Mount Airy native Morgan Midkiff finished off a good rookie season by earning the Freshman of the Year award for Conference Carolinas.
The former North Surry point guard started her freshman year at Belmont Abbey coming off the bench as the sixth or seventh player used by Coach Susan Yow.
It only took four or five games for the 5-foot-5 guard to show her knack for scoring and playmaking and convince Yow to move her into the starting lineup.
In the third game, Midkiff came off the bench to shoot 2-4 from three-point range, 6-9 overall, and 4-4 at the foul line. She totaled 18 points, two steals and two assists in 25 minutes as Belmont Abbey nipped North Greenville by three.
By season’s end, Midkiff became the first Lady Crusader in school history to earn the freshman award.
“That was pretty exciting,” Midkiff said of being the school’s first.
Once she moved into the starting lineup, Midkiff said she could feel the girls starting to bond and develop some on-court chemistry.
The Crusaders play in one of the most competitive conferences around, she said.
Belmont Abbey was picked in a preseason poll to finish eighth, but surprised some teams with an 11-11 mark before falling to Barton in the conference tournament.
Junior guard Kelsey Long, an East Surry standout, was named to the all-conference third team. Long scored 12.6 points per game with 36.5 percent shooting from the outside. She also was second on the team in steals with 43.
Is making the all-conference team a goal Midkiff has for next season?
“I hope so,” she said. “That would be nice.”
She is quick to point out that she wouldn’t have won this freshman award if it weren’t for her teammates and coaches.
Her teammates picked her up when she would get down on herself. The coaches would push her in practice and spend extra time with her on learning new plays.
Midkiff said she didn’t know there was such an award as freshman of the year until an assistant coach mentioned it to her in midseason. Earning that award became extra motivation to work harder.
Like every freshman, there is a bit of culture shock going to a university.
A typical North Surry game might have drawn a hundred people unless it was a Mount Airy rivalry game, she said. Belmont Abbey will have hundreds of people at every game, and the college kids go nuts screaming from bleachers.
High school gyms have baskets up near walls, but some college gyms have seating behind the backboard, so players have all these people jumping around to distract them.
After four years of seeing Greyhound blue, Midkiff said it was funny to see a home crowd cheering in red.
As for the action on the court, Midkiff said she had to get used to the pace of play.
“I was always one of the quickest ones on the court in high school,” she said. In college, everyone is fast, even the post players.
She learned not to throw soft lob passes because the quick players will snatch the ball away.
“I had to learn to grow up and be aggressive with the ball,” she said. She had to get used to the physical bumping up and down the floor.
People can tell a freshman about the speed, but it’s not something you can get from talking, she explained.
“You need to experience it,” she said.
Midkiff led her team and all freshmen in her conference with 13.4 points per game. However, she also led her team in turnovers.
The coaches didn’t want her to focus on the mistakes, telling her that most freshmen guards struggle with turnovers the first year.
Midkiff shot a respectable 33.1 percent from three-point range, but she knows she can do better than that. She was second on the team in assists and grabbed 4.2 rebounds a game, surprising for a 5-foot-5 guard.
She shot a stellar 87 percent from the foul line, second to Long’s amazing 94.5 percent.
With Long a junior, the two local players will have another season together next year. The all-conference teams could have two Crusaders listed next year.