Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Getting to know MacEwan Griffins rookie outside hitter Jefferson Morrow is a roller-coaster ride on a variety of interesting topics.
Like how his father went to high school with the future Jack Sparrow.
"My dad went to high school in Florida and went to school with Johnny Depp," said Morrow. "Then he played for the Australian national football team (American football)."
Or how he has a cousin who ran 160 marathons across seven continents in 365 days to become the first person in the world to achieve such a milestone.
"It's pretty next level," he said of Trent Morrow, who chronicles his journey at marathonman.com. "But that's just like my whole family. They're pretty into sport from a young age and they made me do it."
Or how it was that he came to represent Australian volleyball in Iran after the Asian U18 championships were moved there after civil unrest in Myanmar.
"When I found out it was in Iran, that was a bit of a shock," he said. "It was cool. They love their volleyball. Everyone wanted photos with us all the time. The stadium's huge and we were on TV, which is cool."
Morrow is now writing another chapter to an interesting life by attending university at MacEwan in Edmonton, a full 12,631 kilometres away from his hometown in Wynnum, Australia.
He's already making an impact just a few months into his tenure with the Griffins, sitting second on the team in kills (44) and digs (39).
"It is tough as a first year, but he played on the youth national team in Australia, so he does have some pretty good experience internationally," noted MacEwan head coach Brad Poplawski. "Obviously it's different than playing against much older guys in Canada West, but I think he's acclimated himself pretty well so far to the league."
Morrow will lead the Griffins (1-7) into their final action before the semester break – a home weekend series against Manitoba (3-5) on Friday (7:30 p.m.) and Saturday (6:30 p.m., both David Atkinson Gym, Canada West TV presented by Co-op).
Morrow noted it's the physicality of Canada West that has been his biggest adjustment so far.
"Passing's been all right, but it's just the block," he said. "Everyone's big. Everyone's like a man. It's just adjusting and building that size. I have to be a bit smarter because I'm not as big as the other guys. These guys are like 6-7 but built. I've versed 6-7 guys, who are my age, but they're usually just skinny, lanky dudes. So, it's a bit of an adjustment. But it's good.
"I feel like I'm getting better every time I touch the court against the older guys. I'll just progress throughout the years and hopefully get bigger and stronger."
Morrow honed many of his skills on the beach where he combined with partner Elijah Tabuarua to finish second at the 2019 Australian Junior Beach Volleyball Championship. That experience helped him learn to pass the ball with precision.
"I kind of did beach just for social and then I was decent at it," Morrow explained. "But it's so much harder than indoor. You have to move and be way fitter jumping in sand.
"It definitely helps with ball control. You have to feel the ball more in beach because you have to get it way more to a perfect spot. You don't have five other guys who can help dig the ball for you. It just helps you jump because jumping in sand is difficult, so when you get to the indoor, it's easier."
It's noticeable, said Poplawski.
"I think two things he really brings is volleyball IQ and his ball control," the head coach said. "His wrist action on the ball's quite good. He's been, for the most part, this year a pretty good stabilizer passing, which obviously helps. As an 18-year-old, he's just learning the Canada West game offensively. But he's putting in the work to learn how to do that.
"His ball control right from Day 1 has stood out and his volleyball IQ, he reads the game quite well. When he's making moves defensively, he's usually making the right reads. As a first year, he's pretty confident back there, which is good to see."
It means the sky's the limit for Morrow, who is still growing into his potential. He plans to return to Australia in the spring (or nearly winter there) to try and make his country's junior national team. One day, he hopes to play professionally in Europe, but is banking on a business degree he's earning at MacEwan for his sustained long-term career.
"That's why Canada West becomes such a popular training ground for these athletes is they can do both," said Poplawski. "They can get a degree and play super high-level volleyball and springboard that into a pro career after. U SPORTS is the best of both worlds for them."