JOSH Morgan has never been motivated by statistics.
The inspirational point guard retires at the end of the Hunters’ Waratah Basketball League finals campaign this weekend.
“A lot of my friends and family make up that crowd."- - Josh Morgan
Minor premiers, the Hunters tackle Manly in the semi-final in Sydney on Saturday. Hills host Norths in the other semi. The winners meet in the final on Sunday.
Morgan’s numbers, even at 36, stack up against anyone in the league.
But that’s not what drives the man affectionately known as Joey. Never has.
“What I’ll miss most is our home crowd and supporters,” Morgan said “A lot of my friends and family make up that crowd. It's about the people you meet. The last couple of seasons has been about my kids. They desperately wanted me to play and still do. I am stoked they were able to watch me and understand what was going on.”
Morgan has been the heart and soul of the Hunters for the best part of two decades. He was in the youth team when the men last won a championship in 2000. Bar three seasons with the Hunter Pirates in the National Basketball League and a couple of years in Albury, Morgan has been trying to repeat the feat.
“We had a lot of successful years in terms of number of wins, but never that elusive championship,” Morgan said. “I have had a few cracks. I had a wrist reconstruction in 2011 and didn’t play when we lost to Illawarra in the final. In 2012 we were minor premiers and bombed out to Sydney Comets. We have made the semis other years.”
Hunters coach Darren Nichols refers to the guard as Captain Morgan.
“It would be nice for him to go out the way he deserves,” said Nichols who also plans to call it a day. “He is a great leader, quiet in nature but outspoken by his actions. He is a coach in himself. He makes the right decisions on the floor to best suit the situation. There is no doubts he could continue playing.”
Statistics back up Nichols’ theory. Morgan boasts one of the best shooting percentages – 56 % – in the Waratah League. From inside the arch it climbs to 69%.
He dishes out four assists a game and hauls in four rebounds, mostly at the defensive end. Standing a smidgen under six foot, he has incredible hops. Fast hands too. He pockets two steals a game and was this week named defensive player of the year.
But it’s the intangibles – the plays that aren’t noted on the box score – that lifts Morgan above others.
His ability and willingness to chase down a loose ball, climb above a bigger body for a board, win a charge, get a hand in the lane, run the court in transition. Traits that have made him a favourite of the Broadmeadow faithful and endeared by teammates.
“At the start of the year, it was about not playing as much and trying to bring the next lot of guards through – Hayden Howell, Jakob Dorricott and Michael Wilson,” Morgan said. “There is a good group of guards and in the next couple of years there will be another good group graduate from the under-18s as well. Physically it has been a bit hard at times. Trying to get through practice and games, with everything else going on, it got too much.”
Morgan’s wife Jill, plays for the Hunters women, who are also contesting the finals. They have four children, Izzy, 9, Harry, 8, Hudson, 2, and six-month-old Indie.
“On Tuesday I leave practice early and get home so Jill can get to practice a fraction late,” Morgan said
The eldest two siblings play basketball and are in Hunters’ programs.
“If Izzy and Harry keep playing I will be entrenched at that end,” he said.
Morgan also has a growing basketball academy, I Hoop.
“I will probably be at the stadium more when I am retired,” he said. “I started the academy 12 months ago and it has been really good.”
Morgan is also looking forward to sitting in the stands.
“People have suggested that you are a long time retired, but I do enjoy being on the other side,” he said.
But first is the finals and that elusive championship.
“The group has really come together and has an opportunity to finish on a good note,” Morgan said.
That would certainly be nothing less than Captain Morgan deserves.
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