The end of the Cal Poly men’s basketball season was a well-trodden parade of pain for Reese Morgan.
When he wasn’t icing to avoid throbbing in his left knee, he was seeking out sports massages to help keep him on the court. Even then, sometimes he practiced. Other times, he didn’t.
And Morgan’s production, which waned down the stretch after a midseason spike, was directly proportional to his knee health.
“Toward the end of the year,” Morgan said, “it started to get more and more sore. I wasn’t as explosive.
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“Some games, I felt pretty good, up to 90 percent or so.”
So, Morgan is going back under the knife, and he may be sidelined for his entire sophomore season.
The 6-foot-2 sharp-shooting guard will undergo his third knee surgery in a handful of years later this month as doctors will try to restabilize an ACL he originally tore during his prep career at Palos Verdes Penninsula High.
Morgan recovered from the initial surgery and became a Parade All-American his senior season, averaging 27.3 points and 7.3 rebounds while leading Peninsula to the quarterfinals of the CIF Division II state tournament.
Morgan redshirted his first year in San Luis Obispo after tearing his meniscus, and even after surgery, the injury nagged him throughout this past season, after which it was determined that the repaired ligament had grown loose.
“My first step isn’t as quick as it used to be,” Morgan said. “It’s hard to elevate off that knee. Sometimes I find myself protecting it. I’m not the most athletic guy in the world as it is, but pushing off wasn’t easy toward the end of the year. I lost some quickness, but I think that’s all going to be taken care of.”
The recovery time could be as little as six months post-surgery, Morgan said, which is scheduled for June 24.
A late-December return is not out of the question, but Cal Poly head coach Joe Callero must proceed as if he’ll lose Morgan indefinitely.
“He’s 20 years old, and he’s had a history of knee injuries,” Callero said, “but he is a very tough kid. He’s a passionate kid. He hasn’t lost his spirit, his spunk to rehab it for another year and come back and give it more than a good old effort to come back and extend his career and get back here and play.”
Morgan was a prime candidate to fill the starting spot vacated by graduating senior and former Morro Bay High star Dylan Royer, another 3-point specialist, but those minutes will now fall to someone else.
After ranking 18th in the country shooting 42.9 percent from 3-point range this past season and finishing his career ranked fifth in program history with 169 3s, Royer was given the Hustle Award at Friday night’s year-end team banquet.
He was honored alongside fellow seniors Chris O’Brien and Drake U’u. O’Brien was voted most inspirational after coming back from a torn ACL that wiped out his junior season. A dean’s list selection, U’u earned the team’s Academic Award.
Team MVP Chris Eversley, who averaged 15.4 points and seven rebounds last season, returns for his senior year. Center Brian Bennett is also back to build on a standout true freshman campaign.
The Mustangs, who set program records for home victories and Big West Conference wins and culminated the season with the program’s first national postseason tournament berth, will need to find at least two new starters.
Returning senior guard Kyle Odister was the team’s second-leading 3-point threat last season, shooting 37 percent from long range.
Odister could easily enter the starting lineup after averaging 17.9 minutes per game.
The other spot could go to junior college transfer David Nwaba, a 6-4 swingman from Santa Monica College and Los Angeles University High who originally began his college career at Hawaii Pacific.
With the offseason transfer of former Mission Prep standout Zach Allmon, Cal Poly has one scholarship unaccounted for. The Mustangs have yet to announce their plans for utilizing the scholarship, but it could go to a guard who may help alleviate the loss of Morgan.
The Mustangs also signed three other guards in the early period.
Richmond Salesian standout Markel Leonard is more of a pure point guard. Six-foot combo guard Ridge Shipley of Hebron (Texas) High and 6-3 off guard Taylor Sutlive of San Antonio (Texas) Churchill High could also play as freshmen.
“Both the Texas kids have advanced skill level and have played against big-time players and big-time athletes,” Callero said.
“Shipley and Sutlive both can really handle the ball, pass, dribble, shoot and score it. They’re not as physically developed as Reese getting rebounds, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they came in and had double-figure points in a game.”