HOOPS: How WSU and new Coug came together

NEW WSU FORWARD Jermaine Morgan was a mystery to CougFans when he sent in his letter of intent Wednesday morning. No recruiting site had pegged the 6-8, 215-pounder as one of Ken Bone's targets in the early signing period and questions on how the union with WSU came about were left unanswered. CF.C spoke with Morgan and it quickly became clear -- the seeds were sown several summers ago in Chicago.

Morgan told Cougfan.com he held offers from Bradley, St. Louis and No. 19 New Mexico, a three-time NCAA Tournament participant since 2010. So why did he spurn all three to become a Coug?

It dates back to his AAU career with the Mac Irvin Fire program.

WSU assistant coach Ray Lopes has long established connections with the Chicago-based traveling team, specifically current coach Mike Irvin.

Irvin connected Morgan and Lopes a few months back and the relationship blossomed.

"He seemed like a cool guy," Morgan said of Lopes. "I trust him a lot. I just felt like it was the best system for me even though it's far away from home."

Which means Morgan will head to Pullman in the summer to begin his acclimation to Washington State and Pac-12 basketball.

"I know it's in a great conference, the Pac-12 -- I know it's a program that's struggling right now and I just want to help it rebuild," Morgan said. "I just felt it was a great fit. I know that over the years they've been good and they won quite a few games. I just want to be a part of the rebuilding process."

He said has never been to Palouse, though he wants to take an unofficial visit in December.

"I've done a lot of research over the past couple months so I'm very familiar with what I'm coming into," Morgan said.

Though few fans are familiar with his game, Morgan says he's a defense-first type player who values doing the "little" things – rebounding, setting solid screens, contesting shots – that help a team win. He has only a few highlight videos on Youtube and they are all a few years old, but he appears a younger, leaner version of Ivory Clark.

"I play very hard. I'm going to try and be a fan-favorite. I'll do everything that probably won't show up in the stats," Morgan said.

Morgan's ballhandling is likely adequate enough to allow him to step out and play the 3, though his frame and quickness suggests he'll spend more time at the high post.

"I do a little bit of everything, Morgan said. I can play (from) the three to the five."

D.J. Shelton and Will DiIorio will graduate following the 2013-14 season, so that gives WSU two scholies for the next class -- and Danny Lawhorn was booted from the program before this season so that gives Bone another for a total of three.

Two of those three spots are now filled with Morgan and point guard Tramaine Isabell, who signed last week.

The third scholie is expected to be spent by Washington State during the regular signing period that begins April 16.

Bone sounded pleased Thursday about adding immediate depth to his frontcourt.

"Jermaine is another quality big that will give us the depth that we need for next season in the front court," Bone said Thursday in a press release. "He's a good solid player at this point in his career, and yet has the ability to add weight and strength which will only enhance his game."

As CF.C reported earlier on how much eligibility Morgan has left, the short answer is two, though the full explanation requires some extensive backtracking.

Morgan spent part of his freshman year in 2011 at JC powerhouse, Odessa College (Texas), where he appeared in seven games and averaged four points and 3.3 rebounds. Coming out of Chicago's Whitney Young High School, he originally committed to Colorado State before then-coach Tim Miles took the job at Nebraska. Morgan briefly considered following Miles before enrolling at Odessa (yes, that's the setting for the movie version of Friday Night Lights).

It was a fallback plan that didn't work out.

Morgan left central Texas after his first semester, opting to enroll at Moberly Area CC and watch from the sidelines for the second half of the 2012-2013 season.

And that decision paid dividends.

His sophomore campaign at Moberly Area CC has gone much smoother in 2013. He's averaging nearly a double-double (8.5 points and 8.3 rebounds) and the Greyhounds are 5-1.

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