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November 2, 2012LSU had one commitment in the 2012 recruiting class when Johnny Jones was chosen to replace Trent Johnson as basketball coach.
That one player was River Ridge (La.) Curtis small forward Malik Morgan. Jones had no worries about keeping Morgan in the fold.
"I just wanted to play in my back yard," Morgan said. "My mother (Detra Brown) played volleyball here. This was the school for me. My dream was to play at LSU."
Morgan has been a highly-regarded recruit ever since his eighth-grade year. He was always compared with Riverside's Ricardo Gathers, who was in the same class as Morgan. Last season, Morgan's Curtis team defeated Riverside's Gathers in the Class 2A state championship game.
"I am not worried about Ricardo (who signed with Baylor)," said Morgan, who had a career-high 56-point game against Riverside during the regular season. "I wish him the best all the time. I just do what I can do best."
Morgan will certainly get an opportunity to show what he can do in his first season with the Tigers. With senior Charles Carmouche unavailable, Morgan started at one of the wing positions in LSU's scrimmage at Rice last weekend.
"It was a little nerve-wracking since it was my first college exhibition and I was starting for the first time," Morgan said. "I thought I did pretty good. The speed is so different from high school. I have to learn to keep up with two's and three's and sometimes point guards."
Morgan averaged 18 points, five assists and four rebounds a game during his senior season at Curtis. Such numbers do not automatically translate into success in college. However, Jones has been pleasantly surprised by what he has seen from Morgan.
"Malik is a lot further along in this period of time than I thought he would be," Jones said. "Malik is a very coachable young man who is eager to learn. He has gotten bigger and stronger and has adjusted to the college game faster than I thought."
Morgan and junior Andre Stringer were the starting wings in the scrimmage. Carmouche's health status will determine if Morgan will be in the starting lineup in the exhibition game against Arkansas-Monticello on Monday night. Stringer has been impressed by Morgan.
"Malik is definitely capable of guarding bigger guys," Stringer said. "He puts out effort. That's the key to playing defense - putting out effort. He is definitely the type of guy who can control the man he is guarding."
Morgan admitted that his defensive work must improve. In high school, Curtis played what Morgan called "a soft man defense."
"You have to be real intense on defense," Morgan said. "Each day, coach Jones and (assistant) coach (Charlie) Leonard stress ball pressure."
Morgan is confident that he will be fine on the offensive end of the court. He considers himself a scorer as well as someone who can get rebounds.
"When we are in the half court, I just play my game," the 6-foot-4 Morgan said. "It may be knocking down shots or it may be getting to a crease. I have no preference. I can do both. But, my priority is going to the glass on defense and offense. I am going to rebound."
Morgan is joining a program which has not posted a winning Southeastern Conference record since 2009. The Tigers are again picked to finish in the second division of the SEC standings.
"Coach Leonard stresses that we all need to compete at practice no matter the drill," Morgan said. "Everybody must play their role. We have to understand our roles and play to each other's strength."