Former New Hope player gets fresh start at Penn State Harrisburg

Former New Hope player gets fresh start at Penn State Harrisburg

Story originally posted on York Dispatch By JOHN WALK

He had somehow fallen out of love with the sport he's known for most of his young life.  But over the winter break, family, friends and former coaches convinced Anthony Morgan not to quit the McDaniel men's basketball team in the middle of the 2014-15 season.

When the 6-foot, 5-inch, 200-pound junior forward returned to campus, though, McDaniel coach Kevin Curley noticed something didn't seem quite right with Morgan.

"I got a technical foul against Lebanon Valley in a game before the Christmas break. He (Curley) was on me about (that)," Morgan said recently. "He called me in his office one day and told me I'm not responding like I should respond. I told him I'm practicing the same as I have been since my freshman year. He felt it would be best if I was dismissed from the program. We decided to split ways."  So Morgan returned home to York City, the same town where he played basketball a few years before for New Hope Academy, the now-defunct charter school.

Less than a week from now, Morgan again will be returning home. This time, however, he'll do it playing basketball for the Penn State Harrisburg men's team when it travels to York College on Wednesday to face the Spartans inside the Grumbacher Center. Among those in the crowd, Morgan expects to see his family and possibly some former coaches. Those are the people, after all, who are largely responsible for getting him to give basketball one last shot.

'There's nothing like a good comeback story': Upon officially splitting from NCAA Division III McDaniel on Dec. 29, the first person Morgan called was older cousin Derrick Morgan, a 26-year-old linebacker who just completed his fifth season playing for the NFL's Tennessee Titans. Morgan had previously lived in York at a younger age and later played high school ball at Coatesville.

"My cousin Derrick Morgan, we've seen him growing up with inner-city kids and now he's a millionaire. He's always in contact with us, trying to guide us in the right direction," Anthony Morgan said. "When I was dismissed from the team (McDaniel), Derrick was the first person I called. He's been in tough situations before."

Derrick stressed the importance of finishing school and getting a degree. Anthony Morgan is a double major in political science and international studies. Meanwhile, Anthony's parents didn't want him to skip out on the spring semester. And younger brother Montrel, a former New Hope and current York High boys' hoops standout, convinced Anthony not to quit basketball. Finally, former New Hope coach David Archer suggested Anthony look into a few basketball programs nearby, including NCAA Division III PSU Harrisburg and second-year head coach Don Friday, who is attempting to jump start his coaching career a bit after previously being the head guy at NCAA Division I St. Francis (Pa.) University from 2008 to 2012. Through 15 games, in only its second season as a member of the Capital Athletic Conference, the young PSU Harrisburg team is 2-6 in conference play and 2-13 overall.

"I'm 46 and it's really easy to look back on the past and complain and complain, also with the pain of regret," Friday said. "What I said to him (Anthony) was whatever happened at McDaniel ended the day he put on the uniform with us. We aren't gonna talk about the past, we're gonna talk about the future. We've all had setbacks in the past. But there's nothing like a good comeback story."

Veteran, post presence: Anthony Morgan averaged 4.8 points a game in eight games off the bench for McDaniel earlier this season. In his first game for PSU Harrisburg on Jan. 14 against Wesley, Anthony came off the bench to score 12 points and pull down eight rebounds. It was good enough to earn a starting role the next game, although Anthony only tallied five points but did rack up 10 rebounds.

"Where we've been lacking is down low in the paint. He (Anthony) gives us a legitimate low-post presence," Friday said. "Now all of a sudden we went from being a perimeter, jump-shooting team to now he's taken pressure off of other guys because you have to respect him inside."

Anthony is the tallest player on the team. More importantly, Friday said Anthony gives his club the veteran leadership it's been missing on a roster where 10 of the 16 players are underclassmen.

"There are some young kids we're recruiting at that position for next year, so they'll have a mentor at that position. And the way we play defense here, our low-post guys are like the linebackers in football, where you have to put people in the right spots," Friday said. "I'm impressed with Anthony putting people in the right spots. We're trying to change the culture here and he's come in and helped us do that."

Relying on younger brother: This is where younger brother Montrel comes back into play. Anthony has relied on little brother for advice in this transition over the last few weeks.

"He (Montrel) was actually in similar situation as me, going from New Hope to York High. It's kind of ironic both us going through this in the same year with me going from McDaniel to Harrisburg," Anthony said.

On Wednesday night, Anthony will look up in the stands at York College and lock eyes with Montrel and the rest of the figures who have helped him get back to this point. To the point of loving basketball again.

"It worked out. I can't thank God enough," Anthony said. "I have Philippians 4:13 tattooed on my right wrist. This whole thing right here is truly a blessing. For an opportunity to come this quick is a blessing."

— Reach John Walk at