May 8, 2014
By Dave Brandon | Courtesy MGoBlue.com, Brandon’s Blog
The college basketball pundits had little to say about Jordan Morgan entering the 2013-14 season. One year ago, Morgan had already received his undergraduate degree in engineering from Michigan, and it looked as though his role would be that of a back-up big man on the Wolverine men’s basketball team. At that time, many questioned if Morgan would come back to play another year or if he would decide to leave and begin his life after basketball. As everyone knows, Morgan decided to stick with it!
When this past season finally ended with our heartbreaking loss to Kentucky in the final seconds, almost everything said and written about Morgan related to his impact as a player and captain on the U-M basketball team. However, I would argue that the most important thing for everyone to celebrate is not how he left his mark as an athlete but rather the mark he has left as a student of our great university.
Clearly the Jordan Morgan story is more than a story about basketball. This is a story about a young man who fought through injury and disappointment to earn both an undergraduate and master’s degree from the University of Michigan’s School of Engineering.
In his first year at U-M, he suffered a knee injury and sat out his freshman season after surgery. The 6-foot-8 big man was on crutches, and his biggest worries were not about basketball but his school work. He remembers his first summer on campus, trying to map out the best way to get from his calculus course in Angell Hall to his psychology class in East Hall, a 10-minute walk across The Diag — on crutches. The classes were back-to-back, and he had 10 minutes to get from one to the other. Even if he left the class early, struggling with crutches moving through crowds of students rushing in all directions, he would often not get to his next class in East Hall on time.
He learned to handle the rigors of rehabilitating a reconstructed knee to prepare to compete in a Division I sport along with handling the rigors of his academic schedule. He learned quickly that his professors and advisors were ready and willing to work with him. He also learned quickly that he was still expected to attend team practices and add an extra hour for rehab every day.
His commitment to being a complete student-athlete made an immediate impact not only to his coaches and teammates but also to his professors on campus. It was the start of a Morgan’s Michigan career, and he made the most of it — especially in the classroom.
When Morgan completed his career at Michigan, not only did he play 142 career games and finish with as many wins as any player in Wolverine men’s basketball history, he also earned a B.S.E. in industrial and operations engineering and a M.E. in manufacturing from the University of Michigan. And similar to how the U-M basketball coaches worked with Morgan at Crisler Center, professors and teachers like Mark Daskin, Patrick Hammett, Derrick Scott, Albert Shih, Ed Borbley and the entire I.O.E. department played the same pivotal role in his academic development.
Morgan learned to be the consummate team player to help the Wolverine basketball team advance well into the NCAA Tournament. In his studies, he learned to play a role as an operational engineer working to advance products into the mainstream activities of a business.
In his last project at Michigan, he worked with Wolverine swimmers Connor Jaeger (a multiple NCAA champion and 2012 U.S. Olympian) and Sean Ryan (gold medalist at 2013 World University Games) to explore the possibilities of using additive manufacturing to create and sell an orthotic prototype. The swimmers used a 3-D scanning process to enable the 3-D printer to design a better way to create prosthetics. Morgan’s job on the business side was to determine if a business were to invest in the capital equipment required, would it be affordable for the business and/or would it add enough benefits to the patient to create an adequate return on investment.
Morgan found a way to team up with different sets of guards and forwards through his competitive career, while his academic career gave him the opportunity to learn to work with ‘players’ in both mechanical and manufacturing engineering.
Decisions are made on the probability factor in business and engineering. Using the same process also paid dividends for Jordan on the basketball court. As a strong defensive player, he would look at the opponent’s tendencies and see the probabilities of certain moves. If a player is going to the hoop with a move or direction 70 percent of the time, he would always play the percentages.
Life experiences are also a major part of the academic journey at Michigan, and Morgan took advantage of that opportunity last summer. He went to Côte d’Ivoire — the Ivory Coast in West Africa. In the city of Abidjan located on the Gulf of Guinea, he experienced an unfamiliar culture, met some wonderful people, and came away with the view that individuals can be fulfilled in their lives with so much less than we have here. He gained perspective on what is important in life and the value of interactions between each other.
The experience in West Africa helped Morgan reaffirm what he was learning about the importance of relationships and how those relationships related to his academics, his team and his life. This one international trip helped him focus on what it would take for him to overcome his disappointments and focus on how he could be the best teammate, the best classmate, the best friend and the best family member. It was a trip of a lifetime that contributed to a final basketball season he will cherish forever.
At the U-M Men’s Basketball Awards Celebration on April 16, he was awarded the Thad Gardner Leadership Award, the Wayman Britt Outstanding Defensive Player Award, and the Loy Vaught Rebounding Award. What he did not know until this past Monday (May 5) is that the Bodnar Award for Academic Achievement that he also received at the basketball banquet would be renamed. Mark and Marty Bodnar asked coach John Beilein to add Morgan’s name to the academic award. The Bodnar brothers know what Morgan accomplished, and they understand his name needs to be front and center as the Michigan basketball program continues to honor its student-athletes in the years ahead.
Today, Morgan is mostly known for playing an important role helping the Wolverines win their first outright Big Ten basketball title in more than 20 years and advance to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament. In time, the legend of his basketball accomplishments will fade.
However, I am convinced Jordan Morgan will once again make a positive difference in something bigger than himself and make a meaningful impact, this time for his family, his friends, and his community. And much of what he will accomplish will be traced back to his experiences as a STUDENT-athlete at the University of Michigan.
Jordan, we are so proud of you. Good luck and Go Blue!