Tulane guard Malik Morgan left Baton Rouge in 2014 after two years as a role player for the LSU basketball team.
He will return to the capital city as a principle playmaker and scorer, starting at point guard when the Green Wave (1-1) plays Southern (1-1) Thursday night at the F.G. Clark Activity Center.
“No, I haven’t really thought about (the significance of playing in Baton Rouge again),” he said. “It’s just the next game on our schedule. We’re going to see if we can get the crowd out of it, and if we do that, it will be easier.”
Morgan, a four-star recruit out of John Curtis, did not have an easy stint at LSU. He signed under former coach Trent Johnson but never played for him, getting Johnny Jones instead when Johnson left for TCU. After averaging 5.3 points as a freshman, he averaged 4.4 points as a sophomore and did not play more than 16 minutes in his last six games before a knee injury sidelined him for the rest of the season.
Although he left the program in May of 2014, he said he was not bitter about his experience.
“My two years at LSU were enjoyable,” he said. “I wanted to give coach Jones an opportunity. I thank him for the opportunity he gave me for two years to play at a great university like that.”
Two games into his Tulane career after sitting out last season under NCAA transfer rules, Morgan already has become a take-charge guy, leading the Wave in minutes (39.5 average), assists (7) and steals (5), while ranking second in rebounds (7.0) and scoring (13.5).
He accounted for six of the Wave’s 10 points in overtime against Drake on Monday, driving for a layup, hitting a fallaway jumper and sinking two free throws as Tulane won 79-74.
The only concern is his team-high 10 turnovers through two games as he adjusts to playing point guard for the first time.
“I feel like I’m doing pretty well,” he said. “I still need to make adjustments. A lot of that comes with making the wrong reads. I think too many plays ahead at times and miss the simple plays.”
Tulane made all the plays it needed down the stretch against Drake to avoid an 0-2 start, rallying from an 8-point deficit in the final eight minutes to force overtime before dominating that session.
With the poised Morgan handling the ball, Tulane coach Ed Conroy said he expects that confidence to translate onto the road.
“Malik is doing fine,” Conroy said. “We’re two games into the process, and he’s taken a lot on. I’m really proud of the effort he’s putting forth. He helped will us to a victory.”
Morgan said he played a few pickup games at Southern’s arena when he was at LSU, but this will be his first real game there.
It should be a competitive, too. Tulane has split overtime games to start the season, losing to Alabama A&M before playing Drake.
Southern lost at Arkansas 86-68 in its opener before winning at Mississippi State 76-72. Guard Adrian Rodgers leads three Southern players averaging in double figures with 14.0 points.
Although the Green Wave is 8-0 all time against the Jaguars, five of the victories have come by seven or fewer points, including a 68-65 win at Southern in 2010.
“In some ways, this is their best team,” Conroy said. “With the win the other day in Starkville, I expect a great environment and a tough game.”