Vic­to­ria’s Mor­gan signed by Span­ish basketball team

Times Colonist - - Sports - CLEVE DHEENSAW

This has been Conor Mor­gan’s per­sonal great leap for­ward.

In one ad­ven­tur­ous spring and sum­mer on courts around the world, the basketball stand­out from Vic­to­ria won the 2018 Gold Coast Com­mon­wealth Games sil­ver medal with Canada, the New Zealand pro league cham­pi­onship with South­land Sharks, and has now signed a big-time Eu­ro­pean pro con­tract in Spain.

“It’s the sec­ond best league in the world be­hind the NBA,” Mor­gan said of sign­ing with Div­ina Se­guros Joven­tut.

The Badalona-based club, one of only three teams never hav­ing been rel­e­gated from the Span­ish pro top di­vi­sion, has an alumni list that in­cludes Ricky Ru­bio of the Utah Jazz, for­mer Jazz player and Span­ish Olympic sil­ver­medal­list Raul Lopez and for­mer Den­ver Nugget and three-time Olympic-medal­list Rudy Fer­nan­dez. And now Mor­gan. “It all came to­gether at the right time,” said the six-foot-nine swing for­ward, who is back on the Is­land this week­end from New Zealand, be­fore de­part­ing Tues­day for Spain.

“Sign­ing in Spain is the big­gest op­por­tu­nity in my life so far . . . they took a chance on a kid from Canada. Crowds for games in Spain are between 10,000 and 15,000.

“My club plays in the arena just out­side Barcelona, where the U.S. Dream Team won gold in the 1992 Olympics.”

Which begs the ques­tion, af­ter rep­re­sent­ing Canada so well at the World Univer­sity Games and Com­mon­wealth Games, is there a call com­ing from head coach Jay Tri­ano for 2020 Tokyo Olympic qual­i­fy­ing play?

“Maybe it will hap­pen, maybe not, but the se­nior na­tional team is cer­tainly a goal of mine,” said Mor­gan, 24, a grad­u­ate of the Mount Douglas Sec­ondary Rams.

“I’ve put on the Maple Leaf a cou­ple of times now and you don’t do that for money, you do that for pride in play­ing for your coun­try.”

But the im­me­di­ate con­cern is to con­tinue es­tab­lish­ing his pro ca­reer as a flu­idly mov­ing in­sid­e­out­side threat who can get it done from both the paint and perime­ter. Just ask the Univer­sity of Vic­to­ria Vikes, who were scorched time and again the past five sea­sons by Mor­gan, a two-time Canada West MVP with the UBC Thun­der­birds.

It isn’t lost on Mor­gan that Slove­nian Luka Don­cic was se­lected third over­all this year in the first round of the 2018 NBA draft out of Real Madrid of the Span­ish pro league. Real Madrid is one of the teams Mor­gan will be fac­ing this up­com­ing sea­son.

“In the back of your mind, the dream of the NBA is al­ways there for any basketball player,” said Mor­gan.

“As an ath­lete, you can’t sell your­self short. Hope­fully, I can cash in with some­thing re­ally big at some point in my ca­reer.”

Mor­gan is the son of Dave Mor­gan, a star Is­land basketball player of the 1960s.

“The big­gest thing my dad taught me was to have shoot­ing form . . . be­fore I sprouted to six­nine,” said Conor Mor­gan.

That has held the younger Mor­gan in good stead as such a multi-faceted and ver­sa­tile threat.

But not all the lessons have been about fun­da­men­tals and tac­tics.

“The great­est take­away I got from my dad is to keep level, on and off the court, and in all as­pects of life,” said Mor­gan.

And this is one basketball life that is tak­ing off.

DAR­REN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Conor Mor­gan leaves to be­gin his Span­ish ad­ven­ture on Tues­day.

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