• Patrick Engels

November in Augusta



The clock strikes 8 a.m. in Augusta, Georgia.


November Morton, a senior shooting guard for the Augusta Jaguars, just wrapped up another intense two-hour morning practice.


With sweat still dripping down her face, Morton bolts out of the locker room, as she knows the rest of her Tuesday morning, and the rest of her day, has just begun.


Morton rushes not to make a tee-time at Augusta National, but to find her lab coat and book it to Augusta University's Health Science Building. There, Morton attends her lab-based Microbiology and Blood Bank classes until 3 p.m.


“Didn’t even have time to shower or eat,” Morton said. “I was definitely running low on energy.”


Morton’s busy Tuesday morning on Augusta’s campus serves as a microcosm for the young star’s lifelong commitment to success both on the hardwood and in the classroom.


Leading the Jaguars in scoring this season and participating in numerous clinical labs during her academic career, Morton has worked throughout her life to discover the fine balance between sports and academics.



Finding Her Passions


Morton’s dedication to school and basketball began as a young, introverted child in sunny Clearwater, Florida. According to her mother, Latasha White, who homeschooled her daughter until kindergarten, Morton quickly developed an inclination for learning, and mastered reading at just three years old.


“I would do flashcards, and I would teach her the whole alphabet,” White said. “She didn’t know how to say the ‘ABC’s,’ but I taught her all of the sounds first. And then after she graduated from the sounds, then we started putting simple words together, like ‘cat,’ ‘hat,’ ‘and,’ and ‘the.’ And then, meanwhile, we were getting books and reading them together, and then one day, she just started reading them.”


After learning the basics of reading for a few years, Morton said she then developed a passion for science after completing a number of science-based projects with her mother.


“My mom and I, we used to do science projects when I was younger,” Morton said. “I really loved those projects. We also used to do astronomy. I used to have a telescope. So I felt like I was really science-based. Just going into that, I was like, ‘I want to do something in science.’ I knew I wanted to be a science person.”


As Morton’s early affinity for science and academics strengthened as her childhood progressed, her passion for basketball grew equally as deep.


After trying ballet for just six months, Morton said her love for the game sprouted at six years old when her mother discovered something tucked away inside their Clearwater home.


“My mom found a basketball in a closet, and she was like, ‘Let’s go shoot around, it’s something to do,’” Morton said. “They always would just find something for me to do. So she used to take me to the park and shoot around sometimes, just to hang out.”


Morton’s early introduction to basketball with her mother piqued her interest in the sport, as she started practicing with her father, Charles, at Countryside Recreation Center, a local fitness center in Clearwater.


After learning the fundamentals from her father and participating in a number of youth basketball camps, Morton's early interest in the game quickly turned into an obsession. This prompted Charles (who intended to name his only child "Charles Morton IV" but settled for November after his birth month) to train his daughter more rigorously.


“In the beginning, it was all about having fun,” Charles said. “But once I saw that she had taken to it and wanted to get better, then we started doing more basic things, like boxing out. Then as she started to get older, we started to add to her game. For example, in junior high, she played on a AAU team, and she was a post player. And then the next year I noticed that a lot of times they are playing zone, so I said, ‘How about we work on a baseline jump shot and free throws?’ So each year, after the season was over, we would work on one move, and she eventually developed into what she is today.”

Morton’s Balancing Act

After committing to both basketball and academics early in her childhood, Morton’s dedication to her two passions took yet another leap forward entering Countryside High School in 2015.


On the court, Morton started every game and helped the Cougars claim three district championships in 2015, 2017 and 2018. Individually, Morton amassed 1,619 career points in her high school career -- the most in school history -- and was inducted into the Countryside Sports Hall of Fame.


While Morton’s performance on the court was at an all-time high, her academic performance failed to skip a beat. In her four years at Countryside, Morton both maintained a 4.0 GPA and participated in a biotechnology research lab, where she dissected invasive Lionfish species to identify their diets.


Dedicating herself to success on both the hardwood and the classroom in high school, Morton said she can recall many sleepless nights of late-night study sessions and grueling basketball games.


However, it was her passion for academics and athletics as well as her hard-working mentality that enabled her to trudge forward.


“I remember I used to have to stay up really late, like until 3 a.m., doing homework assignments, because we had a late game that went into overtime, and it got done at 9 p.m. I also think about how my dad and I used to get up on Saturday mornings, at like 8 a.m., and shoot outside before the sun comes out. I think about why I felt like I needed to do that. I could’ve easily just been like, ‘Not today,’ but I think it was just because I just loved [basketball] so much. I liked them both, and I didn’t want to let them go. So I was just like this is what I have to do.”



Searching For The Fine Balance In College


Morton’s successes at Countryside High School earned her a full athletic scholarship at Florida Tech University. Unfortunately, that didn’t guarantee immediate success for the high school phenom, as her ability to balance both passions hit a roadblock once she stepped foot on the Melbourne, Florida campus.


While the freshman guard emerged as a viable scoring threat for the Panthers, averaging 6.4 points and 1.4 rebounds a contest off the bench, she admitted she struggled academically as a biomedical engineering student.


“My freshman year was probably my worst year of school ever,” Morton said. “It was just so hard for me, especially coming off a 4.0 GPA [in high school]. I was getting F’s and D’s. I was like, ‘Dang, that really hurt me.’ That hurt my soul, and it made me not even want to go back. I was very discouraged.”


Morton did return to Florida Tech’s campus during her sophomore year, taking another leap forward by leading the team with 11 points a game.


However, as Morton made a large impact on the court, academic struggles persisted for the young sophomore. “I wasn’t doing well in school, and it wasn’t even because I wasn’t studying,” Morton said. “It was just very hard. I couldn’t balance it.”


This prompted her to question her future with the school. But the label of quitter does not fit November Morton. She resolved to find a way to make it work. That was until she determined that the unpleasant team environment truly necessitated a change. So in the spring of 2020, Morton found herself in the transfer portal.


She reached out to a number of schools across Florida that both matched her hard-working mentality and offered a clinical research lab program. After a couple months of suspense, Morton received a response via Linkedin from Augusta University head coach Millette Green, who told Morton that they needed a “shooter” on their team and offered the rising junior her second athletic scholarship.


Although Morton succeeded for the Jaguars in her first year, averaging 9.5 points a game and leading the team with 30 made three-point field goals, she did not find her true academic footing until she was accepted into Augusta’s clinical laboratory science research program in the College of Allied Health Services the summer before her senior year. After a couple years of academic struggles, Morton said the notice of her admission was a relief.


“I was so ecstatic because I knew that there was a chance that I wouldn’t get in because of my grades,” Morton said. “I was thinking, they don’t really know the kind of person I am. I’m such a hard worker. But if you’re looking at the transcripts, it looks like you’re not up for the challenge. But I was just really struggling. But when I got that email, I was so happy. The whole reason I came to this school was because of the [lab] program. I wanted to be in the lab.”


Finding herself firmly in Augusta’s clinical lab program, Morton returned to the successful student-athlete she was in high school.


After spending the offseason working to improve her game, Morton took another scoring leap for the Jaguars during her senior campaign. In 25 games played, the senior standout led the team with 11.2 point a game and netted a team-and-career high 62 three-point field goal makes.


In the classroom, Morton is working to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in clinical and medical laboratory science and is currently thriving in what she calls “scientist boot camp,” where she gets acclimated to life as a clinical research lab worker by taking Microbiology, Blood Bank, Immunology and other lab-based classes.


Although Morton acknowledged that it was difficult to keep pace with the grueling basketball and lab schedule, she now thrives in both aspects of her collegiate life at Augusta.


How?


By preserving that same dedication and passion she has had for both the hardwood and the classroom since she was an infant.


“If I’m passionate about something, I’m definitely going to see it through. I just love it. The little things that you do every day, the homework, the practices, the workouts by yourself, staying up late, waking up early...these are things that no one sees. But in the end, it’s going to benefit and they're going to see that you got there. If you really love it, you’re going to do it in your full capacity.”



No November Rain for Morton in Future


As Morton looks into the future, she plans on continuing her commitment to sports and school.


Academically, Morton hopes to become a cellular tissue engineer, where she will look to work with prosthetics to restore damaged tissues and organs. At the same time, she plans to pursue her master’s degree in biomedical engineering with another university.


On the court, Morton has aspirations of both competing for the U.S. Virgin Islands National Team -- where her father’s side of the family is from -- or in an overseas league.


No matter what Morton decides to do, the people who know Morton best know one thing is for certain, she can set her mind to anything she wants to accomplish.


“I’ve always told her, since she was a little kid asking, ‘Can I do this?’ I tell her, ‘Why the heck not?” White said. “It’s always been, ‘The sky is the limit.’ You can only limit yourself if you don’t want to do it."


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