UMass had the look of a team capable of challenging for a bid to the NCAA tournament until January 10, when junior guard Jesse Morgan was lost for the season after suffering a torn ACL in a road loss to Saint Louis.
According to Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette that may be the last time the Philadelphia native suits up for the Minutemen, as Morgan was reportedly forced to withdraw voluntarily from the school for disciplinary reasons.
According to Vautour’s report, the decision stems from an undisclosed incident that resulted in Morgan being suspended for UMass’ November 3 exhibition against American International.
Morgan returned to the floor following the suspension and was a key cog in the attack for Derek Kellogg, averaging 13.4 points and 2.9 rebounds per game.
Morgan combined with electric point guard Chaz Williams to form one of the Atlantic 10’s best perimeter tandems, but that all changed when he injured his knee just minutes into UMass’ conference opener against Saint Louis.
UMass finished the 2012-13 season with a record of 21 wins and 12 losses (9-7 Atlantic 10), falling just short of their goal to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998. The Minutemen dropped their Postseason NIT opener against Stony Brook.
UMass has to account for the loss of four key contributors from last season: guards Morgan and Freddie Riley (8.8 ppg) and forwards Sampson Carter (6.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and Terrell Vinson (12.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg). Also there’s a chance that wing Javorn Farrell, who did not play last season due to an ankle injury, may look to finish his career at another school (Farrell has graduated and would be eligible immediately).
But the Minutemen will still have talent on the perimeter due to the return of Williams and the addition of Western Kentucky transfer Derrick Gordon. Gordon was one of the Sun Belt’s best newcomers in his one season at WKU, playing an instrumental role in the Hilltoppers’ surprising run to the 2012 Sun Belt tournament crown.
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.