The last time Vaughn Morgan played an organized basketball game in Pittsburgh, it was a 2009 PIAA first-round playoff contest at Allderdice High School.
Morgan's Perry squad, the City League champions, fell to Chartiers Valley, 79-69, and Morgan began a basketball journey soon after.
Morgan graduated from Perry that spring and went west to California, then down deep in the heart of Texas.
The next time Morgan takes the court, though, it will be back in Western Pennsylvania, playing for Robert Morris.
A 6-6, 235-pound forward, Morgan signed a scholarship agreement with the Colonials last month and has been on campus for more than three weeks, working out and taking classes.
"It feels good," Morgan said. "Most of my family hasn't been able to see me play since high school, so it feels good to be playing back in Pittsburgh."
Despite leading the Commodores to that City League title in 2009, scoring 18.3 points and grabbing 7.9 rebounds per game, Morgan said he didn't have much Division I interest coming out of high school. He had offers from a few Division II schools, but opted to attend junior college in Bakersfield, Calif., instead.
Asked why he chose the junior college route, Morgan smiled and simply said, "California, man."
Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said the Colonials kept an eye on Morgan in high school, and Toole attended a handful of Perry games as an assistant to former head coach Mike Rice.
Toole said academic concerns and other factors prevented the Colonials from offering Morgan a scholarship out of high school, but he and his staff were watching.
After a year in California, Morgan transferred to Southwestern Christian College in Terrell, Texas, with an eye on moving to a Division I program after two years.
"I just knew that it would be a better school to get grades and I was going to start [on the basketball team,]" Morgan said.
As a sophomore, Morgan averaged 16.1 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. He said he had offers to transfer to TCU, Mississippi State, Duquesne and Fordham, among others. He said the deciding factors that drew him to the Colonials were "being close to home and knowing I could be a factor on the team."
Because he is transferring from a junior college, Morgan is eligible to play for the Colonials this season.
"He's physically mature enough and mentally mature enough to come in and help right away," Toole said. "I think he's going to be someone that's going to be able to make 15- to 17-foot jump shots from our frontcourt position, which is going to be a benefit because it allows guys to penetrate and get into the lane."
For now, Morgan is living on campus and working out with his new teammates. He said he visits his parents on weekends, and they're certainly glad to have him back in Pittsburgh.
They, along with several other members of Morgan's family, will be in the crowd when Morgan begins his Robert Morris career in the fall. After three years of playing in front of unfamiliar crowds thousands of miles away, it will be welcome.
As for finally playing at a Division I level, Morgan realizes how far he has come. But he still has plenty of goals for the next two seasons.
"It feels like I've accomplished something," he said, "but it's just a stepping stone to get to a higher level."
First Published June 7, 2012 12:30 AM