NSSA Weekend: Guy Morgan remembers his days at Wake Forest

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 15, 2011

By Mike London
SALISBURY — In his dark suit and crisp shirt, Munden Guy Morgan made his hand-shaking rounds at NSSA festivities and looked like a prosperous, 50-year-old marketing executive is supposed to look.
Morgan, the tall half of Morgan Smalls Sports Consultants, would’ve blended into the crowd except it’s hard to stay anonymous at 6-foot-8. People look up to Morgan in the business world, and they literally looked up at him with craned necks at Salisbury’s Holiday Inn over the weekend.
No one asked, “How’s the weather up there, big fella?,’ but most suspected there was serious roundball in the tall man’s past.
Wake Forest fans with long memories would still recognize him. His haircut has changed a bit, but his features and weight remain unaltered by three decades.
Die-hard fans of ACC basketball in the late 1970s and early 1980s — right before the shotclock and 3-point shot came in— haven’t forgotten him. Back then, sportswriters, clever group that they are, liked to refer to Guy Morgan as “Sky” Morgan.
He could play. He forced Dean Smith to call timeout. He dealt on Ralph Sampson. He beat Clemson by himself one time.
Morgan was the first monster prep star from the Norfolk-Virginia Beach metropolitan area known as Hampton Roads. J.R. Reid, Alonzo Mourning, Allen Iverson and Ronald Curry spilled out of that region on a trail blazed by Morgan, who made Parade, McDonald’s and Adidas All-America teams.
The ACC feverishly chased Morgan during his banner senior year of 1977-78 because his grades matched his skills. Despite astounding averages of 26 points and 13 boards, Morgan stayed well-grounded.
“My coach, Alton Hill, had played at Atlantic Christian,” Morgan said. “I learned solid fundamentals more than flash.”
Morgan took official visits to Virginia and N.C. State. Next was Wake Forest.
“The catch was that my parents went along with me to Wake,” Morgan said.
Morgan felt comfortable with the smaller campus, while his mother was charmed by devout, sincere coach Carl Tacy.
“Gentleman Carl,” said Morgan, grinning at the memory. “Wake was a great opportunity. Rod Griffin and Leroy McDonald were leaving. I was supposed to visit UNC right after Wake. That visit got canceled.”
Morgan became part of a fab four hyped as the finest class in Wake history. Besides Morgan, there was bruising center Jim Johnstone, streaky guard Mike Helms and athletic Alvis Rogers, the leading scorer on a scary Washington (N.C.) team that included Dominique Wilkins. The quartet arrived in Winston-Salem with trumpets blowing and black and gold confetti sprinkling — and promptly got humbled by the league.
The ACC was unbelievable then.
“For two years, we took a beating,” Morgan said. “Every team was good.”
Morgan’s last two seasons were strong — 21-9 and 22-7. If Rogers hadn’t suffered a knee injury as a senior, hoops history might’ve been recorded differently.
Morgan recalls devastating losses. Virginia’s Ricky Stokes beat Wake with an OT buzzer-beater in the 1981 ACC tournament. That same year, the Deacons fell to Memphis State 56-55 in the NCAAs.
Morgan also had high times, such as winning the Big Four Tournament in Greensboro his junior year and whipping UNC, the eventual national champ, his senior year.
“We went over to Carmichael Auditorium and got up on them by a large margin — I remember Dean Smith having to take a timeout early,” Morgan said.
There also was that game against Clemson and Larry Nance in 1981. Morgan scored Wake’s last nine in a 73-71 victory.
Morgan could suddenly soar for blocked shots or stickbacks, but he was steady rather than spectacular in the stat-book. Tacy counted on him for 10 points and seven boards nightly, and he did it while shooting 55 percent on feathery 12-footers.
Morgan was team MVP twice and finished his career with 1,128 points and 703 rebounds, but he was never All-ACC in a league that boasted a galaxy of superstars.
He gets asked often who was the toughest he had to defend. He can’t answer — there were just too many great ones. He does make sure to mention N.C. State’s Thurl Bailey as the most underrated.
“He could do everything,” Morgan said.
In the 1982 NBA Draft, Morgan, Johnstone and Helms had their names called, the only time Wake’s had three players chosen. Morgan was a second-rounder. The Indiana Pacers made him the 40th pick.
Morgan’s NBA career was brief. Eight games, 46 minutes, 15 points — no regrets.
“People say it’s cutthroat,” Morgan said. “Yes, it’s a business, but my time with the Pacers, playing with guys like Clark Kellogg, was a wonderful experience.”
He played some pro ball in Italy. Then he finished up work on his degree. He worked for years with Florida State athletics, but mostly he’s stayed involved in sports marketing — primarily golf and racing.
Morgan’s son, Guy II, answers to Buddy. He’s a sophomore at Ronald Reagan High, near Winston-Salem, and is making an impact in basketball, football and track.
For some reason, Buddy is 6-1.
“He fell in between his mother and me,” Morgan said cheerfully. “He says he got gypped on the height, but he’s a good athlete. I support him, but I don’t push him in sports. I do try to push him academically.”
If Buddy is anything like his father, we’ll be hearing from him down the road.