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Blakley signs with Union for basketball and track

Harlan County forward Morgan Blakley found a connection with Dean Walsh when she was an eighth-grader and met the Converse College coach during a camp at Lincoln Memorial University.

Walsh had talked to Blakley about playing basketball for him in college, but she wasn’t prepared for a move to South Carolina. As it turned out, Walsh took the job last year as girls coach at Union College and travel wasn’t so much of an issue anymore for the HCHS standout.

“I’m not really a homebody, but I wanted to be close to home if I needed to come home. I liked the school and the campus,” Blakley said. “I’ve known coach Walsh since the eighth grade and kind of established a relationship with him. I like how he coaches and enjoyed everything about the school. I’ve prayed about it for a long team and feel God is leading me in that direction.”

Blakley signed with Union in late February, both in basketball and track. She has excelled in both sports in high school.

“I’m ready for the challenge,” Blakley said. “I think I can balance it with my drive and work ethic As long as I have my family and God, I will be all right.”

“I’m so pleased she will have an oppportunity to play at the next level. She has always wanted this,” Harlan County basketball coach Debbie Green said. “This will be a good fit for her academically and athletically. She will do great at the next level. He work ethic sets her apart.”

“I’ve known Morgan since she was in middle school and she has the intangibles you can’t coach,” Walsh said. “She just works hard. Her work ethic and heart are up there with anyone I’ve ever coached. It has showed this year, going from a role player to blowing it up this year.”

Blakley has been a member of the basketball team for four years, including serving as a reserve in 2018 when the Lady Bears won their first 13th Region Tournament title. She moved into the starting lineup as a junior and averaged 8.5 points and 6.3 rebounds as the Lady Bears won their third straight district title and advanced to the regional finals. She took her game to a new level as a senior, ranking among the regional leaders at 22.7 points per game while pulling down 8.5 rebounds per game.

“She has been a key part of our success this year,” Green said. “I don’t know how well we could have finished some games this year without her. She’s been a great leader and has done the right things in the classroom and school. She has been a great role model for our kids, and we’re excited about what the future holds for her.”

“It has been fun, but there has been a little bit of pressure,” Blakley admitted. “I’ve enjoyed being able to step in that role and help my team.”

Blakley, who scored 938 points in her career, spent most of her time at forward in high school but will have to make the move to guard in college, according to Walsh.

“She has to work on playing the perimeter next year,” he said. “There are things she has to develop and work on for the next level. I’m not worried about because she is a great kid from a great family. She will do whatever you ask and all successful teams have players like her because it can be infectious. That’s kind of the MO of our team right now.”

Blakley, this year’s 52nd District player of the year, was selected to play in the Kentucky Prep All-Star Game on April 4 at Jackson City.

A three-year member of the HCHS track team, Blakley set school track records in the 1,600-meter run and the 4 x 400 meter relay.

“I think she will bring leadership to our program. She has the exact qualities we look for in a leader. She is intelligent and hard working,” said Union track and cross country coach Jacob Carter. “She perseveres through adversity, and that’s what it’s going to take.”

“I’m very proud of Morgan,” said Harlan County Ryan Vitatoe as he discussed the 31st college signee for his program. “She is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever coached, and I’m so happy for the opportunity she’s earned herself. She has all the tools necessary to be successful, both on the track and the court. I’ve never seen her take a shortcut in the years I’ve coached her. She gives her best in anything she does and I have no doubt she is going to have success. Coach Carter is building a great program at Union, and I believe Morgan will be a huge part in continuing the success of their program. They definitely got a gem.”