Reese Morgan knows he’s not going to score 30-plus points every game.
“I just kind of try to go out and do what I can,” said the high school senior and Cal Poly men’s basketball signee. “I know some games I’m not going to be able to have 30 points because that’s not what the team’s giving me. So, in that kind of game I just try to run the team more or try not to rush anything, just do what I need to do to help the team.”
Good luck, however, to the prep defenders trying to make that kind of game a reality.
Morgan, a senior at Rolling Hills Estates Peninsula High who’s signed to play for the Mustangs next season, is having a monster year for Panthers, leading them to a 23-1 record entering Tuesday night’s Bay League game at Manhattan Beach Mira Costa, where the team put its 21-game winning streak on the line.
A four-year varsity player who’s led his program to its only two league titles, the book has been out on Morgan for a while. Peninsula coach Jim Quick said he’s seen every kind of gimmick defense that can be thrown at an outside shooter.
Yet Morgan has still managed to compile a 27.8 point-per-game average with a deadly shooting accuracy. He makes 51 percent of his field goal attempts, has 80 3-pointers with one more game left in the regular season and converts on 42 percent of his shots beyond the arc.
In the next few weeks, Morgan will try to answer the question of whether he can deliver Peninsula its first-ever CIF-Southern Section title in the Division 2A playoffs. To those following Cal Poly, the more appropriate question is how well the 6-foot-2, 200-pound guard will be able to replicate his success once he’s in a Mustangs’ uniform.
Cal Poly head coach Joe Callero said he expects Morgan to come to campus ready to start.
“He’s really a pure, pure shooter,” said Callero, who put his recruit on par with anyone in the West. “Here’s a kid that can knock down eight or nine 3-pointers in a game, and he has great range. He shoots three or four feet behind the 3-point line.
“His biggest adjustment will be to the speed of the game and the quickness of the game at the college level. The passing lanes close that much quicker. The opportunities pass that much quicker.”
Morgan, who signed with Cal Poly during the early period in November, is comfortable playing up-tempo.
In a league showdown with Leuzinger last week, Peninsula was baited into a style that was a little too fast-paced, even for a coach named Quick.
Morgan responded with his best game of the season, a 54-point effort with 20 field goals, including five 3-pointers, in an 88-84 overtime victory to help keep the wining streak alive. Ranked 17th in the state by Cal-Hi Sports, the Panthers’ only defeat came in a 58-51 Dec. 3 loss to No. 13 Westchester.
The big game against Leuzinger led to Cal-Hi Sports picking Morgan as its State Athlete of the Week.
Despite the defensive attention he’s received, Morgan has scored 30-plus nine times this season and has gone for 40 or more four times. He went 8 for 10 from 3-point range in one non-league December victory.
He’s also averaging 6.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.9 steals per game.
“Are you going to continue to let the other kids punish you or are you going to make an adjustment?” Quick said. “And when you make an adjustment, Reese takes advantage of you.”
Morgan is completely focused on helping Peninsula make a playoff run.
The team has been bounced from the first round of the playoffs each of the past two seasons. The program has never been past the semifinals, Quick said, and the Panthers have reached the quarterfinals just once since Quick took over the program in 2001.
Community support has been ramping up in anticipation of something special. The gym has been packed, and the success has mirrored the resurrection of a rowdy rooting section called “The Zoo” — where students romp around in animal costumes.
Still, there are times, Morgan said, when he can’t help but look forward to joining Cal Poly.
“I just want to go in there and help the team however I can,” Morgan said. “I don’t really know what to expect. It’s a whole new level for me. I’m just excited to see what happens.”