Former Wolverine Darius Morris on Pistons mini-camp Rod Beard
Auburn Hills — Since they were roommates at Michigan during their playing careers, Darius Morris and Jordan Morgan haven’t seen much of each other.
Morris left after his sophomore season to head to the NBA draft and Morgan finished his senior season and has been playing mostly overseas and in the NBA’s Development League last season.
Their paths crossed again this week.
Both were part of the Pistons’ free-agent mini-camp — an opportunity to impress the team’s scouts, coaches and front office and potentially to earn an invitation to the summer league roster or training camp in the fall.
Morris and Morgan, former pick-and-roll partners with the Wolverines in 2011, were surprised to see each other at the mini-camp.
“I didn’t know until I got here; it was funny. I texted him and asked where he was and he said Michigan,” Morgan said. “We hung out all yesterday after the session. It’s like we’re back in the dorm room and not much has changed.”
As it turns out, their spots in the Pistons locker room were next to each other as well.
Just like old times.
Morris, 26, left UM after his sophomore season, when he averaged 15 points, four rebounds and 6.7 assists, helping the Wolverines begin a streak of four straight trips to the NCAA Tournament. It was a pivotal point in the program’s turnaround — and many thought Morris should have returned for at least one more year.
He still gets those questions, but doesn’t second-guess his decision, especially given how things turned out. After being drafted in the second round by the Lakers, Morris has played four seasons in the NBA and in recovering from an injury, averaged 13.5 points and 4.7 assists with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the D-League.
“In my situation, it worked because of these four years. I landed in a tough situation. A lot of people leave early and don’t get drafted,” Morris said. “The way the draft is going now, they’re drafting a lot more freshmen and sophomores on potential. I look back at my draft and it was a pretty deep class.
“Isaiah Thomas was our 60th pick. Chandler Parsons was in there (38th); Jimmy Butler was the 30th pick. There were only five freshmen picked in the whole draft.”
At 6-foot-4, Morris still is an intriguing option at point guard. And with a full year under his belt in the D-League, teams have a better sense of how his game has developed.
Morgan, 25, is a different case. He’s 6-foot-9 and didn’t go the same path as Morris. He stayed five years at Michigan and has a master’s degree in engineering — a prudent backup plan in case the NBA dream doesn’t work out.
He’s played in Italy’s top division, in Paris and Greece last season, before settling in with the Canton Charge of the D-League. He’s still committed to trying to play in the NBA and is looking to impress teams with his energy and rebounding.
“At this point, I put in way too much work in the game to just give it up. I’m only 25; I can always do that later. I want to make the most of the opportunities I have right now,” Morgan said. “Just as much as I worked at my education for all this time, I worked at basketball, my body and game for my whole life too.
“I have to make use of it while I can because I can’t make the decision to come back and do (the NBA) later.”
In many ways, Morris can provide a blueprint for the path that his former roommate can take to try to stick with an NBA team. The experience that Morris has gleaned in moving from the Lakers for two years to the Sixers, to the Clippers and Grizzlies and finally to the Nets for 38 games in 2014-15 show his resilience.
And a commitment to making it, despite the obstacles.
“He’s been through it all: he’s been drafted, solid on a roster, bounced around and a year in the D-League,” Morgan said of Morris. “He and I talked about that too, what’s next for both of us when it comes to basketball.
“He’s definitely a resource to lean on and get his advice and his input and learn from his experience, going through all this stuff. He came out a couple years before me so he has experience in this league and knows what it takes to make a team.”
More than basketball, though, it was just good to break bread with his good friend. The two had dinner on Tuesday before their big workout on Wednesday and eventually heading their separate ways — to cross paths again another time.
Maybe it’ll be on an NBA court.