Cal Poly has a new commitment from a men’s basketball recruit, but the sharp-shooter from Southern California won’t be in town soon enough to sooth the loss of two other Mustangs guards.
Reese Morgan, a 6-foot-2 senior guard from Peninsula High in Palos Verdes, said he made a verbal commitment to Cal Poly head coach Joe Callero and plans on signing a National Letter of Intent with the university on signing day in November.
Verbal commitments are nonbinding, and Morgan has received attention from Pac-10 schools, but the three-time all-CIF-Southern Section honoree said his on-campus visit nearly two weeks ago ended his urge to wait and see if an offer came in from a bigger-name program.
“To me, there was some pull of that because you never know what’s going to open up,” Morgan said, “but after I went to Cal Poly, I loved it. I fell in love with the school, the whole city, the coaches and everything. I figured this is what I want.”
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The earliest Morgan could join the team would be next fall. Until then, Callero has some issues to sort out in the Mustangs’ backcourt. Callero learned this week that junior Amaurys Fermin, a former junior college transfer who missed all of last season to gain academic eligibility, tore a knee ligament in a team practice session and will require season-ending surgery.
That’s on top of the loss of sophomore Kyle Odister, who has battled an ankle injury all offseason. Coming off a year in which he made the Big West Conference all-freshman team, Odister has also been ruled out for the upcoming season and could be forced to undergo surgery as well.
Callero had been expecting Odister to miss time because of his lingering ankle injury. The loss of Fermin, a 6-2, 215-pound native of the Dominican Republic who grew up in Bronx, N.Y., was a shock to the team.
“He made everybody else so much better around him, a true blue point guard,” Callero said. “He could get past people to the rim, make the quality passes that you can’t coach. The plays that he makes, you can’t coach, you recruit.
“With the upside that he had as a point, he had the ability to perhaps be an all-conference player.”
With Fermin out, true freshman Jamal Johnson and San Francisco transfer Chris O’Brien could be battling for the starting role. O’Brien played point guard in high school, but his versatility afforded Callero to utilize him on the wing.
With O’Brien potentially filling the spot at point guard, it could also give true freshmen wings Maliik Love and Ben Kelly the chance to play right away.
NCAA rules prohibit Callero from commenting publicly on unsigned recruits, but he did confirm that Morgan made an official visit to the school when the Cal Poly football team upset Montana 35-33 Sept. 11, and that the Mustangs only had one scholarship to offer this fall. Morgan got plenty of attention this summer while playing for his club team. Bob Gottlieb of www.branchwest.com heaped heavy praise on Morgan after he led the Las Vegas Fab 48, a high-profile AAU tournament, in scoring in July.
“I’ve coached for 45 years,” said Gottlieb, the father of ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb and Cal assistant coach Gregg Gottlieb, “and he’s the best shooter I’ve ever coached. He can shoot with anybody anywhere. He’s developed an extremely quick release. He now has deep range. He just is incredibly consistent.”
Gottlieb’s Branch West Basketball Academy specializes in helping under-recruited players get noticed, but with a series of summer games in which Morgan made eight 3-pointers in each, his play did most of the talking.
“I am a shooter, but I also have the ability to do other things,” Morgan said. “I actually though that was a big plus for me when they started denying me the ball, because I could still get my shot up and I could show that I have other abilities.”
In three high school seasons, Morgan hasn’t averaged fewer than 19.5 points, and that was in the year following his recovery from a torn ACL and meniscus tear.
He was the Bay League player of the year as a freshman and led Peninsula High to its first-ever league title. In his best season, Morgan averaged 22 points and nine rebounds as a sophomore. As a junior, he upped his rebound total to 10 per game.
Having scored 43 points in his first CIF-Southern Section divisional playoff game, Morgan said he is tired of individual accolades. He’s focused on getting his team past the second round for the first time this season.
“I just want to win,” Morgan said. “That’s my biggest goal I’ve never led my team past the second round of playoffs, and that kind of bugs me. I want to make a deep run in the playoffs, get some quality wins. Whatever my team needs me to do to win is what I want to do.”