Morgan’s hard-knock life helps him grow

Emily Arthur

Ricky Morgan knows about pressure.

He grew up in a single-parent home in a neighborhood surrounded by drugs and violence, and at the tender age of 16, he became a father.

Although hard, Morgan said his rough background went a long way in making him a better person.

“It’s forced me to grow up quick,” he said. “It kept me focused.”

Morgan said there were definite pressures when it came to staying on the right track, but his focus kept him grounded.

“You have drugs, you have violence, and then you have everything else,” he said. “You just have to distinguish between what you want in life.”

Morgan wanted basketball.

The 5-foot-11-inch freshman point guard comes into this season with a lot of expectations.

He capped off an great season last year by leading his team at Pontiac Northern High in Pontiac, Mich., to the Class A (large schools) state championship, and was touted as one of the top point guards in the nation coming out of high school.

However, Morgan realizes college will be a lot different.

All-American and Big 12 Player of the Year Jamaal Tinsley is gone, and Morgan and sophomore standout Jake Sullivan will be counted on to pick up the point guard duties Tinsley left behind.

Despite this, Morgan said he’s not feeling overwhelmed, and while he’s had many pressures throughout his life, basketball hasn’t been one of them.

“I believe the only pressure there is [on the court], is the pressure you put on yourself,” he said.

Morgan will continue to battle Sullivan for the spot at point guard, but he realizes that he’ll have to work hard to get it.

“It’s already been difficult at times,” he said, “but I’m just trying to learn from him.”

Morgan said there’s already been a respect that’s developed between the two young men, and Sullivan agrees.

“Ricky’s a freshmen. I know he’s going to go through his up and downs,” he said. “At the same time, we’re in the same position, and we’ll just look to work off each other.”

Despite the departure of Tinsley, head coach Larry Eustachy isn’t worried about who will fill the point guard spot.

“I don’t think there’s a question about the point guard situation,” Eustachy said. “Jake Sullivan is solid, real good, and I think Ricky Morgan will be an effective freshman.”

Although he’d like to play as much as possible, Morgan’s not worried about it.

“The person that works the hardest and develops the quickest [will play],” he said.

Eustachy said he’s been impressed with Morgan, and not only for his skills on the court.

“I think he’s a special young man. He’s come from a tough, tough environment, and just being here, I think is incredible,” he said. “Lesser wouldn’t of survived his tough upbringing, so I have all the respect in the world for him.”

Morgan is “the one true point guard” the Cyclones have on the team, and Eustachy is optimistic about the type of player he will become.

“Ricky’s the kind of guy who’s been a point guard since kindergarten,” he said. “He loves to handle the ball . He’s not overly quick, he’s not a jet, but he’s very confident. We have to make sure we keep that confidence.”

Ever since Morgan committed to Iowa State, choosing the Cyclones over Michigan State, his game has been compared to Tinsley’s.

Although Morgan said there are many differences, he doesn’t mind the comparison.

“I really admire his game,” he said. “He was a big factor in me coming [to Iowa State].”

Cyclone fans may see another similarity when Iowa State takes the court for its first game. Morgan will wear the same number Tinsley did at Iowa State, number 11.

Despite the respect Morgan has for Tinsley, he said he’s not wearing the number, because Tinsley wore it.

“I wore number 11 in high school,” he said. “If they didn’t retire his jersey, it was my plans to take it.”

As for the future, Morgan knows what he wants.

His daughter Jasmine Ashauntay will be 3 in December, and he plans on remain an intricate part of her life, as well as be in the life of her mother, Jenesha.

“They’re a major part of my life, and I plan on being with them,” he said.

The prospect of turning pro early has been brought up many times, but Morgan said for right now, he’s just concentrating on his family, his studies and the upcoming basketball season.

The thought of leaving school early hasn’t entered his mind.

“I’m not going to turn pro unless the opportunity is there and I’m really ready,” he said.