At a very young age, Morgan Aiken had a huge passion for the game of basketball. He ultimately became obsessed with the game and gave up his social life and video games to achieve the ultimate goal of playing basketball professionally. Last week, Aiken’s dream became a reality.
Just months after Aiken’s former Guam National teammates signed to play professional basketball in New Zealand, the high flying dunker agreed to play in Japan’s pro circuit with the Tokyo Cinq Reves.
This comes as more icing on the cake for the Guam Basketball Confederation and its recent success. After a 40-year drought, Guam finally won the gold medal at the Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea. Shortly after the achievement, the organization announced National Team members Joe Blas and Willie Stinnett signed to play pro basketball in New Zealand. Aiken was delighted to add to the success being a local product and hopes this is just the beginning.
Road to Japan
Aiken’s initial intention was to play high level collegiate basketball after graduating high school in the U.S. mainland. For those who are unfamiliar with Aiken, he is a phenomenal athlete with incredible jumping ability and lighting quickness. He is a lock down defender and puts on a show for the spectators with his dunking ability.
(Aiken’s videos of his leaping ability can be found on Facebook.)
Aiken received an offer to Eastern University in Pennsylvania in 2013, he played basketball there for his freshman season.
“After the first year at Eastern, I felt I could play at a higher level since the school was only division III. I took one year off to train and in 2014 I flew to El Paso, Texas, to try out for UTEP (University of Texas at El Paso) hoping to make the team as a walk on.”
UTEP is a division I school with former NBA players Tim Hardaway and Antonio Davis as alumni.
Aiken was able to get noticed at UTEP after working out with the players and he was eager to get accepted to play basketball for his last two years of eligibility. “It’s unfortunate because my transcripts and credits did not go through and that made me ineligible which eliminated my chances.”
Disappointed, Aiken returned to Guam and worked out with the national team, making the squad that went undefeated in Pohnpei and brining home the gold medal in the Micronesian Games.
“After being ineligible to play Division I college basketball, I felt my basketball career was done. I randomly received a phone call (in October 2015) from an agent in Japan who saw my highlight videos and said there are teams interested in me,” said Aiken.
Aiken is two games into the season, immediately joining the Reves and scoring his first point in the process last weekend. Aiken, being part Japanese, is fluent in the language and made adjustments to the different basketball culture.
“In Japan, they really focus more on team ball such as making the extra pass to get a better shot or helping the helper on defense. There’s more team ball concept here than anywhere else I’ve played,” said Aiken.
The Tokyo Cinq Reves offered Aiken to sign a two year deal. Aiken said he is still contemplating signing for long term after other teams expressed interest in the high flying point guard.
“I consulted my veteran teammates and my agent as to what would be the best for me. They explained how it would benefit me more if I could gain more experience and build my confidence. So I decided to take these next three months to build myself and become more comfortable at the pro level.”
Aiken committed to the Reves for the remainder of the season (three months) and will explore his options as a free agent for the next season.
Paving the way for more
With Blas and Stinnett recently signing, Aiken hopes there will be more players from Guam playing basketball professionally. “I sense many young players have more confidence to go out and chase their dreams. People view playing college or pro basketball more realistically since it’s been done. We opened a gateway to a new path for kids who want to chase their dream of playing pro one day,” said Aiken.
“I would like to thank my family for always sticking by my side and pushing me even though becoming a pro really did seem like just a dream. The extreme amount of friends that constantly check up on me and really support me.”
“I also want to thank my two coaches at St. Paul, Paul Pineda and Stu Schaefer. Even after graduating high school, their unconditional support has really pushed me. Last but not least, my agent Toshi Koga, he believed in me and gave me this once in a lifetime opportunity. Though I have reached my dream, everyone is apart of my success; I would not be here today if it wasn’t for all of you.”
Aiken also has a younger brother Reo, who is a freshman at St Paul. After the season, Morgan Aiken plans to return to Guam and said there may be two of his teammates joining him to train on island.