Mor­gan driven for healthy fin­ish at UBC

For­ward ‘al­most 100 per cent’ af­ter early sea­son in­jury

The Province - - SPORTS - STEVE EWEN

Conor Mor­gan is due to be healthy. If you’re a UBC Thun­der­birds bas­ket­ball fan, you have to hope the odds are fi­nally in his favour.

“I’m pretty tired of an­swer­ing in­jury ques­tions,” the T-Birds’ star for­ward from Vic­to­ria said with a chuckle Tues­day af­ter­noon. “I’m pretty well done be­ing in­jured.”

The 6-foot-9 Mor­gan, who has bat­tled through the likes of a stress frac­ture in his foot (sec­ond year), a bro­ken wrist (third year) and mul­ti­ple an­kle sprains (fourth year) pro­claims him­self “al­most 100 per cent” from a soft-tis­sue el­bow ail­ment that seemed des­tined to de­rail this fifth and fi­nal sea­son of el­i­gi­bil­ity with Kevin Han­son’s hoops crew.

Mor­gan was in­jured in a pre-sea­son tour­na­ment in Saskatchewan in Oc­to­ber and Han­son, UBC’s long­time coach, said at the time it wasn’t sea­son end­ing, but fig­ured Mor­gan wouldn’t be back un­til af­ter Christ­mas.

In­stead, Mor­gan ended up miss­ing just the first week­end of the Canada West reg­u­lar sea­son. He’s been back for the past two week­ends and av­er­aged 22.3 points and 7.8 re­bounds in those four games.

He fin­ished sec­ond in scor­ing in the coun­try last sea­son, av­er­ag­ing 23.1 points per game, but was limited phys­i­cally due to the an­kle trou­ble in the play­offs and UBC, then the No. 2-ranked team in U Sports, was up­set in the best-of-three Canada West quar­ter-fi­nals by the Man­i­toba Bisons.

“Ev­ery night I hope so. Ev­ery day I hope so,” Han­son said when asked whether this is at last Mor­gan’s time to stay in the lineup and out of the med­i­cal room for an ex­tended run. “We’ve been through so many ups and downs dur­ing his time here. It’s been an emo­tional roller-coaster.

“He’s had the el­bow trou­ble this year, but you hope the lit­tle bit of rest pays off for him and for us down the stretch and in the play­offs. The el­bow seems fine now. We’ve been told he’ll have to wear a brace for the re­main­der of the sea­son. He ad­mits he has to get his con­fi­dence back in his el­bow, but any­time you wear a brace it’s some­thing that takes some get­ting used to.”

Mor­gan ac­tu­ally had com­pleted his ki­ne­si­ol­ogy de­gree last year and had some in­ter­est from pro teams in Eu­rope, but opted to come back for a fifth sea­son and start work on his mas­ter’s de­gree.

Part of it was to help set him­self up pro­fes­sion­ally for when bas­ket­ball is over. Part of it, too, is he feels there’s un­fin­ished busi­ness with Han­son’s squad.

Last year ended abruptly and the Thun­der­birds lost 109-101 in over­time to the Ry­er­son Rams in the open­ing round of the 2016 na­tional cham­pi­onship tour­na­ment at UBC.

“We need to just keep work­ing hard and we have to stay to­gether as a team,” said Mor­gan, whose team car­ries a 4-2 Canada West record into a week­end se­ries at home against the 0-6 Trin­ity Western Spar­tans. “If we do that, we’re go­ing to give our­selves a chance to be there in the end.

“We have some cham­pi­onship DNA. We have win­ners on our team. Once ev­ery­body gets play­ing with con­fi­dence and ev­ery­body gets play­ing their roles, we’re go­ing to be a re­ally tough team to beat. The last cou­ple of years we’ve been one of the best teams in the coun­try. We’ve just strug­gled in the end. It’s time to change that.”

UBC Thun­der­birds for­ward Conor Mor­gan, left, has av­er­aged 22.3 points per game and 7.8 re­bounds since re­turn­ing to the lineup two week­ends ago af­ter a soft-tis­sue in­jury to his el­bow.

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