BEMIDJI – Morgan Lee didn’t need a whole lot of pushing when she was deciding on where she’d play college basketball.
The Hayward, Wis., native had some options, too. Various Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and Division III teams in her native Wisconsin wanted her to play for them.
“I had a visit here in Bemidji one time in the fall and I just really fell in love with it, so I signed,” said Bemidji State’s junior guard and team scoring leader. “It just felt like home.”
Her high school coach, she said, mostly stayed out of the picture.
“He was very happy,” Lee said with a laugh. “He ultimately made it my decision, but I could tell he was happy about it (when I told him).”
It should be mentioned that her high school coach at Hayward High was her dad, David Lee. As in, Bemidji State’s all-time scoring leader.
He played for the Beaver men’s team from 1984-88, setting numerous records. He was inducted to the BSU Athletics Hall of Fame this Saturday.
“It was her decision,” David said. “Her junior year she had a lot of teams in the mix. But she kind of surprised me one day when she told me she wanted to go play for BSU.”
Morgan’s choice to attend BSU gave the entire Lee clan more reason to keep coming back to Bemidji.
David’s wife, Rhonda, is also a BSU graduate and has family in Blackduck. Morgan’s younger sister, Tatum, is also a BSU student. Ricki, the youngest, is a senior in high school and currently plays for her dad on the Hayward Hurricanes.
“I was happy about it for sure,” David said. “It’s brought me back to Bemidji. I’ve been able to reunite with the school and the community in a much bigger way.”
David was inducted to the BSU Athletics Hall of Fame this Saturday. As it happened, Morgan and the Beaver women took on Sioux Falls that day.
“I’m just really honored to be included with some of the other athletes that have played at BSU,” David said. “And being able to watch my daughter play at the same time… it’s just really cool.”
Like father, like daughter
BSU head women’s coach Mike Curfman said he didn’t recruit Morgan because her dad was a well-known Beaver alumnus – he wanted her because she could flat-out shoot.
“She’s just such a great shooter and a great 3-point shooter,” Curfman said. “I’ve been really pleased this year with how her game’s advanced. She’s doing more from inside the 3-point line than she has been in years past, and that’s something we’re going to need her to do going forward.”
That jump shot has helped Morgan average 11.3 points per game through three and a half seasons at BSU; she’s currently sixth all-time on BSU’s list of career 3-pointers made (132). She currently leads the Beavers with 14.1 ppg through 18 games.
“I always told her, if you can shoot, you can play anywhere and a coach will find a spot for you to play in any situation,” David said. “I helped her with that a bit, but she really had the drive and the determination to do it on her own. She was always in the driveway shooting and working on her jumper.”
Morgan says David helped her with that shot – especially developing a midrange jumper. It’s something she thinks she and her dad share in common.
“A lot of girls don’t have one and that’s something that can really give you different ways of scoring throughout the game,” she said. “I’d say my 3 is kinda my baby. It’s always kind of been my favorite shot, and how I’d like to score. But then I realized coming to the college level you also need to find other ways to score.”
That, said Curfman, is why he relies on Morgan in every game – she’s a good student of the game and learns from her mistakes quickly.
“She understands the game of basketball. I think she gets the physical and mental side of the game,” Curfman said. “There’s no doubt she’s one of our go-to players.
“She’s someone we have to lean on to consistently look to score, because of her ability on the outside. The attention other teams pay her; it helps open things up for other people. On the other teams’ scouting report I’m sure she’s the first person they’re talking about.”
David lit up BSU gyms
Of course, having a Lee as the one player on the floor that gets his number circled on every opposing scoring report is nothing new at BSU.
David remains BSU’s all-time leading scorer with 2,034 points, has two of the top 10 single-season scoring record totals, tops the list in field goals made and free throws made and, until last season, was the Beavers’ all-time assist leader.
“I’ve gotten to watch a couple tapes of him or whatever, but one thing I noticed was he could jump out of the gym,” Morgan said. “So that was kinda cool. And I guess we both have really good shots. We’re both scorers, basically. That’s the best part of our games.”
David originally hails from West Aurora, Ill. While the suburbs of Chicago might not be as fertile ground for BSU recruiting as, say, the Twin Cities or Wisconsin, David said there was a connection there. Then BSU head coach Carl Salscheider had connections in Chicago.
But originally, Salscheider was recruiting his teammate.
“He came down to watch us in the state tournament,” David said. “He was actually recruiting my 6-foot-7 teammate. But after one of the games he liked my style and talked to me.
“I went up there for a recruiting visit and I really loved it.”
In his four years at BSU, the Beavers went just 50-65. But David played with some very good players, including current Indiana associate head coach Tim Buckley, who also hails from West Aurora and was inducted to the BSU Hall of Fame last year.
“I had some pretty good teammates on those teams throughout the years,” David said.
Many of the people that David played with (and for) still hang around. For Morgan, one of the best things about attending BSU was being able to see them.
“I thought it was kinda cool coming here and knowing people my dad knew,” she said. “Coach Salscheider is always around, so it was kind of cool to see him.”
After graduating from BSU with a physical education degree and a health minor, David coached briefly at Rockford College with former teammate Buckley before moving to Hayward. He’s coached girls basketball there for 22 seasons.
“All three of my daughters have come through and played for me,” he said. “I’m really lucky that we’ve had a lot of team success during that time.”
Morgan doesn’t plan on following her dad’s footsteps in that regard.
She’s a sport management major with a marketing minor and would like to work for a pro or college team someday. But she’s grateful that she’s been able to learn from him as a coach and a dad.
“He’s definitely helped me achieve a lot of my goals, so it’s really cool having him always be there for advice,” she said. “He’s helped me do a lot.”