NEWPORT, R.I. – Under the bright fluorescent lights of Salve Regina University’s Rodgers Recreation Center, Morgan Shuey stood on the north end of the basketball court, waiting for her turn.
Once it was her turn, Shuey hit the floor, did a push up, popped back up in a jump and hit the floor again, repeating the process several times before taking off in a full-court sprint with half of her teammates. The workout was repeated a few times, broken up occasionally for a free-throw drill as a warm up for Salve Regina’s basketball practice last Thursday night.
The practice, which included one-on-one work against teammates and ball movement drills, was capped off on a stand-alone free-throw shot by Shuey.
Shuey, after missing the first one, swished the second to end practice on a high note.
The two and a half hour practice was nothing out of the ordinary for the former Southwest Valley standout. However, the venue was slightly different than what she had been accustomed to in southwest Iowa.
The discovery of Salve Regina University came in the spring of Shuey’s sophomore year of high school, and while the main focus at the time was staying local to Iowa for college, help from an AAU basketball coach introduced her to the school.
“The person who was helping me work and train in basketball was Josh Sussman,” said Shuey. “He actually went to Salve for a couple of years and kind of introduced me to the school. ... He said why not send out some film to get my name out [there], ... I said why not, but primarily I was looking for schools in the Midwest.”
And while some may find the mere idea of being that far from home terrifying, Shuey never had any doubt in her mind on where she wanted be later in life. In fact, she knew exactly where she wanted to be long before graduating from Southwest Valley.
“At first, I was a sophomore in high school,” said Shuey when asked when she knew Salve was going to be her new home. “They said it was still early and I still had a couple of more years and to think about it. ... I took a couple more visits, but in the back of my head I kept having Salve (as my choice).
“The coach, the players, they were always in the back of my head and I felt like it was the right place to be because of my initial reaction to the campus and to the team. It was really special for me,” Shuey said.
Shuey signed a letter of intent Nov. 26 of 2018, on her 18th birthday, and after graduation in the spring, the Shuey family commenced a three-day move across the country.
The ability to pick up and leave the life she had grown up around received praise from her current head coach at Salve, Corinne Hughes, noting Shuey knew exactly what she wanted for some time.
“She had to prepare herself to be on her own, where if you’re an hour away from mom and dad you’ve got training wheels a little bit,” said Hughes. “She’s just out of the nest. ... I think she was ready for that move.”
The readiness at such an early stage shows signs of maturity that exceeds some of her peers, said Hughes, which she can see in both her personality and her play on the basketball court.
“She’s just a lot more mature than her age,” said Hughes. “She’s really driven and knows what she wants. I think she was prepared for how hard it was going to be, that it was going to be hard to play at this level, that it was going to be hard to be far from home, that classes were going to be harder and all of those things have come true for her.
“It’s not like she was prepared and now it’s easy. She was prepared and it’s still difficult, but because she was prepared, she is managing it better than others I think,” Hughes added.
A wicked comfort
Through the last few months, Shuey has become acclimated to the difficult college lifestyle. Balancing the NCAA-driven grind along with the pursuit of a biology degree has been a challenge, but one she has been tackling since day one.
But during the balance between work and play, Shuey has done her best to get acclimated to the New England culture that surrounds and is entwined in Salve’s everyday student life. She has ventured more out of her comfort zone, experiencing a more fast-paced world outside of the Midwest, learning region-specific terms, and trying seafood, despite the latter being to her displeasure.
“I’ve learned a lot of new terms here, the first one was ‘The T’ (shortened slang for the mass subway/train system for the state of Massachusetts), and also using ‘wicked’ after every sentence," said Shuey. "Learning the language has been kind of fun. ... It’s been a great experience so far.”
While the team is mostly New Englanders, Hughes feels the team’s work in making her feel welcome to her new home has been effortless.
“I don’t even think that they try (to make her feel at home),” said Hughes. “That’s the wonderful thing about the team. ... They don’t have to try. They like her. She likes them, and they’re very welcoming. They’re all from New England, for the most part, ... they don’t have to try because she’s willing to try these new things. She wants to know. We’re down in Florida, the kids are trying different stuff – and she’s trying seafood. She doesn’t like it, but she’s at least trying it. She’s not afraid to try new stuff.”
Shuey echoed a similar tone to her coach, saying she’s felt welcome to Salve and has not regretted one moment since setting foot on campus.
“There’s times where I wish I could be closer to home, but never once have I been like ‘I need to go home right now,’” said Shuey. “Everyone here is very supportive of me and I’ve had multiple teammates offer me to go [home] with them on Thanksgiving. That really meant a lot to me to have players and coaches that support me.”
Playing at the next level
It’s not always conventional for a true freshman to start getting playing time right away at the college level. In Shuey’s case, her ability to come in and make an impact on a young team has shown she stands out above the rest.
In fact, Hughes has known Shuey’s ability to make an impact and improve teams for some time. Seeing her live and in person was all Hughes needed to understand the talent.
“I saw her play live once,” said Hughes, referencing Southwest Valley’s game against Bedford in December of 2017.
“She had messaged me a couple of days before that that she was going to be at the game. Right then I knew she was pretty serious about me and I thought I would be a great fit for that program,” said Shuey. “Knowing that she supported me and that it was going to be a real option for me, that’s when I knew it was going to be home for the next four years.”
Shuey didn’t disappoint in person, putting up a career night – 27 points on 9-for-15 shooting with eight field goals from 3-point range. The Timberwolves rolled over the Bulldogs that night, winning 65-33.
From there, Hughes could tell Shuey would fit in with the program.
“She sent me the film and it was enough. I could tell right away that she could play,” said Hughes. “She does things that makes the players around her better. It’s one thing to be a player that can play, but if you can make the players around you better, I saw her do that in film over and over again.”
The initial film sent to Hughes prompted Shuey’s first trip to the east coast in her sophomore year. In her first trip to Newport in the spring of 2017, Shuey fell in love with the location and the dream of playing college basketball possible.
Fast forward to the fall of 2019, Shuey is dressed in blue and green, standing on the north end of Rodgers Center, working with decorated senior captain Torie Scorpio.
Shuey, who has been working along side Scorpio for much of the fall and winter, has seen her role increase as the two’s chemistry has grown, showing Shuey’s true potential in the college setting.
“I think its taken some of the pressure off her,” said Hughes on Shuey working with Scorpio. “When Torie came in (2016), she just got thrown into the fire and had to handle the point guard responsibilities without any help. It’s definitely an advantage for Morgan to have her with her, although they’re very different in how they play. ...They’re a very good compliment to each other.”
Scorpio, who was named Rookie of The Year for the Commonwealth Coast Conference, has been the point guard in the system with Shuey as her role as increased at the number two (shooting guard). Hughes feels the duo working together will make for a seamless transition when Scorpio graduates in the spring.
“She’s starting at the two, and I think that’s ideal because I have a senior point guard that’s one of the better players in the conference and that’s allowing Morgan to kind of have training wheels a little bit,” said Hughes. “... I think Morgan is the best passer on the team, but she doesn’t have the experience to be the one, so having her with Torie is ideal.”
Shuey has also had the benefit of working along side six other freshmen and a transfer player, all of whom are still learning Hughes’ system and the college level day after day.
“We all get along super great,” said Shuey. “It has been fun learning with them. It’s a new experience for all of us, playing at the next level and we’ve adjusted to each other very well. It’s been great learning and playing with them and it’s very nice to have those upperclassmen with experience that can help us.”
With Shuey’s impact evident both on and off the floor, Hughes hopes it could lead to more opportunities for students to take a chance and make a jump similar to Shuey’s.
“I’m hopeful, but I’m not expecting it,” said Hughes. “She’s an anomaly in that she’s willing to take that leap. I think most players her age aren’t. That being said, if she has a good experience, I think we will start seeing more players coming from that area looking at Salve to see if it’s a good fit.”
Despite the struggles of Salve so far this season, Hughes has big plans for Shuey in the team’s future as she develops and grows, feeling with more time in the system she can develop into a respected and reputable player in the state of Rhode Island.
“She’s seems very happy and I think she’s going to stay here and be happy for four years. As far as her as a player, she’s only going to get better,” said Hughes. “The things that she doesn’t do well is mostly because she hasn’t done them, not because she’s incapable.
“When you’re one of the better players (in high school) you can get away with a lot. There’s no place to hide in college because everybody is good. She’s being exposed a little bit for the things she needs to work on and she’s more than willing to work on those things, so I’m not worried about that. I think it’s going to take time for her to get enough repetition and enough experience,” added Hughes.