CEDAR FALLS — Becoming an upperclassman in college athletics comes with added responsibility. Northern Iowa guard Mikaela Morgan, in her junior season, was mentioned by head coach Tanya Warren before the season began as someone whom the Panthers would look to for more production on and off the floor.
Seventeen games into her junior season, Morgan acknowledges the added responsibilities that have come with being an upperclassmen have been hard, but she didn’t hesitate to embrace her new roles.
“This season I have (had to) be more of a leader and more of an aggressive contributor on the offensive end,” Morgan said. “It’s been hard to step in this role. Picking up those younger girls and bringing them in to what we do — the UNI way and how we play — that’s what I’ve been able to do so far this season.”
The Iowa City West alumna has made use of her older brother, Jeremy, who’s currently with the NBA G-League’s Memphis Hustle. Jeremy was the unquestioned leader of last year’s UNI men’s basketball team and was regarded throughout his entire Panther career as an excellent teammate with a bright basketball mind. Mikaela and Jeremy keep in touch via Facetime and Snapchat and routinely watch each other’s games.
While Mikaela hasn’t been satisfied with her offensive production through her first 17 games this season, she hasn’t allowed herself to forget the advice she’s gotten from her older brother.
“(Jeremy) has always told me to keep doing what I’m doing and the game will come to me,” Morgan said. “That the game will come to me offensively and if I keep doing what I’m doing on the defensive end, and getting my teammates more involved, and being positive and all those things then the game will come.”
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After an unsatisfying start to the season Northern Iowa, (8-9, 4-2) has rallied to win five of its last seven games. With a roster that is Warren’s youngest of her 11 years at UNI, Morgan attributes the recent turnaround to herself and her teammates settling into their roles.
“I think that we have come together collectively as a team and people are starting to get comfortable in what their role is on this team,” Morgan said. “We have been able to execute a lot more on both ends of the floor.”
Up next for UNI is its stiffest test of the conference season: a trip to Des Moines to play first-place Drake (11-7, 6-0) at 7 p.m. Friday.
“We’re going to have to hit shots and get defensive stops,” Morgan said. “If we can hold them like we do every other team and play really great defense, then are able to execute on the offensive end we’re going to be in pretty good shape.”