game in 2013 and in our mind going in against Kentucky that we were going back again. We felt in our mind that we were the better team until they hit that last shot. We thought we were going to in. It really sucked losing this game. I really wanted to get back to the Final 4.
How did head coach John Beilein groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
He is a student of the game and very passionate to teach. He cut his own film each day. We watched a lot of film. To this day I am always trying to understand situations better, learning and just getting better. I really appreciated how he tried to do everything the right way. He always preached integrity and that has stuck with me until today.
You not only did well on the court, but also in the classroom being selected to the Michigan honor society. When Barack Obama spoke at Michigan in 2014 he praised you for undertaking graduate studies in engineering and being a student-athlete at Michigan. How do you continue to develop your mind now when your overseas as a professional basketball player?
Reading on a consistent basis. I also have taken online courses on investing and real estate. In the offseason I am always networking and connecting with people. I also do consulting work in the off season to earn a little extra money.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Glen Robinson the third?
I am not sure that we ever had a serious one on one game. I would give him it because his game was more polished than mine. He has been the most impressive athlete that I have ever seen.
Who was the toughest player that you battled at the NCAA level that is in the NBA now?
Jared Sullinger and Cody Zeller.
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you chose?
Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Bill Russell, Kareen Abdul Jabbar
Lebron James failed to win his fourth NBA title and is still three away from Michael Jordan. Where does Lebron stand right now in your opinion in the never ending debate of who is the best of all-time?
This is tough to answer as they are different players. Lebron is the best physical athlete that we have ever seen. To play 15 years and be almost injury free is impressive and his knowledge of the game and his passing is amazing. It is hard to pick Lebron above Jordan simply because of the competitor that he was. Jordan was the elite scorer and defender, but I feel Lebron leaves more of a mark on the game because he has been so effective in so many areas of the game.
There has been criticism of Russell Westbrook to be focusing more on rebounding to help inflate his stats and possibilities of getting triple doubles instead of focusing on his defensive assignments. Do you feel that this is a fair assessment to the player Russell Westbrook?
He has to be helping his team if he is putting up numbers like that. Even if he is rebounding a lot, he isn´t hurting his team doing that.
How do you summarize the 2017 NBA Draft. What sleepers do you see playing a role in the NBA?
My favorite pick up has been Boston Celtic Jayson Tatum. He has the potential to have a very good career.
Where will the journey of the Houston Rockets go this season with Chris Paul and James Harden in the back court. Do they have enough to make a serious run at the title or is something missing?
They can. I have been impressed how well Harden and Paul have played together as both need the ball. They have showed signs that they can make a run.
How do you rate the Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas trade? Who got the better deal and which team will profit better in the long run?
It has been a win win situation. Cavs got a right now thing while the Celtics secured a young guy for the long term. The investment has worked for both
Where will the journey of the Oklahoma Thunder go this season with Westbrook, George and Anthony? Can they make a serious run in the west?
I saw a stat which stated which showed them having the lowest shooting percentage shooting the most shots. They are dangerous and a threat, but they have to figure out their offense if they want a chance.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Focus with Will Smith.
Thanks Jordan for the chat.