When it came time to select a jersey number her freshman season, Morgan Lucy didn’t have much of choice in numbers.
Then Glenwood coach Leon Portrey handed Lucy No. 54 and she proudly took it.
For Lucy the No. 54 was a sort of ceremonial passing of the torch. The previous four seasons, all-time leading scorer Christa Stewart donned the 54 Ram jersey.
Lucy, then a lanky 6-foot-2 center still growing into her body and her post game, came up in the Ram program idolizing Stewart.
“I was so excited. It was like he was saying, ‘Okay, it’s your turn,’” Lucy said.
And like Stewart was twice in her career, Lucy is The Opinion-Tribune 2011-2012 Female Athlete of the Year.
Lucy, you might say, was born for basketball. She was playing in a league by kindergarten and already she was the biggest girl on the court.
“I think I have a little bit of natural ability but I have had to work at it,” Lucy said. “It’s natural because I was always taller than everybody else but then it took a while to build the skill to sort of go with my size.”
Having a 7-footer down the hall probably helped. Lucy’s Dad, Dirk, is a 7-foot former post-player at Northwestern College in Orange City.
“He worked with me all the time to help me develop my game for my size,” she said.
But the transition from “biggest girl on the court” to dominant three-time all-Hawkeye 10 Conference player didn’t happen over night.
Lucy stepped in as the Rams’ starting center as a gangly 15-year-old in the first game of her freshman year. The Rams defeated Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson 69-42 on that November night. Lucy doesn’t remember much about the game other than the Rams’ won. She finished with a modest eight points but grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds.
Lucy may have been nervous but she didn’t show it that first game. She had cut her teeth with the Ram varsity over the previous two summers, playing in a varsity summer league since seventh grade.
“It was completely different playing varsity but I had played a lot of summer games and some club so I wasn’t totally inexperienced. I think I was used to the competition but playing in front of the crowd, that made me nervous.”
Lucy finished her freshman year averaging a double-double, scoring 10.8 points per game and grabbing 10.4 rebounds.
Lucy improved on those numbers her sophomore year under first-year head coach Barry Loeffelbein. But more importantly, the Rams’ won 14 games – the most in over a decade.
“Our freshman year, we weren’t very good but we knew we could do better than that,” she said. “It was like every year we said that. ‘We can do better.’ It was a cool experience to see how we grew and see everyone show up for open gym because they wanted to get better.”
Loeffelbein first saw Lucy play as a seventh grader when her team was routinely routing other middle school teams.
“They were just annihilating everybody,” Loeffelbein recalled. “I could tell she and that whole group really was special. They were winning games like 70-2. I could tell there were some really special players coming up.”
Lucy joined the Ram’s varsity summer league team that summer.
“We got some early time with her; we didn’t turn anybody away. We got time with her and some of the other girls her age that were coming up so we could fit them in (on varsity) as soon as possible,” Loeffelbein said.
Loeffelbein could tell Lucy had a head-start on her development over most girls her age.
“She’s always had an idea of what she needed to do on the basketball floor to take advantage of that gift,” said Loeffelbein of Lucy’s size. “I thinking growing up, he (Dirk) instilled in her that she was going to be tall and she needed to learn how to take advantage of it. She had a good start and I could tell that coming in (her freshman year) she worked hard to learn how to use that size.
“She’s always used her size well and she’s gotten better at it over her four years. She’s always been able to use her size to her advantage.”
As Lucy, now 6-foot-3, has progressed so too has the Ram program. That freshman year, the Rams finished 12-11. The next year, they won 14 games and followed that up with a 16-6 season Lucy’s junior year, including a heartbreaking 56-51 loss to Sergeant Bluff-Luton in districts.
Lucy and her teammates, which included a trio of varsity contributors in Lexi Fisher, Rachel DeYoung and Lexi Moreno who had played together since youth basketball, were determined to end their senior seasons a different way.
“We had a lot of drive,” Lucy said. “We wanted this senior year to be our year. We had a great junior year but when we lost to some teams we shouldn’t have and then we lost to Sergeant Bluff to go to state, even though we made that great run, we knew we had pretty much our whole team coming back. It really motivated us for this year.”
The Rams won their first 11 games this past season and finished the regular season with a record of 21-1 after being ranked as high as No. 3 in Class 3A.
“We had great team chemistry,” Lucy said of last year’s team. “That helped us win a lot of games. I think the big difference between us our senior year and previous years was when teams would make a run at us, we’d stop it, get control of the game and we’d extend the lead. We didn’t get rattled like we used to.”
Glenwood ultimately fell in the first round at state to eventual state champion Davenport Assumption, 54-41.
Lucy finished her career with 1,295 points and 928 rebounds to rank first in the Rams’ record books. Her 243 blocked shots are also a school-record. Stewart previously held all three records.
“It feels pretty good to know that record will be hanging up there. I think it would be pretty cool if one of my sisters could break them,” said Lucy, who has two sisters who will be in seventh and ninth grade this fall.
“It didn’t cross mind I could break those records but it was a goal. I looked up to Christa so much and when I came in, I kind of had to fill in and take her spot. She was the biggest girls basketball player when I was coming up.”
When Lucy wasn’t dominating the hard wood she was patrolling a different kind of net for the Rams. As a four-year starter in volleyball, Lucy was the team’s top hitter her final three season, knocking down 585 kills and leading the Rams in blocks.
“I really did love volleyball. It was a lot of fun,” she said. “I loved being on a team and a lot of the skills translate. You have to have quick feet in volleyball and be able to move and there’s the jumping.”
As much as she enjoyed volleyball, it was never more than a diversion. Lucy’s heart is with basketball. She signed with Southwest Baptist University, a Division II school in Bolivar, Mo. last fall. She reports to campus in mid-August but she’s been playing off and on this summer in a league that features several college players.
“I think I can play this year,” Lucy said of prospects of getting quality minutes for the Bearcats this season. “Playing in their league (this summer) I think I did really well. It was fun.
“It’s way different. I’m bigger than most of them but they’re way stronger. It’s a whole different game in the post. You have to play so much lower. In high school you have to use your height to advantage. But in college, you have to be able to get low and get position or you’ll get pushed around.”