Each year, roughly 10-15 percent of the Elite Youth Basketball league are underclassmen. It takes a special type of talent to be considered for the top 17U circuit before you're a junior. Every time an underclassmen reaches the league, we get to see the progression of a young man from one EYBL season to the next.
Last season, Athletes First star Allonzo Trier took home the award after nearly tripling his scoring average from his freshman to sophomore season. He made another large jump this year, showing the positive effects that come from veteran experience in the EYBL.
This year, we were fortunate to see a rise from a big man who has transformed himself from a high-energy role player, to the most important frontcourt cog on a team that nearly everyone is overlooking.
That player is MOKAN Elite forward Juwan Morgan. His regular season statistics highlight his massive improvement from last year to this, and the 6-foot-8 forward from Waynesville, Missouri displayed a completely different on-court demeanor while accumulating those numbers.
Here's a look at Morgan's progression from 2013 to 2014:
As the numbers show, Morgan increased his productivity across the board. He managed to increase his impressive 2013 field goal percentage, as he shot 69.2% from the field - trailing only Nike Team Florida's Udoka Azubuike (71.9%) among players that participated in all four sessions. This is even more impressive, considering Morgan one of only two players on his team listed at 6-foot-8.
Speaking of, it's important to note Morgan's growth spurt. Prior to the 2013 season, Morgan was listed at 6-foot-5, 205 pounds. In 2014, Morgan is listed at 6-foot-8, 220 pounds. Those three inches and 15 pounds in one calendar year has clearly helped his game for the better.
His teammates have noticed his emphatic rise, as MOKAN Elite's floor generals Dainan Swoope and Shake Milton both spoke very highly of their enforcer down low. While he's definitely expanded his game, he hasn't lost his incessant motor.
"He's definitely gotten stronger and more athletic, and now he can shoot the ball from the perimeter," Milton said, explaining the necessity of his big man. "He is important because our whole game starts with him. He gets a big dunk or block and it picks all of our energy up and gets us going. He always crashes the boards and creates more opportunities."
Swoope echoed his backcourt peer, speaking to the spark Morgan provides.
"Juwan is our energy guy," Swoope said. "When he bangs out, it changes our level of intensity. He knows he is one of our leaders and as the year went on, he (again) took on the role of being our hustle and energy guy."
When asked specificially what Morgan does to enhance their individual game, MOKAN's starting backcourt had similar answers.
Swoope: "As a guard, he opens up the floor for me cause he takes up the paint and can score at will."
Milton agreed: "He always makes me look good when I'm passing him the ball and he's scoring, or when he's setting screens allowing me to get open. He's a work horse and when he gets hot, my man will slack off allowing me to score (on the pick and roll)."
Last year, Morgan struggled during the Peach Jam, averaging only 2.5 points and 5.8 rebounds. We expect him to shatter that production in July, and cement himself as perhaps the most important big man on any given team at Peach Jam.