Taipei swan song for Thunderbirds Jensen-Whyte, Morgan

Photo Credit: Rich Lam/UBC Athletics
Photo Credit: Rich Lam/UBC Athletics

By Len Catling, UBC Thunderbirds Athletics

One last chance is all the two Thunderbirds could ask for.

Conor Morgan and Jordan Jensen-Whyte. Jordan Jensen-Whyte and Conor Morgan.

The two UBC basketball stars will be forever linked in 'Blue and Gold' history. The pair entered the UBC men's basketball program as freshman together for the 2012-13 season. Together they led UBC into the 2016 U SPORTS national championship on their home court, and most recently, were together when the 'Birds were unceremoniously swept by the Manitoba Bisons, again on their home floor, in the 2017 Canada West quarter-finals.

The heartbreaking loss after a 19-1 regular season was not the proper way for Jensen-Whyte – the 2016-17 Canada West Defensive Player of the Year – to end his career as a Thunderbird (Morgan has been at UBC for five years but has one more season of eligibility after a foot injury sidelined him for nearly all of the 2013-14 season). When Jensen-Whyte and Morgan were named together to the Team Canada men's basketball team that will compete in the 2017 Summer Universiade in Taipei City, both players knew there would be the chance to right the story's ending.

"It's nice to be able to go and put a jersey on with him again," says Jensen-Whyte of Morgan. "You never know if this is going to be the final time in our careers. He's been the best friend of mine in my time here (at UBC), so I'm very excited to get to go play for Team Canada with him."

Morgan, who won a gold medal on Sunday in the 2017 Jones Cup tournament, also held in Taipei, recognizes the magnitude of the FISU opportunity.

"Just the way our season ended this year, it's going to be a really important time and experience with him," explains Morgan, who was a finalist in 2017 for the Mike Moser Memorial Trophy as U SPORTS Player of the Year. "This could be the last time Jordan and I step on a competitive floor together and that is going to be really fun."

The experience will be made even more special by the fact UBC head coach Kevin Hanson, who recruited and then coached Jensen-Whyte and Morgan for their entire varsity careers, will be running the bench for Team Canada for his fourth FISU Games.

"Kev has been a great coach to me for my five years," says Jensen-Whyte. "I know what he expects and I'm really looking forward to going over there with him. It should be a fun time."

So the final page in the book sits there, unwritten and brimming with possibility. The three Thunderbirds know they will be a big part of Team Canada's mission to improve upon a somewhat disappointing seventh-place finish at the 2015 Summer Universiade in Gwangju, South Korea.

"It's a thing Jordan and I have talked about since our freshman year," says Morgan about the FISU's version of Team Canada. "For both of us to get the invite is really big for us and helps us achieve some of the goals we set out for ourselves in our first year at UBC."

The last ride together for the Morgan, Jensen-Whyte and Hanson goes August 19-30 in Taipei City.