Dwayne Morgan has asked for and been granted his release from UNLV, leaving the 6-foot-8 sophomore forward free to transfer. Media outlets reported the news on Wednesday, and multiple sources confirmed the move to RunRebs.
Morgan’s exit is not unexpected. He never carved out a consistent role at UNLV, and the coaching change cast his situation in even more uncertainty. With two years of eligibility remaining, there is still time for Morgan to find a college program that fits his talents and become a contributor, so it makes sense that he would choose to leave now in search of a better situation.
Some thoughts on Morgan’s time at UNLV and his future:
Expectations not met
Morgan was one of the biggest recruits of the Dave Rice era, as strange as that may sound now. But Morgan came in as one of the crown jewels of the 2014 class, ranked No. 15 in the nation, and was projected to be an impact player on both ends of the court.
Unfortunately for Morgan and the team, those expectations were set way too high. Morgan’s game was much more raw than anticipated, and it showed right away. His offensive arsenal needed a major overhaul, as his ball-handling and jump shot were not up to par. High turnover rates (14.4 percent as a freshman, 24.4 percent as a sophomore) and low shooting percentages (40.1 percent for his career) made him a liability on offense. Defensively, he showed huge potential as a versatile chess piece, but he never got a chance to take advantage of it due to foul trouble. Morgan simply could not stay on the floor for long stretches, as he led the conference in fouls per 40 minutes in both 2014-15 and 2015-16 (5.9 fouls per 40 as a freshman, 7.8 as a sophomore).
Those flaws led to Morgan getting just 17.0 minutes per game as a freshman, and he didn’t make enough progress as a sophomore to command more playing time. He averaged just 5.5 points and 4.7 rebounds per game this year, and finished the season on the sideline after injuring his shoulder on Feb. 20.
From his dealings with the media and what I hear about his locker room presence, I believe Morgan is a stand-up guy who possesses great character. He just didn’t play well enough to warrant big minutes at UNLV. But the potential is there, and he may have more luck at another program after a redshirt year spent smoothing out his rough edges.
The 2014 recruiting class was supposed to be the foundation upon which Dave Rice would build the next golden era of UNLV basketball. And Morgan was a huge part of that plan, as he was the first player to commit, which made it easier for fellow five-star prospects Rashad Vaughn and Goodluck Okonoboh to sign on. In addition to that trio of headliners, Rice also scooped up a pair of solid, four-year program players in Jordan Cornish and Patrick McCaw. It was a consensus top-five class at a time when the Rebels needed a new wave of talent to lead the program.
Now, in retrospect, it’s clear why Rice’s vision never came to fruition at UNLV. Vaughn played two-thirds of a season, got hurt and bolted for the NBA, as expected. Okonoboh played one year and transferred. Morgan underperformed for two years and is now transferring. Cornish had a nice freshman season as a reserve, then completely lost his shooting touch as a sophomore. Only McCaw turned out to be a program cornerstone, and he’s likely on his way out after two years, as well.
So much was riding on the recruiting class of 2014—including Dave Rice’s job, although we didn’t know it at the time—and Morgan’s transfer is just the latest evidence of how poorly it turned out.
Talent still there
Despite his showing at UNLV, Morgan still retains the talent that made him a highly coveted recruit. He moves his feet with ease, especially for a 6-foot-8 forward, and that gives him the ability to defend multiple positions, which is an asset that most coaches value very highly. But Morgan can only reach that potential if a coach can teach him how to defend with discipline and play without fouling.
On offense, his next coach will have to convince him to stop taking bad shots. Morgan’s shot selection was extremely poor the last two years, but if he can be coached to pass up jumpers and limit himself to putbacks and finishing around the rim, he can be a useful piece. Of course, it’s not always easy for one-time blue chippers to come to grips with the reality that they’re not cut out to be “the man,” but if Morgan can figure it out at his next stop, there is still time for him to blossom as a player.