‘Outwork everyone’: Mitchell’s Steele Morgan earning his place in long line of family hoopers
Entering the final weekend of the regular season, Morgan is averaging 12.1 points (second on Mitchell’s roster), 7.1 rebounds (a team-high) and 2.1 assists per game for the Kernels.
MITCHELL — Steele Morgan comes from a storied line of basketball players.
As such, it can be easy to chalk the Mitchell High School senior’s success up to being born into the right family. Given the success of his father, Wes, and uncle, Scott, Steele Morgan has definitely heard that noise before.
But assuming the process of becoming a hardwood standout comes as some sort of birthright would be a disservice to what’s brought Morgan — as well as those who came before him — to this point.
“I've always wanted it really bad, but I feel like I’ve got to make a name for myself,” Morgan said. “I can't rely on, ‘Oh, that's Wes’s son’ or ‘That’s Scott's nephew’ or whatever.”
“Here's what people get wrong. It's like, ‘Oh, he's got the last name,’" explained MHS head coach Ryker Kreutzfeldt. “But the reason all these people with the last name (succeed) — like the Morgans and the Millers — they all outwork everybody.”
The story is no different for Steele Morgan, and it’s why he’ll be able to extend his career at the college level, having committed to Dakota Wesleyan earlier this month.
Kreutzfeldt recalls that in middle school, Morgan was regularly playing second- and third-team basketball and “was not a good basketball player” at that time. It’s almost hard to comprehend that when watching a Kernels game in 2023, with Morgan flashing both guard and forward traits, depending on where his 6-foot-5 Morgan is on the court.
“He's grown in so many aspects, and the reason is because he's outworked everybody,” Kreutzfeldt said of Morgan’s development. “Every day it was a thing for him, getting to the gym, getting shots up. Now, he’s got the ability to score over guys that are bigger than him in the post and the ability to hit big outside shots. And he's just a tough, smart player.”
What Morgan’s lineage has provided, however, is a group of family members to watch and learn from and the drive to follow in their footsteps.
From growing up at MHS girls basketball games while Wes was coaching or playing with and against his cousins on the gravel at the family farm, Morgan has taken bits and pieces from each basketball experience, and they’re what has shaped him into the player he is today.
Though he’s undersized compared to many of the other big men in Class AA, he’s managed to turn that into an advantage. He’s quicker and more comfortable on the perimeter, allowing him to step out and knock down 3-pointers at a 37% clip if the opposing defender doesn’t follow. Or, if an adjustment is made to put a smaller defender, Morgan will back them down and get a good look near the rim.
When it comes to which he prefers, Morgan isn’t partial. Staying true to his playing style, he’ll take whatever’s given to him.
“I like both,” Morgan said. “Hyping up the crowd with a 3-pointer here and there, but it’s also fun banging down low against some other guy and just kicking the crap out of ‘em.”
“He's kind of a throwback guy,” Kreutzfeldt added. “He's not just gonna put his shoulder down and mow you over, and he's not gonna shoot the fadeaway. He's going to deliberately back you down and diagnose what you are going to give him. Can I spin? Up and under? Shoot my post hook? That's so hard to do as a high schooler, to play that composed, and he does it every night.”
Last season, Morgan’s first as a starter for the Kernels, he was an all-Eastern South Dakota Conference performer. This season, Kreutzfeldt thinks another all-conference honor should be on the way, at minimum, with the added belief Morgan should get consideration for Class AA all-state.
Entering the final weekend of the regular season, Morgan is averaging second on the team in scoring with 12.1 points and boasts a team-best 7.1 rebounds per game to go along with 2.1 assists per game for the Kernels, who are 14-4 ahead of back-to-back games against O’Gorman on Friday and at Brandon Valley on Saturday.
At the same time, the ever-stoic Morgan has expanded his leadership role within the Kernel program.
“He's just not a vocal guy, but he leads by example every day,” Kreutzfeldt said of Morgan. “Every team needs a guy like him, that can score inside and outside and can make good decisions.”
If the Kernels are to make it to the Class AA state tournament for the third-straight season and challenge for a championship, it’s almost certain Morgan will be heavily involved. And for Morgan, one of seven seniors for Mitchell, there isn’t a way he’d rather go out.
“Hopefully, we get these next two against O’Gorman and Brandon Valley and then get a high seed to play at the Corn Palace in the SoDak 16,” he said. “And then I’m looking forward, because I think we can make a big run at the state tournament.”