Q&A with Wayne Morgan

After a busy month of July spent on the road recruiting the top basketball players in the country, CN caught up with Iowa State head basketball coach Wayne Morgan for a question-and-answer session. Morgan hits on an array of topics, including the recruiting attention the staff has received this summer and scheduling news.

CN: Talk about the overall reception of the coaching staff this summer on the recruiting trail.

Morgan: I thought we had a real good reception. There are a lot of kids that were very interested in us. The three of us have a lot of relationships with a lot of coaches and people in basketball over the past 10 to 20 years. They were all very helpful and excited for us.

CN: At the Greater Des Moines Cyclone Club's ‘Meet the Coaches Night' you said to the crowd you were involved with 14 out of the top 40 high school kids and five of the top 15 junior college prospects for the upcoming recruiting class. Talk some more about that.

Morgan: Those kids we're involved with, we are in the top three schools. That gives us a good chance to land a tremendous recruiting class. In some cases, I'm actually surprised how many really good kids we're involved with.

CN: Have any other programs tried using the Larry Eustachy situation and the handling of that against you this summer?

Morgan: That's been pretty good. No one has used that against us. What may possibly happen, when we're recruiting against some people, they may realize this particular young man is serious about Iowa State and then it may come up. What we may have to do is address any issues like that in home visits, which will occur between September 8th and October 5th. But at this particular time, that has not happened.

CN: Recruiting in-state kids is always an area of focus for basketball fans across the state, and this year there appears to be a few top prospects inside the borders. What kind of emphasis are you putting on recruiting the state of Iowa?

Morgan: The only difficulty is the one young man we really wanted already committed to another school. That makes it a little bit difficult. But I watched the Martin Brothers play five or six times this summer and we have already had one of the young sophomores that we feel is one of the best players in the state in our office two or three times. He'll be a junior next year. We're really excited about him and are looking forward to the fall and having his parents come in.

We have some interest from some of the other seniors that participated on the Martin Brothers and we are seriously looking at them.

There is going to be a premium and emphasis on trying to get in with the top Iowa kids. We're already looking at the sophomores and freshmen and already know who they are. We will be at their games this winter and recruiting them. We're hoping that in the future we're fortunate enough to get two lottery picks from this state again and have them be Cyclones.

CN: Would you give us a glimpse of the type of coaches Fred Quartlebaum and Damon Archibald are?

Morgan: Those reputations are well earned. They're both conscientious, hard working, very intelligent, personable and get along with people. They're both among the very best in the country. As I go out and meet other people that know them, I am getting from those people how impressed they are with Coach Quartlebaum and Coach Archibald.

As our fans and boosters have an opportunity to meet and spend individual time with Damon, Fred, Coach Sundvold and Coach Sharp, they'll realize we're really fortunate to have a great staff.

CN: How different is recruiting as a head coach and an assistant coach?

Morgan: It is a different dynamic. As an assistant coach, sometimes you get attached to a young man. The head coach might like someone else or the other assistant may be recruiting someone in the same position and you have to advocate for him a little bit. As a head coach, your primary concern is to get the best student-athlete possible at every position that you're recruiting.

The other big difference is that when you talk to someone, young man or parent as a head coach, that's pretty much written in cement. It's serious. An assistant can talk about things, but everyone knows he might not make the ultimate decision. That ultimate decision is how long is Johnny going to play.

CN: Can you give us any details on the schedule you're comfortable discussing?

Morgan: We were up and down a long time with the Iowa game and some people thought it was even going to get canceled. It has not. The final date is set for January 21st. We're looking forward to it. It's a great series between two great schools and a great state. It has a lot of interest. We have a great deal of respect for them, their program and the conference.

We have scheduled Xavier, who is going to be coming in here. They have been to the NCAA Tournament five straight years and eight out of the last 10. Early in my career, I was at Xavier and would like to think I had a lot to do with getting that program rolling. We're really excited about playing them. They have been the best team in the Atlantic-10 the last few years, besting even Temple. This year they're going to be at top-20 or top-25 team and have Romain Sato, who is projected as a lottery pick. The game will give our fans a great preview of what we might look like against top competition.

CN: What are your thoughts about some of the recent NCAA rules limiting exempt tournaments and scheduling, and ruling by a judge placing an injunction against the NCAA?

Morgan: As a coach, we love the exemption games. It gives you a chance to have competition against other schools and gives you two other games. We're looking into that and are exploring that. There may be a chance that we're fortunate enough to be able to participate in one of those tournaments.

CN: Going out on the road recruiting this summer, you've probably had the chance to get acquainted with some of the coaches within this conference. What do you think of the roster of head coaches within the league?

Morgan: Our conference is outstanding and probably has the best roster of coaches in the country. I look at it as competing and whoever we're playing against, I'm going to compete as hard as I can. I have respect for all of those guys and hope they have respect for me. I hope we have great competition. Maybe some day I'll have the opportunity to be thought of in the same echelon of them.

CN: Let's talk about the personnel on this year's team and the progress that's been made over the summer. How about the athleticism and playmaking ability of Will Blalock?

Morgan: The fans and spectators are going to be in for a lot of thrills and oohs and ahs watching him. We've got a very good class. People are going to be very pleased with Damion Staple's ability, how tough he is and how hard he plays. I know for a fact that Jared Homan has had a great summer and has worked very hard to improve himself. Marcus Jefferson has come back from mourning his mother and worked very hard. He's working out like three times a day to improve himself. I saw Jake Sullivan (Tuesday). He came in and sat with me for 20 minutes. He said he's finally at 100 percent and can go on both legs. We know he's a workaholic and is going to do everything he can do to have a great senior year.

We want to get back in and get everybody together and going, then go from there. There is a lot of excitement here, a lot of enthusiasm here and positiveness here. We feel great about the situation we're here.

CN: When could we expect an announcement on the status of Tim Barnes, Jackson Vroman and Marcus Jefferson?

Morgan: I think we'll get some type of announcement on Marcus Jefferson by the first week of September and it might be right up until practice starts before we know about Vroman, because he has to go through a particular appeal. We'll probably know about Barnes by the second week of September.

If we were fortunate enough, and my fingers are crossed, to have everyone on the court and everyone eligible that's available to us we would have a very competitive team.

CN: How frustrating is it for you as a coach to deal with the off-court problems of Vroman and Barnes?

Morgan: It's very frustrating for me to see and for our fans and boosters to see, because I know how much they love this program and it means to them. A lot of those guys are living their lives and trying to have a good time, but sometimes they're not thinking in a mature type fashion that we would think in. They don't realize that even if they go into a McDonald's or the Post Office, everybody knows who they are. They need to get a sense of that.

Sometimes it's almost like they think they're just like this guy sitting next to me in English class. There is a big difference. They have to understand their position in society and it's a matter of maturation. The good thing is they're young and our society will tolerate a mistake from a young person. The same mistake by a 35-year old will not be tolerated.

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