December 19 was a nonstop day of hoops for Detra Morgan, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Morgan is the mother of Tulane men’s basketball player Malik Morgan, Tulane’s women’s basketball player Kolby Morgan and John Curtis sophomore Kai Morgan. All three of them had games that Friday, and she and her husband, Sam, saw every one of them.
Their first stop was Devlin Fieldhouse to support the Tulane men against Jackson State at 1 p.m. even though Malik Morgan, a third-year sophomore, is ineligible to play until 2015-16 after transferring from LSU.
Next was a trip to Metairie for the Country Day Classic, where Kai Morgan poured in 24 second-half points as John Curtis High played East St. John in a game that started at 6 p.m.
Finally, they rushed back to Devlin Fieldhouse to see Kolby Morgan and the Tulane women face Miami. Morgan, a freshman who started the season by scoring 10 or more points in eight consecutive games, turned in another stellar performance, leading the Green Wave with 18 points and seven rebounds while adding four assists and four steals.
It was three games, three victories and a whole lot of fun for a very close family.
“This is what we do,” said Detra Morgan, who lives in Hammond but works in New Orleans. “They expect us to be there.”
Basketball definitely is a family affair for Malik and Kolby Morgan, newcomers who could play a huge role in revitalizing Tulane basketball. Every time Kolby looked to the stands in the Green Wave’s victory against Samford on Dec. 21, she saw her mom, dad and both of her brothers leading a cheering section from behind the Tulane bench.
The bond between Kolby and Malik, who is two years older, should be particularly beneficial. She already had committed to Tulane when he transferred from LSU in May after spending two years in Baton Rouge.
“We’re really close,” she said. “He pushed me and he challenged me when we were growing up, and it helped me develop. It was just supportive things. As long as he’s there, it’s all good.”
Malik has the same sentiment.
“It’s a wonderful feeling, actually,” he said. “I get to see my flesh and blood every day. I had a class with her over the summer (public health), so it’s nice. We can go home whenever we need to, and we’re always supporting each other.”
They share a championship heritage. Malik won a state title as a senior at John Curtis in 2012 while being named the Class 2A Player of the Year by the Louisiana Sportswriters Association. Kolby won it the same year as a sophomore at Curtis, graduating as the school’s all-time scoring leader with 2,229 points.
For now, though, Malik is taking a back seat as he sits out his transfer year, and Kolby, a 5-foot-8 guard, is front and center.
She already was a perfect fit for Tulane after graduating magna cum laude at John Curtis and becoming a member of the National Honor Society. Still, she has surpassed coach Lisa Stockton’s expectations for her first year.
Joining a team that returned all five starters and its top three reserves, she led the Green Wave with 16 points, seven rebounds and four steals in her first game. She has not slowed down much since then, pacing the Wave with 13.5 points — nearly 5.0 more than anyone else — and 5.5 rebounds while starting all but the first two games.
Despite a 65-54 loss to Florida State on Monday, Tulane (9-2) has positioned itself for a run at its first NCAA tournament bid since 2010 as it enters American Athletic Conference play.
“I’m sure we’ve had freshmen (reach double figures in points for their first eight games), but I don’t remember it,” Stockton said. “She’s been so consistent offensively, and she is just such an aggressive defensive player.”
Even in her first off night, when she scored six points on 3-of-11 shooting against Samford and got benched down the stretch, she returned for the Bulldogs’ final possession and shut down a driver as Tulane preserved a 57-56 lead.
She did not even think about sulking during her rough offensive outing, making sure to lock down defensively.
“It’s like she just baits you into turning the ball over,” Malik said. “She does that really well, but she’s a flat-out scorer. She goes and gets it in every way, and she can create for others. It’s just fun to watch her play.”
Kolby will return the favor when Malik, a 6-foot-4 sharpshooter, takes the court next year as a potential replacement for senior Jay Hook. He scored 56 points against Riverside Academy as a senior at John Curtis and considered Tulane before choosing LSU, where his mom played volleyball from 1993-96.
His freshman year went fairly well. He played in all 31 games, started 14 times and averaged 5.3 points in 18.4 minutes.
His sophomore year was rougher. His averages decreased across the board: 4.1 points, 15.4 minutes and six starts in 21 games while he connected on only 9 of 36 3-pointer. His season then ended abruptly when he tore a patella tendon against Auburn in February as he planted to go up for a dunk.
In May, he transferred to Tulane, where he had developed a relationship with coach Ed Conroy during his initial recruiting. He was cleared to begin practicing again recently when his knee was deemed 90-percent healthy.
“Everything about the rehab was hard,” he said. “Starting out with five-pound weights just lifting my leg straight up was challenging enough, but then after I got off my brace, I started to build strength.”
He considers shooting and passing his biggest strengths. HIs mother is more evocative.
“I call Malik’s game lyrical,” she said. “He’s going to make you look at his jump shot. It’s very long and pretty.”
He will have plenty of time to work on it before his next game. While his mom said the family has been talking him through the frustration of sitting out, it has not affected his work ethic.
“I love his love for the game,” Conroy said. “He’s in the gym all the time. He really cares about it, and because of that he’s going to continue to get better and better. This year is going to be tremendous for him. He’s already changed his body. He’s working hard on his ball-handling and defensive abilities.”
That diligence is a product of his family background. He and his two siblings honed their games against good competition — themselves.
“We always would be outside playing against each other,” Malik said. “It definitely gave us some toughness.”
Advice from their parents helped, too. Detra and Sam Morgan, who played basketball at Southern, told them they would not get everything to go their way at a young age, explaining how they had to identify the obstacles and find solutions for them.
“It’s just a great basketball family,” Stockton said. “They’ve always followed each other, and they’re so supportive of each other. I’m sure (Kolby and Malik) argue and bicker, but I don’t see it very much. They rub off on each other in a good way.”