Canton McKinley high school has been very kind to the Michigan basketball program over the years. Two of the Wolverines' all-time greats both walked the halls at the tradition rich school a few decades ago, and current McKinley assistant R.C. Hill was there to see them both.
Phil Hubbard, a 1975 McKinely graduate and Ohio player of the year, still holds the Michigan record for rebounds in a season with 389, and totaled 1455 points and 979 rebounds during stellar tenure as a Wolverine. He decided to forgo his final year of eligibility to start his 10-year NBA career as a player, and current NBA career as an assistant coach. Hill still remembers what a special player Hubbard was and credits "Hub's" mentality as a self-starter as the primary reason for his success. "I taught Phil Hubbard," Hill said laughing. "He was a little fat boy. He lost all that weight and turned into a real great player. One thing about Phil was he was a player that came in as a hard worker. No one had to challenge him. He always challenged himself. Your worst coach sometimes is you…and that was Phil. He was harder on himself than his coach was. That's what helped Phil take it to the top."
Five years after Hubbard finished his career as a Wolverine, another McKinley product began his record-setting ways in Ann Arbor. Gary Grant piloted Michigan to back-to-back Big Ten Championships in 1985 and 1986, before later being named Big Ten Player of the year in 1988. "The General" still holds the Michigan records for assists in a season, with 234 in 87/88, and in a career, with 731. For Hill. Grant's gregarious personality off of the court and tenacious defense on it are what remains most vivid in his mind. "Let me tell you something about Gary…he was the same way he is now," Hill said. "He's the same lovable playable guy. He was one STRONG defensive player. One thing about Gary is he liked to clown and play jokes on people, but when he got on the court, he was all business."
As good as Hubbard and Grant were as McKinley players, one might think Hill would hesitate to compare his newest prodigy to them. That, however, is not the case. "You have to rank Raymar Morgan right there with Gary because Phil never got a state title," Hill said. "Raymar has one already. Now if he comes back and wins it back to back, you'd have to say Raymar is the all time great because he will have won two state titles. That's how I'm going do it."
"Raymar might be a better college player than he is a high school player. He should be able go on to the pro level after college. He likes to learn and he is a very hard worker. He is a very versatile player. One thing about Raymar is not only can he guard a big guy inside, but he can also go outside and guard a guard. That's how quick he is. He's got untapped talent. He's a strong kid, a patient kid, and he knows what he wants. He knew [the recognition] would be coming around sooner or later."
When told of the high praise his coach had for him Morgan was taken aback. That was especially the case when talk of him being McKinley's all-time great was mentioned. "That's pretty big," Morgan said laughing. "I'll take it. I just try to stay focused."
The Wolverines will be putting their best foot forward for Morgan and company when he gets to campus later today. Chief among his criteria for picking a school is playing time. With the recent commitment of Deshawn Sims, some have suggested that the minutes available in Ann Arbor would be fewer. Morgan and his coach, however, see it differently. "[Deshawn's] committing to Michigan hasn't affected them at all," Morgan said. "I think we could play together. Michigan is still #2 because they just have been really consistent with their recruitment."
Coach Hill echoed his pupil's sentiments about the Detroit Pershing star. "I know Sims is a player, but he is more of an inside player," Hill said. "Raymar can play outside or he can play inside. When Raymar played for us, he always played on the inside. As time has gone on, he showed that he could fire shots from the outside and make them. A lot of schools didn't know he could do that. He can shoot that ball. He sacrificed for us as a high school team and played on the inside for us."
Though the Wolverines have made up a lot of ground on Morgan's number one squad, they (as well as the other teams on his list) will need to make up even more on the visits if they hope to have a chance at landing him. A recent trip to East Lansing affirmed Michigan State's standing as Morgan's frontrunner. "It went real well," Morgan said of his unofficial visit a few weeks back. "I just played basketball with the guys and then we toured campus. They still are number one. I think the school I choose will come down to these visits."
Morgan already has a clear idea of what he'll be looking for on each trip. With each school needing to impress, it will be the one that makes the best presentation in the following areas that will ultimately win his services. "I'll be looking at the academics, their team chemistry, and the campus," Morgan said. "I just want to get a feel for the campus and see if I'll like it."
GoBlueWolverine will have more on Morgan after his visit.