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The 2013-14 Season in Review, Part Something: Maverick Morgan

Mav was happy to play backup minutes this past season. Is he also ready to karaoke?

Ethan Miller

Whenever I hear or read the name Maverick Morgan, I immediately think of Tom Cruise's character from Top Gun. Blame it on me growing up in the 80s and that movie being pretty damn cool, but I can't escape the word association. How can you be named Maverick and not be the fly by the seat of your pants, arrogant, shirtless beach volleyball playing son of a former fighter pilot who always gets the hot chick?

So, obviously, I envision Mav and his wingman, Goose (played by none other than Mike LaTulip who, according to Primiano, would be the best wingman on the team), regularly hitting up campus establishments and serenading female coeds with the sweet, iconic words of the Righteous Brothers. I'd imagine it goes a little something like this...

LaGooselip: "Alright, the bet is $20."

Mav: "$20."

LaGooselip: "You have to have carnal knowledge of a lady on the premises."

Mav (setting his sights on a lovely lady): "On the premises."

LaGooselip: "Come on, Mav. A bet's a bet."

Mav: "I don't know. It just doesn't seem fair...for you I mean, but she's lost that lovin' feelin'."

LaGooselip: "She's lost? No she hasn't."

Mav: "Yes, she has."

LaGooselip: "She has not lost that lovin' feelin'."

Mav: "She's lost it."

LaGooselip: "Mav, come on. I hate when she does that..."

And then history is made time and time again.

***I completely made that scenario up and do not condone it, but if Mav and Mike start using this pick up strategy, you're both welcome***

Oh, I'm sorry. This post is supposed to be about Maverick Morgan's contribution to this past season of Illini basketball.  Well, Mav played.

In the real world, Mav appeared in all 35 games which is impressive for a freshman center. He averaged 7.1 minutes per game. He scored 52 total points on the season while shooting a clip above 58 percent from the field. He also averaged 1.2 rebounds per game and blocked a total of 8 shots.

The offensive end of the court was not really a struggle for Mav. His ability to consistently catch a pass and make a shot on the block was a pleasant surprise. He actually showed the resemblance of a post game which came in handy when Nnanna forgot how to even hit the rim with a basketball during a stretch of the season.

Defensively, however, was a different story for our dear freshman center. As much as Mav filled Nnanna's shoes when the Illini had an offensive possession, he was a major liability on defense. He just wasn't strong enough nor did he have the proper spacing to be a presence on the inside on defense. Big Ten teams definitely took advantage of the dribble drive and Mav's lacking ability to effectively close on shooters around the lane.

But guess what? Mav was only a freshman - a freshman being asked to play a semi important role of backup center on a supposedly contending Big Ten basketball team. I think Mav did a commendable job playing his part on last season's team although his body and development weren't quite ready for it.

The best thing about freshman is that they become sophomores, though. Mav has the entire offseason to get stronger and build his understanding of John Groce's system, especially, on defense. Heck, maybe we'll see an Illini big man with a go to post move next season.

Mav has the opportunity to play some significant backup minutes to Nnanna Egwu next season. If we're lucky, we'll even occasionally catch a glimpse of twin tower action where Nnanna blocks a shot one end and throws an alley-oop to Mav on the other end.

And just because...


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