Murfreesboro man elected to CIAA Hall of Fame

Published 5:26 pm Monday, March 21, 2011

HAMPTON, Va. – A Murfreesboro man has joined the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Hall of Fame.

James Morgan, who played basketball at Maryland State College (now the University of Maryland Eastern Shore), was inducted into the Hall of Fame during the CIAA tournament in March.

“It was indeed an honor, especially with the CIAA being a historically black conference and the competition that it has,” Morgan said. “When I played, you really got to know the guys from the other teams.”

Morgan was part of the first CIAA team to finish the regular season undefeated when Maryland State posted a 29-0 record during the 1969-70 season. After that season, he was named to the All-CIAA team and the All-CIAA Tournament Team.

A native of Norfolk, Virginia, Morgan graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1962. His first love was football, but destiny seemed to lead Morgan to basketball.

He joined the United States Naval Air Reserves while in his junior year at Washington High. The six-year program required him to go active for two years, which he did after high school.

It was after leaving the Navy that Morgan drove a friend to tryouts at Maryland State.

According to his nomination, Maryland State needed a warm body and coach Vernon “Skip” McCain called Morgan out of the bleachers , put sneakers on him and put him in the game. Afterwards, the coach talked to him about coming there.

It didn’t happen quickly, but Morgan eventually enrolled at Maryland State College in the fall of 1966.  He played for the Hawks all four seasons and excelled during his time there.

Between his time in high school and the age of 25, Morgan grew seven inches and measured 6’-8”, but was still only 198 pounds.  During his freshman season, a reporter nicknamed him “Bones” and that name stuck.

Morgan may have been small, but he was big on the boards where he pulled down 1,741 rebounds during his career at Maryland State. He still holds the CIAA record for career rebounds. The record is sometimes assigned to others, because MSC is no longer affiliated with the CIAA, but Morgan leads everyone in that category including Rick Mahorn, who went on to play in the NBA.

Morgan was twice named to the CIAA All-Tournament Team, including at the end of the 1970 regular season when the Hawks finished as runner up in the CIAA championship game. Morgan still scored 23 points and grabbed 18 rebounds.

Nationally, Morgan finished second in the NAIA with 23.3 rebounds in the 1967-68 season and played on the NAIA quarterfinalist Hawk team in 1970.

In addition, Morgan is seventh in all-time scoring at Maryland State with 1,554 points and finished first and third in rebounds per season with 518 in 1970 and 471 in 1968.

Morgan said making the CIAA tournament was an accomplishment in his playing days. With 16 teams in the league, only the top four teams in each division qualified.

Morgan went on to be drafted in the seventh round by the Seattle Supersonics in 1970.

He went on to play in the Eastern Basketball League (now the Continental Basketball Association) for more than a decade. In addition, he played in the Charles Baker Memorial League well into his 40s.

Morgan said that playing in a league that was as good as the CIAA carried over into his professional career.

“They said they thought I was great, but I told them they should have seen some of the other guys,” Morgan said. “They didn’t know where Maryland State was, but everyone knew the CIAA.”

Morgan was also inducted into the Hall of Fame at the University of Maryland – Eastern Shore.

During the induction into the CIAA Hall of Fame, Morgan received support from many of those he played against and said he appreciated their support.

He called the induction ceremony a first-class event.

“It was great,” he said. “The CIAA is a first-class organization. (Commissioner) Mr. (Leon) Kerry runs a class operation.”

Morgan said after he settled in Murfreesboro, he was glad to see Chowan University join the league.

“I’m glad Chowan is in the CIAA since I live in Murfreesboro now,” he said. “I think they are going to love it; there’s a great camaraderie between the schools.”

Morgan was joined at the ceremony by many friends and family.