During the month of August, Illini Inquirer basketball analyst Sean Harrington is giving a scouting report on each Illinois basketball returner. Check out his earlier reports:
- Malcolm Hill, junior wing
- Kendrick Nunn, junior guard
- Jaylon Tate., junior point guard
- Leron Black, sophomore forward
- Michael Finke, redshirt freshman forward/center
Maverick Morgan scouting report
Last Season in Review
Maverick Morgan did not receive a lot of playing time last year. Part of that was due to the fact that Nnanna Egwu played heavy minutes. The other reason was that Morgan did not improve as much as some were hoping between his freshman and sophomore years. The 6-foot-10 center showed that he is capable of stepping out to 15 feet and making jumpers. But inconsistency was an issue at times. Morgan would show some signs of good things, but the staff just did not have confidence in him throughout the season. Morgan’s points and rebounds per game both went up from freshmen year (from 1.5 points and 1.2 rebounds per game as a freshman to 2.5 points and 1.5 rebounds as a sophomore) while playing basically the same amount of minutes (7.1 to 8.9). However, his field goal percentage dropped from 58 percent to 45 percent.
Improving his field goal percentage will be important for Morgan. To do that, he needs to continue getting reps from 15 feet beause opponents usually leave that shot open for him. It also means improving as a post scorer. He should work on half hooks going both right and left. Morgan also must improve his quickness off the ground. When he gets an offensive rebound or receives a pass deep in the post, he needs to explode to the rim. To improve that ability, he can do heavy-ball drills. One would be to throw it off the backboard, go get it, keep it above his head and finish with the heavy ball. This will improve his explosion when he uses the regular ball. Getting quicker off his feet will allow him to finish in traffic and draw fouls on defenders.
Mike Thorne and Leron Black will get a lot of the minutes inside for the Illini, so Morgan’s minutes may be difficult to come by. But with the departure of Daruis Paul, the door is open for more minutes. Morgan needs to find a way to give the team something they don’t have inside. Thorne will bring experience, Finke brings a lot of offensive skill and Black brings the energy. Morgan needs to be someone the staff trusts. On the defensive end, he must make it difficult for the opponents to score around the rim. He must improve his toughness to succeed in the Big Ten. Offensively, he needs to be an efficient player. The numbers don’t have to be impressive, but the efficiency does. His field goal percentage needs to return to the low 50’s. To earn extra minutes, he also must be more aggressive on the boards. Consistency will go a long way as well. As a junior, it's very important for Morgan to gain the trust of the staff as freshman Michael Finke adjusts to the college game. Whoever is more consistent early in the season could find themselves as the third option inside behind Thorne and Black.