As Conor Morgan leaves the UBC Thunderbirds program for a pro career in New Zealand, he wil be rightly remembered as one of the program's greatest ever scorers. (Photo by Richard Lam property of UBC Thunderbirds)
Feature University Men's Basketball

An honour for Conor: UBC’s Capt. Morgan sets a course for Down Under, prepares to begin pro career Friday in New Zealand

VANCOUVER — Still jet-lagged from the Australia-to-Vancouver journey which returned him from the recently-completed Commonwealth Games, Conor Morgan was busy Tuesday putting his body clock on notice for more of the same.

The UBC Thunderbirds’ senior 6-foot-10 forward-guard was so impressive two Saturdays ago in scoring 19 points as part of Canada’s 88-86 win over New Zealand in the Commonwealth Games semifinals, that brass from a team in that nation’s New Zealand National Basketball League signed him to his first pro contract.

“They were looking for a four-man to go over there,” Morgan said on Tuesday afternoon, taking the time to speak with while finishing a paper as part of his UBC Masters degree, and prepping for a Wednesday flight back to the southern hemisphere where he would join the Southland Sharks, a team based in Invercargill on the nation’s southernmost tip. “It’s a great way to get my foot in the door and eventually, maybe move into the NBL in Australia.”

The latter, of course, is one of the premier professional leagues in the world, and ever since the fall of 2012, when Morgan arrived on the Point Grey campus from Victoria’s Mt. Douglas Secondary, his game has wreaked of international big-guard, stretch-four skills.

Now, after averaging 22.1 ppg and 9.7 rebounds per game while shooting 31 per cent from beyond the arc over his senior season with the ‘Birds, the guy who knelt down to kiss the court at War Memorial Gym when he was subbed out of his final home game, is finally getting his chance to play for a living.

Conor Morgan has a game filled with international flair and it should serve him well as he begins his pro career in New Zealand on Friday. (Photo by Richard Lam property of UBC Thunderbirds)

“Honestly, for me, this is huge said Morgan, who is expected to make his pro debut on Friday when the Sharks play at the Wellington Saints. “I’ve been at UBC for six years, and this is the place that has built me into the person I am now. I am so excited for this next step.”

So, too is UBC head coach Kevin Hanson, who was a part of the Canadian coaching staff at the Commonwealth Games and knows better than anyone how concise a fit Morgan’s skill set is with the international game.

“In the systems that he’s going to be playing in, they have true stretch-4’s that all shoot threes,” Hanson notes of the traditional power forward type who not only can play in the paint but stretch his skill set out to beyond the perimetre on both sides of the ball. “That is Conor’s game in a nutshell. His skill set is perfect for the pro game down there, based on what I saw at the Commonwealth Games.”

UBC’s Conor Morgan says that six years in the ‘Birds program have made him the player and person is today. (Photo by Richard Lam property of UBC Thunderbirds)

Of course, the perfect fit had a lot of perfect fate working its ways behind the scenes.

Morgan had contemplated not returning for his final season at UBC, but decided in the end he would try to lead the ‘Birds to the national title.

That part of the equation didn’t work out, yet because of his status as a U Sports athlete, he was able to earn a place on the Commonwealth Games team.

“If I hadn’t come back, I wouldn’t have gotten on the (Canadian) team,” says Morgan, who correctly reasons he would not have been in position to be offered a contract by the Southland Sharks. “So it all worked out for a reason, and that’s how I live my life.”

With his pro career just set to tip off, Morgan knows getting off to a good start in New Zealand can lead to opportunities all over the world.

Yet his first measure of business?

“I think the biggest thing for me moving forward is to keep getting better, and to play my position at the next level, I need to get bigger,” says Morgan. “So I am going down with the mindset to just keep getting better at playing basketball.”

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