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SportsJam with Doug Doyle: International Basketball Star Duane Morgan's Super Smile Matches His Play

Duane Morgan
Doug Doyle for WBGO

Duane Morgan, the former West Orange High School and Adelphi University star is a rising basketball professional in Spain.  This year he’ll be playing for Plasencia in the LEB Plata League where the competition and the crowds are even better.

Morgan's journey to the professional ranks has been one of perserverance fueled by a strong family and passion to succeed. 

Duane Morgan is the latest guest on SportsJam with Doug Doyle

Morgan played last season for the Zornotza Basketball club last season and had a spectacular year.  He averaged 18 points and seven rebounds a game helping Zornotza to the LEB Silver League's Final Four Championship.

"We had a 6'9 stretch forward from North Carolina.  We had a former Maryland guard.  We had a former Texas guard and a former Middle Tennessee guard.  So we were like a really good team, especially like the Americans.  The national players are also really hard players, just very much a family atmosphere."

Duane Morgan
Credit Duane Morgan for WBGO News
Duane Morgan in action for the Zornotza Basketball Club last season

Morgan says he feels the love of the fans in Spain.

"Those fans are smart, they know the game, they understand the game and they're passionate.  They love it. They're into it."

The 6-foot-6 star had a major growth spurt after his freshman year at West Orange High School.  Since then he enjoys slam dunks more than any other play on the court.  As a senior at West Orange, he captained the team and put up 20 points and 11 rebounds per-game and was named All-Conference First Team.  Morgan was seledted to play in New Jersey's North-South All-Star Game where he won the North-South Dunk contest.

At Adelphia University in Garden City, New York, Morgan would make All-Met First Team (2014-2015).  He scored 37 points at Southern Connecticut State in 2015, a day he never forget for many reasons.

Duane Morgan
Credit Duane Morgan for WBGO News
Duane Morgan during his junior season at Adelphi University

"That's one of the most memorable days of my life.  There was actually a deeper meaning to this game that I don't really tell people.  That morning was the funeral of one of my close childhood friends Sharod Coleman.  I actually had to come home the day of the game to go to the funeral.  After the funeral, I remember having that picture in my head of like this is a childhood friend and this can all be taken away from you at any moment.  So, I'm driving back to campus from the funeral that morning, I'm running late, and the bus is ready to leave.  They kind of had to hold up the bus for me so everybody was a little on edge. I got on the bus and on the ride to Southern Connecticut like I was very emotional.  I'm not a very emotional person.  I was very emotional and I just couldn't get that image out of my head. So we get to the game and I didn't feel anything in that game.  I wasn't even myself and I had the best game of my career and it was almost like an outer body experience."

Morgan talked about what happened to his friend.

"He was shot. Very young. Senseless violence, unneccessary.  This guy was probably the coolest guy I ever met.  Everybody loved him, very popular guy.  It was a big hit for the community."

Duane Morgan
Credit Duane Morgan for WBGO News
Duane Morgan flashes his smile after winning the Playoff MVP trophy with Manchester Magic

Morgan's international career would begin in Argentina but an injury would shorten his season.  After getting healthy, the hooper would head to the United Kingdom to play for the Manchester Magic (NBL Division 1).  That would prove to be a great move.  Morgan started 19 games for the Magic and helped the team win the National Trophy Championship.  He was named Game MVP after pouring in 24 points, pulling down 17 rebounds and snagging five steals.  He then led the Magic to the League Playoff Championship where he was named the Finals MVP after pumping in 20 points.

Morgan says now that he's playing in Spain he communicates with some teammates through facial expressions.  His smile is the key to that communication.

Where does his engaging personality come from?

Duane Morgan
Credit Duane Morgan for WBGO News
Duane Morgan was a superstar in Manchester, England

"Most of it comes from my father and my father is a really humble guy but he kind of witnessed and been through a lot.  So he's from Jamaica, he's from this very dangerous street, Maxfield Ave.  He comes from that kind of background.  He came to America when he was about 16 or 17 and worked his way up and made something of himself.  He always kept very humble about it.  He wasn't showing it off or talking about every chance he got.  I think I picked up a lot of things from him."

When asked what player he'd like to meet, Morgan picked former Lakers and Bucks legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  Morgan says he's been told when he lets his beard grow out he looks like Kareem, who was a prior guest on SportsJam with Doug Doyle.

Is Duane Morgan close to making the NBA?

Duane Morgan
Credit Duane Morgan for WBGO News
Duane Morgan heads down court during last year's season with Zornotza

"I think my game is close.  I've played with many NBA players and I match myself up with them and see where they are and see where I am so I know my game is close.  It's just a matter of being seen by the right people and getting put in the right places."

His advice to young players who want to be professional hoopers?

"Work hard, but don't get discourage and don't get easily taken off your path."

When Morgan was in sixth grade, he remembers being cut from the town's traveling team, but he says he always used that as fuel and got him going.  He says don't let anyone tell you it can't be done.

Click above to hear the entire SportsJam with Doug Doyle interview with Duane Morgan.

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Doug Doyle has been News Director at WBGO since 1998 and has taken his department to new heights in coverage and recognition. Doug and his staff have received more than 250 awards from organizations like PRNDI (now PMJA), AP, New York Association of Black Journalists, Garden State Association of Black Journalists and the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists.