Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, July 17, 2014 | 2 a.m.
Dwayne Morgan hasn’t had much time to process a moment he’s been looking forward to for more than a year.
Morgan went straight to the Mendenhall Center for a few games of pickup Monday with his new UNLV basketball teammates after arriving in Las Vegas, then stayed for an extra hour of shooting. Tuesday morning was filled with paperwork and physicals to get him eligible and ready for summer classes. Tuesday night he entered to sizable applause at the Desert Reign Pro City League at Grant Sawyer Middle School.
Morgan, a 6-foot-8 forward out of Baltimore’s St. Frances Academy, committed to the Rebels in March 2013. He last visited Las Vegas about this time last year for the LeBron James Skills Academy and has been eager to return.
“About time,” Morgan said of getting his college career started. “… Now that I’m here, I don’t plan on going back home anytime soon. I’m here to lock in, get focused and get ready for the season.”
Morgan scored 25 points in his Desert Reign debut, scoring mostly on jump shots. That’s one of his strengths, but it’s another area of his offense getting most of the attention now that he’s on campus.
The Rebels’ roster is long on speed but short on size, so Morgan is spending time on post moves he wants to be able to pull off against bigger players.
“Because of our front-court situation, he’ll play primarily at the four for us this year,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said.
UNLV has only one primary post player on the roster: 6-foot-10 freshman Goodluck Okonoboh. At 6-foot-11, sophomore Christian Wood has the size and potential to play well inside, but he often drifts outside.
That’s something Rice said the staff has been working on with Wood. And while the summer is always a key time for improvements, Rice sees these months as even more crucial for that trio.
“It’s particularly important this year because we need all three of those guys to produce and produce early in the season,” Rice said.
Leadership roles aren’t often filled by freshmen. Of course, teams aren’t usually composed of eight new players with no returning starters. So there’s a need for voices to stand out of the crowd, and Morgan seems willing and capable of being one of those guys.
He said he texted the team on Monday talking about the necessity of turning 15 guys into one team that can “work like clockwork.” And how can they accomplish that?
“It’s all going to start with our point guards, Cody (Doolin), Jerome (Seagears) and (Daquan) Cook,” Morgan said. “They run the show. They get everybody involved, and everybody else is going to fall in line.”
Morgan has been playing with Cook, a junior who also attended St. Frances Academy, since the two were kids at the local rec center in Baltimore. It’s been a long road to get to this point, and although he’s happy to finally get the next stage underway, Morgan doesn’t plan on being just another guy on the court.
“I can contribute now,” he said. “In college basketball, I want to be able to dominate.”