Matt Morgan withdraws from NBA Draft and looks to return to Cornell basketball

On Monday, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman tweeted that Cornell’s Matt Morgan would withdraw from the upcoming NBA Draft. That same day, Raphy Gendler of the Cornell Daily Sun reported that Morgan will return to the school and the team for his senior year. Noted Morgan in a text to the school paper, “It was in my best interest to come back and play one more year and finish out not only my athletic career but also my academic career. It was great going through the process again but I’m glad to officially be back and getting ready for another run with my team.”

Morgan had tested the NBA Draft waters for the first time in the spring of 2017. During that time, he received interest from the Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Washington Wizards. He took the information from that process and used it to have his strongest season at Cornell. Not only did he lead the Ivy League in scoring for the third straight season, but his career-best 22.5 points per game was the 11th highest in the nation. The Concord, N.C. shooting guard ended the 2017-2018 season with an active 51-game double-digit scoring streak, while being named a member of the All-Ivy first team and the Lou Henson All-America team. His 1,646 points are third on the Big Red’s all-time list, 17 points behind John Bajusz and 382 points behind Ryan Wittman’s record 2,028.

In his second go-around with the NBA Draft, Morgan told the Daily Sun that he was instructed to work on his shooting percentage. For his career, he has a 45.5 percent overall field-goal percentage, 57.7 percent two point shooting percentage and a 35.8 percent three-point rate. This past season, he hit 49.2 percent overall, 60.8 percent from two and 36.9 percent from three.

Morgan was a major reason that the Big Red finished in fourth place in the Ancient Eight this past season, earning the school its first trip to the Ivy League Tournament.  With the recent news that second team All-Ivy forward Stone Gettings would forgo his final year at Cornell to become a graduate transfer in 2019-2020, it was imperative for coach Brian Earl’s team to have Morgan back for another chance at the conference’s final four.  Last year, the Big Red was No. 324 nationally in defensive efficiency and needed everything Morgan and Gettings had on offense to keep them in conference contests.

In addition to Gettings’ departure, Cornell loses Wil Bathurst to graduation. The Big Red will, however, return the rest of the end-of-year starting lineup with guards Morgan, Terrance McBride, and Joel Davis, as well as forward Steve Julian. The Big Red will also welcome back senior guard Troy Whiteside, a 23-game starter from 2016-2017 who missed last year to injury.  With the loss of Gettings’ 16.7 points and 6.6 points per game, the team will need increased production from junior Josh Warren and sophomore Jimmy Boeheim, who averaged a combined 7.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game.  Cornell will also look for frontcourt help from incoming junior Chaz Mack of Cochise Junior College in Arizona.  This past season, Mack, a 6′ 6″ power forward who has fullly recovered from wrist surgery in the fall of 2016, averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds a game as he was named to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) All-American second team.

As Morgan told the Daily Sun, “Stone leaving is obviously tough.  He was an All-Ivy player, but we have a next-man-up mentality. We have talented [junior college] transfers and incoming freshmen. We will have most of our guys that played major minutes back while adding [rising senior] Troy Whiteside [back from injury] as well.  We have more than enough talent to not only be competitive but to win a lot of games if we play the right way.  We are all excited about the upcoming season. It’s a new challenge for us and we are going to put the work in this offseason to come back better than last year.”

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