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Elizabethton native Mike Morrell hired at UNC Asheville

Mike Morrell is the new men's basketball coach at UNC Asheville. (Photo courtesy: UNC Asheville)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – After a national search, UNC Asheville has selected Mike Morrell to helm the UNC Asheville men's basketball program.

Morrell (pronunciation: more-ELL) is the seventh head coach in the history of UNC Asheville men's basketball.

Considered one of the top assistants in all of college basketball, the 35-year-old Morrell joins UNC Asheville from the University of Texas. He is a native of Elizabethton, Tenn.

UNC Asheville will officially introduce Morrell to the public next week. More information will be made available in the near future.

"We are thrilled to officially announce that we have hired Mike Morrell as our head men's basketball coach," UNC Asheville Director of Athletics Janet R. Cone said. "His experiences, especially at Texas and VCU, show that he knows how to win at a high level, that he is a relentless recruiter and that he challenges his student-athletes to reach their full potential while always pushing them to become the best version of themselves. He has worked alongside some of the top minds in college basketball and he comes very highly recommended. Bulldog fans, please join us in welcoming Mike back to the area he calls home."

UNC Asheville Interim Chancellor Joe Urgo knows that Bulldogs everywhere are going to love having Morrell as their head coach.

"Mike Morrell has an undeniable passion for continuing to build on the great success that we have had at UNC Asheville," Urgo said. "When getting to know him, it was made apparent quickly that he has a plan in place to continue to keep UNC Asheville men's basketball among the best in Mid-Major basketball. This was a highly-coveted position, and I feel like we have the individual in place to not only keep us among the best, but also help us reach even new heights over the coming years."

Named the top recruiter in the country under the age of 35 in 2015 by ESPN, Morrell has helped coach a team to the NCAA Tournament in nine of his 11 years at the NCAA Division I level.

"I would like to first thank Dr. Joe Urgo, Janet R. Cone and all involved in the search for this tremendous opportunity," Morrell said. "The UNC Asheville men's basketball program is one that I have always admired having grown up in the area. It's a program that prides itself on winning and doing things the right way. I look forward to continuing the already strong tradition of Bulldog basketball and helping to move it forward to hopefully even greater heights in the future. I am obviously also excited to return to an area that I love, while also being a part of one of the top liberal arts institutions in the country. I am looking forward to hitting the ground running to get ready for the upcoming season and beyond. I am thrilled to be a Bulldog!"

As the primary recruiting coordinator at Texas, Morrell helped sign two top-5 and one top-20 class.

Morrell has spent most of his coaching career working with current Texas head coach Shaka Smart.

In addition to working with him at Texas from 2015-2018, Morrell spent from 2011-2015 on Smart's staff at VCU.

During Morrell's four seasons at VCU (2011-15), the Rams posted an overall record of 108-35 (.755) and made four NCAA Tournament appearances. VCU was ranked in the final Associated Press poll in the 2012-13 (No. 25), 2013-14 (No. 24) and 2014-15 (No. 25) seasons.

At Texas, the Longhorns advanced to the NCAA Tournament in both the 2015-16 seasons and the 2017-18 seasons.

In its first full recruiting cycle in Austin, the Texas coaching staff that Morrell was on pulled in a four-man freshman group that ranked as the No. 5 recruiting class in the nation by Scout. All four freshman signees were ranked among the top-100 players nationally by Scout (Jarrett Allen, No. 15; James Banks, No. 49; Andrew Jones, No. 19; Jacob Young, No. 87).

The 2016-17 season at Texas for Morrell was highlighted by the development of freshman Jarrett Allen, who was selected as the No. 22 pick by the Brooklyn Nets in the 2017 NBA Draft. Allen earned All-Big 12 Conference third-team and Big 12 All-Newcomer Team accolades. He also claimed a spot on the 10-person USBWA All-District VII Team and the five-person NABC All-District 8 second-team.

During its second recruiting cycle, the Texas staff signed a five-man freshman class that ranked as the No. 5 recruiting class in the country by Rivals. All five freshmen signees were ranked among the top-80 players nationally by one of the three major recruiting services (Mohamed Bamba, No. 2 Rivals; Matt Coleman, No. 29 ESPN; Jase Febres, No. 47 Scout; Jericho Sims, No. 51 Scout; Royce Hamm Jr., No. 80 ESPN).

Morrell has extensive ties to the Carolinas.

In fact, before joining Smart's staff at VCU, he spent the 2010-11 season on Barclay Radebaugh's staff at Charleston Southern.

Prior to his time at Charleston Southern, Morrell was on staff at Clemson under head coach Oliver Purnell. He served as a graduate assistant in 2007-08 before moving into the Director of Basketball Operations position at Clemson in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons. The Tigers advanced to the NCAA Tournament in all three of his seasons on staff.

Morrell began his coaching career on staff at King College in Bristol, Tenn. in 2005-06 and 2006-07. The Tornado won the 2007 Appalachian Athletic Conference Tournament and advanced to the NAIA National Tournament first round. They posted an overall record of 23-11. He also served as the head coach of the golf team at King.

Born Aug. 22, 1982, Morrell was a two-sport standout at Milligan College where he was an 1,000-point scorer for the men's basketball program. A three-year starter, Morrell helped the Buffaloes earn a spot in the NAIA National Tournament as a freshman in 2000-01. A two-time all-league selection in golf, Morrell, who earned his bachelor's degree in history in 2005, led Milligan golf to the conference championship in 2003.

Morrell takes over a UNC Asheville men's basketball program coming off its second straight regular-season Big South Conference championship and third straight postseason appearance with the Bulldogs playing in the 2018 National Invitation Tournament.

UNC Asheville men's basketball picked up its seventh Big South Conference regular-season title (1996-97, 1997-98, 2001-02, 2007-08, 2011-12, 2016-17 and 2017-18) this past season.

The Bulldogs continued to set the standard in the Big South this past season by becoming the first program in league history to win 15 games or more for 11 straight seasons. The Bulldogs have also now won 10 or more league games in a season in a Big South men's basketball record 11 straight seasons.

What They Are Saying About UNC Asheville Head Coach Mike Morrell

"I have known Mike for 15 years and I couldn't be more excited for him right now, and UNC Asheville has hired not only a great coach but a great person. He will excel in an area he knows all too well and he will help them build on an already great basketball tradition in Asheville." – LSU Head Coach Will Wade

"I'm extremely happy for Mike. He is driven, diligent and tremendously hard working. He does a phenomenal job connecting with student-athletes, parents, recruits and supporters. UNC Asheville is getting a terrific head coach!" – Texas Head Coach Shaka Smart

"I know it is highly unusual to give a quote about a coach that just was appointed to a head coaching position within the same league, but my strong relationship and admiration for Morrell blows up that boundary. Janet R. Cone, the UNC Asheville basketball program, the university and the city all just hit a grand slam when they made the choice to hire Mike Morrell. In 2010-11, we hired Mike on our staff at CSU. Shaka smartly hired him after a year, but Mike's recruiting and coaching contributions laid the foundation for our two Big South championships. Mike is an amazing coach, recruiter and leader, but what I love most about Mike is his strong character. His loyalty, integrity and professionalism are elite. I am excited to watch Mike continue to grow in his new role as the head basketball coach at UNC Asheville." – Charleston Southern Head Coach Barclay Radebaugh

"Coach Mike Morrell is a wonderful institutional fit for UNC Asheville. That goes for the basketball program, but also for the overall athletics program Janet Cone stewards and for the athletic leadership as well. Mike enjoyed the type of undergraduate experience UNC Asheville offers, and he's respectful and appreciative of the role intercollegiate athletics plays on that campus. He will be a giving and energetic collaborator across the university and community. His work ethic, high standards for excellence and competitiveness will blend perfectly to provide the ultimate experience for his student-athletes." – Texas Women's Athletics Director/Executive Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Services Chris Plonsky

Release courtesy: UNC Asheville Athletics

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