Matt Morgan

Former Cox Mill boys basketball star Matt Morgan (10) had a stellar career at Cornell University.

CONCORD – Here’s why I love to watch the NBA and NFL drafts – and the MLB draft, too, although it’s much harder to keep up with than the other two:

I love to see people become millionaires right before our very eyes. I love to see dreams come true.

C. Jemal Horton

Sports editor, C. Jemal Horton

jhorton@independenttribune.com

That’s what we get when the commissioners of these leagues announce the draft picks and summon them from the Green Room to the podium. It’s like watching at least 30 lottery winners at the moment they hear their numbers announced on TV, except basketball, football and baseball players didn’t get lucky after using their children’s birthdays to fill out a ticket.

These athletes work hard for most of their young lives to have the chance to hear their names called, and it does my heart good to see the players and their families celebrate after seeing that hard work pay off.

During Thursday night’s NBA draft, that’s what I’ll be looking forward to the most.

I normally don’t have a vested interest in individual players in the NBA draft because, well, let’s just say my favorite major college basketball team (Georgetown) hasn’t had a player of that caliber in a while. But this year, I’ll be watching closely for someone I’ve gotten to know pretty well since I came to the Independent Tribune in late 2014.

Matt Morgan.

If you follow high school basketball in Cabarrus County, you know who Morgan is: a former Cox Mill star. An Independent Tribune Co-Player of the Year. A scholar and a gentleman.

After graduating in 2015 as Cox Mill’s all-time leading scorer (until Wendell Moore Jr. arrived on campus), Morgan went up to New York’s Cornell University and started leaving his name throughout the Ivy League record books.

During his four-year assault, Morgan put up more points than any freshman in Ivy League history, became a Lou Henson All-American, ended as Cornell’s career scoring leader (2,333) and left in second place on the conference’s all-time scoring list. Morgan was consistently among the nation’s top point-getters, and NBA scouts started following him closely.

It was Steph Curry at Davidson-esque.

Turns out the kid that pretty much every major program in North Carolina ignored was pretty good.

Now while we won’t hear Morgan’s name called in the first round of the draft, and maybe not in the second round, he does have a chance Thursday night. An honest-to-goodness chance.

At one point, at least one mock draft, www.NBADraft.net, had Morgan being chosen in the second round (57th overall) by the hometown Charlotte Hornets. That’s a great sign.

What’s more, Morgan is being represented by one of the most high-powered sports agencies around, Klutch Sports, which is run by the LeBron James’ agent, Rich Paul.

Trust me, these guys don’t sign you if you’re not good, and they don’t link up with players for whom there’s no interest from pro teams.

It’s a great sign for Morgan, who, if chosen, would become the first Cabarrus County player ever to be selected in the NBA draft. He could join Central Cabarrus High School graduate and recent Detroit Pistons point guard Ish Smith, who was a free-agent pickup by the league several years ago, as an NBA player.

Even if he doesn’t get drafted, Morgan’s future is bright. For one thing, regardless what happens Thursday, he’ll almost certainly get invited to an NBA team’s camp. Depending on what happens there, he could opt to get a nice deal overseas or begin a journey in the NBA’s G-League.

I think Morgan’s good enough to be drafted Thursday night, but I realized I’m biased in this case. Like I said, I’m a sucker for the stories of kids seeing their dreams come true.

And I don’t know the story of any kid hoping to get drafted the way I know Morgan’s.

Plus, his daddy, Lamont, played for Georgetown back in the day, so I’m hoping some Hoya blood gets into the draft by default.

Random draft thoughts

-- I realize I might be the only guy in America who thinks this, but I believe Murray State point guard Ja Morant is the best player in the draft. If I were picking for the New Orleans Pelicans, I’d take Morant over Duke’s Zion Williamson in a heartbeat. Zion is going to sell more tickets, but Morant will be a better winner.

-- I wish UNC forward Nassir Little had stayed in school. He’s projected as a late lottery pick, so I get why he declared for the draft after his freshman season with the Tar Heels. But I don’t think he’s ready to be a pro – on the court or otherwise. The 6-foot-6 Little seemed to sulk much of the season, and when he came in off the bench, he didn’t live up to the hype most of the time. After announcing he was leaving, he claimed Tar Heel coaches didn’t use him the right way and that he had so much more to his game to show. During the season, he once complained about the hype surrounding Duke’s Zion Williamson. It’s all a lack of maturity, and that’s just as important to doing well in the NBA as one’s basketball skills.

-- I’m anxious to see where – or if – N.C. State signee Jalen Lecque gets drafted. Lecque played five years of high school basketball after “reclassing” and discovered he could make himself available for the draft since he would be a full year removed from his original graduating class in 2018, per NBA draft rules. Reclassing – when a player intentionally repeats a grade -- has become a common practice locally in recent years. I wonder if more high school kids will try to take the Lecque route if he gets chosen Thursday. On most mock drafts, Lecque is slotted as a late second-round pick.

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