Clarksville, Ark.-University of the Ozarks freshman Jason Morgan is wired to compete, no matter the court.
Morgan is a dual-sport athlete at Ozarks, playing on both the varsity tennis team and men’s basketball junior varsity squad. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound native of Jonesboro has made a smooth transition from basketball to tennis. In just his first year at the collegiate level, he has established himself as the No. 1 singles player on the tennis team.
“Being able to come here and do both has been awesome,” said Morgan. “I couldn’t ask for a better situation. I just love competing. I don’t feel pressure about playing No. 1 as a freshman. I really don’t think about what position I am playing, I just want to go out there and win.”
Head Men’s Tennis Coach Shaun Wiseman believes Morgan has an uncanny ability to withstand pressure situations.
“Jason loves pressure,” said Wiseman. “Some guys crumble and others want it. He is an incredible fighter. His ability to rise and pick up his game when it is crunch time is something that rubs off on his teammates.”
Wiseman also appreciates the unselfishness Morgan has displayed.
“It is about the team with him,” said Wiseman. “In college, tennis is a team sport as much as basketball.
I think having a team basketball mentality helps him in tennis. He will have a number of accolades before he leaves here, but to him it is about the team.”
Morgan makes no mistake about it, he wants the team to qualify for the American Southwest Conference post-season tournament.
“I have more goals for the team than I do for myself,” said Morgan. “I really want to go to the conference tournament. It doesn’t matter how many matches I win if the team doesn’t get to go. I don’t think that much about awards, I just take it one match at a time.”
Morgan has posted a 6-6 singles record, and has made a mark in the competitive American Southwest Conference.
“The match that stands out to me is the LeTourneau match,” said Wiseman. “He left everything he had on the court. After the match, the No. 1 player from LeTourneau complemented Jason and said they were not looking forward to seeing him the next three years. Jason is a legitimate No. 1 player in our conference.”
Morgan specifically remembers a match against NCAA I Centenary College earlier in the spring as a turning point.
“I won that match in a third-setter,” said Morgan. “I beat him in a tie-breaker. That is probably the one match that sticks out in my mind the most this year. I knew I could compete at the college level.”
Morgan came to Ozarks after a successful two-sport career at Jonesboro High School. He helped JHS to the state basketball tournament his senior season, and in tennis, he helped the Hurricanes capture the state championship. That season, he won a singles championship as well.
“There is a lot more responsibility in tennis,” said Morgan. “When you are out there, it is you and that is it. If you want to win, it is all on you. That is one thing I like about tennis. If you lose, it is because of your performance. If you win, it is because of what you did. I love tennis because it is so competitive.”
While Ozarks will not make the post-season this year, Morgan knows the program is headed in the right direction under the current coaching staff.
“I think we have a good future together,” said Morgan. “We’ll have a real strong team as we continue to develop. Coach Wiseman has been great. He treats the players well and makes us feel at home. He is willing to do anything for us. Assistant Coach Travis Smith has helped me out with my ground strokes and developing my game. I am a much better player now than I was last year.”
Morgan’s competitive nature is exactly what every coach dreams about, according to Wiseman.
“He is a competitor,” said Wiseman. “He wants to win every time he goes out there and he expects to win every time he goes out there. He has a hunger. He comes to practice and works hard and makes sure he is exhausted afterwards. He’ll even come to the courts whenever he has free time at night. I can’t wait to have him for the next three years. He is exactly what a coach wants in a tennis player.”
He is the son of Jay Morgan and Pam Jenkins.
Ozarks will end the season in St. Louis this weekend. The Eagles will face Missouri Baptist University April 8 and Fontbonne University April 9.