Emory's Morgan finds her calling

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Morgan made her teammates better as a point guard. Now, she makes some of those former teammates better as one of their coaches.
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Savannah Morgan never seriously considered coaching while playing basketball at Emory. And after playing hoops overseas after her college career was done, the former Eagle took a year off from the game she loves.

"I didn't even look at a basketball," Morgan said. "But the idea of coaching kept creeping into my mind the more I talked with the coaches there. They told me I already knew the system and the school and that it would be a good opportunity. I decided to try it."

What is interesting about that decision by Morgan, who admits that during her time as a player she wasn't sure if coaching was the right profession for her, is that she will have an opportunity this March to build on her experience in coaching at the So You Want To Be A Coach program put on by the WBCA in conjunction with its convention in Dallas.

Morgan will be one of 61 participants in the program. Typically, only current players across all three divisions of the NCAA take part in it. Morgan is the exception, and she is a little surprised she was given the chance to do it.

"Coach C [Christy Thomaskutty] told me to apply but I didn't think I would get selected," Morgan said. "I'm super pumped about it. I'm excited to get a chance to learn from other coaches. It's a great opportunity for me."

Morgan brings instant credibility as an assistant coach. During her stellar career, which ended in 2014, Morgan finished as Emory's all-time leader in assists (526) and assists per game (5.1). She was also one of the program's best scorers, pouring in 1,155 points, which ranks her seventh all-time at the school.

As if those accolades aren't enough, Morgan was also fourth in steals (202), fifth in 3-pointers (108) and seventh in field goals made (442) while earning first-team All-UAA honors as a junior and senior.

She now finds herself sharing that knowledge with the younger players, including freshmen point guards Lindsey Tse and Hazel Carmona.

"Coach has given me the opportunity to work with both of them and it's been great," Morgan said. "I talk to them about what you want to look for in a game and what it takes to play the position well. I teach them a lot about what I learned when I was a player."

Three of the current Emory players, Michelle Bevan, Shellie Kaniut and Fran Sweeney, were freshmen when Morgan was a senior. She loves seeing the progress all three have made in their careers.

"It's funny with them because when I was player, they talked about how I would get on them, and they joke that now I'm still getting on them about things," Morgan said. "They have also told me I'm a lot more fun as a coach, that I'm not as serious as I was when I was a player. I like it that they get to see this side of me."

Yet, just as it took her time to adapt to college and professional basketball, there was an adjustment period for her as a coach.

As a player, she often wondered why coaches made the team do this drill or that drill. Now she sees the method to the madness.

"It was really eye-opening at first," Morgan said. "When I was a player, I just had to show up to practice, but you wondered why your coach made you do this or do that. You see it a lot differently when you are a coach. You get to see behind the scenes and realize those things you did as a player made sense."

She still remembers the first time she walked into the locker room as a coach before a game and saw the players interacting and listening to music.

It reminded her of some of her favorite memories as a player and was also one of those moments that made her realize she is in a much different position now.

"They were having so much fun and I think that's what I miss the most, those experiences of being a teammate," Morgan said. "If I could go back now and be a player again, I would. I would go back and enjoy those moments more because they are special and once they are gone, you don't get them back."

But now Morgan is making new memories. She gets to learn and work alongside her college coach and former teammate Misha Jackson, who is also an assistant for the Eagles.

She loves the fact that she is coaching at her alma mater and plans to stick with coaching.

"I found a job that I love doing," Morgan said. "I love coming to work every day and my hope is to be a coach at the Division I level someday. I know it's going to take a lot of hard work and time to get there but I'm willing to work at it to achieve that goal."

Neal rises up for Tornados

Joe Neal played one of his best games of the season Saturday and helped Concordia stretch its winning streak to five with a 101-94 win over Mary Hardin-Baylor.

Scoring 24 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, Neal came through with his fourth double-double of the season. Ben Page also stepped up in a big way, pouring in a career-high 22 points.

The Tornados are 15-6 overall and 9-3 in conference play after scoring more than 100 points for the sixth time this season.

Neal has been instrumental to the success of the Tornados, leading the team in scoring at 19.3 points per outing. He is averaging 7.4 rebounds per game as well.

The Tornados are putting up 97 points per game as a team and will play two of their final four games of the regular season at home.

Kangaroos clinch conference playoff berth

Austin College secured a spot in the SCAC tournament with its 63-51 win over Dallas Friday night. The Kangaroos improved to 15-6 overall and to 7-3 in conference play.

Kendall Heitmeier and Bryce Frank both came through with double-doubles in the win as Austin stretched its winning streak to two games. Heitmeier scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while Frank poured in 14 points and pulled down 12 rebounds.

Frank and Heitmeier are the two leading scorers on the team. Frank is putting up 14.1 points per game while Heitmeier is averaging 13.4 points per outing. They are the top two rebounders as well, with Heitmeier grabbing 7.3 rebounds per outing and Frank pulling down 7.1 boards per game.

Colonels keep rolling

Centre is in the midst of its longest winning streak of the season. The Colonels won their fifth consecutive game Sunday in an 84-68 victory over Berry in SAA action. It's the longest streak for Centre since it rattled off six wins in a row in February of last year.

Tucker Sine played a huge role in the win, lighting up the scoreboard for a career-best 36 points, the most points scored by a Centre player in a game since Blake Scinta went off for 36 in a game against Millsaps last year.

Sine connected on 11 of his 17 shots from the floor, highlighting his effort with six 3-pointers. The sophomore standout nearly had a double-double as he grabbed nine rebounds. He dished out four assists as well, helping Centre improve to 13-7 overall and to 9-2 in the conference.

Sine is having a monster season, putting up 15.3 points per outing. He is shooting 4.7 percent from the floor. He has knocked down 52 3-pointers, hitting five or more treys four times this season.

Eight wins and counting for the Pride

Greensboro pushed its win streak to eight games Sunday with its 60-53 win over Meredith.

Once 5-9 and struggling to stay afloat, the Pride has soared and now sits at 13-9 overall and 9-3 in the conference. Marla Crawford helped pave the way in the latest win, scoring 12 points. Courtney Pearsall added 10 points. Both players dished out five assists apiece.

Greensboro won 14 games all of last season and still has three games to go in the regular season as it will look to match or pass that win total.

Crawford and Pearsall are part of a balanced Greensboro attack, averaging 5.9 and 5.6 points per outing, respectively. The Pride has seven players averaging at least five points per game and is putting up 60.3 points per game as a team.

Brian Lester

Brian Lester is a reporter in Florida. He has 15 years of experience at newspapers in Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio, spending 10 at The Courier in Findlay, Ohio. Lester also writes an Around the Region column for D3football.com and wrote the book Perfect Run as No. 1 about the 2009 Division II men's basketball champions University of Findlay. He is a graduate of Eastern Illinois.