Geno Morgan grew up in Chicago, but it was Anchorage where he became a college basketball star and a successful high school coach.
An NAIA All-American at Alaska Pacific back when the school had an intercollegiate sports program, Morgan launched his coaching career here after his playing days ended, winning a state championship with East in 2000.
Morgan will return to the place that shaped his future this week as the coach of Utah's Wasatch Academy, one of eight teams competing in the Alaska Airlines Classic at West High.
"Alaska is still home," Morgan said. "I still have family there. I have a mound of friends who are still there. I think about Alaska often."
At the tournament, Wasatch will join five boys basketball teams from Alaska and two from the Lower 48 -- West, Wasilla, ACS, Nome, Sitka, Dillard (Fort Lauderdale, Fla) and Christian Life (Houston). Action runs Thursday through Saturday.
Morgan arrived in Anchorage in 1986 at age 19 to play guard for APU. He was the survivor of a rough boyhood in Chicago and a bad junior college experience in Missouri -- as a kid, gangs recruited him to steal cars and burglarize homes; at junior college, he endured racial hostility.
He found a home in Anchorage.
"Coming to Alaska opened my eyes to a different part of the world and how other things worked," Morgan said. "A huge part of who I am came from me being in Alaska. I'm quite sure of that."
As a senior at APU, Morgan earned NAIA All-American honorable mention recognition after averaging 15 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists.
As a coach, he gained experience at the college and high school level,. He worked one season as an assistant coach at APU, two seasons as an assistant at UAA and in 1995, in his first year as head coach, he guided Palmer High to a 23-5 record and a berth in the Class 4A state championship game.
After leaving Alaska briefly in the late 1990s, Morgan returned in 1999 to replace legendary East High head coach Chuck White. In his first season, he took the T-birds to the 2000 state championships. In two seasons his teams went 46-10 and reached the championship game both times.
At Wasatch Academy, Morgan has won two Utah state championships in five seasons and at two different levels. The Tigers won the Class 1A title in 2011 and then got bumped up to Class 2A and won in 2013. The 2011 title was Wasatch's first hoops title in the school's 136-year history.
A version of this story originally appeared at asaa365.com.
Alaska Airlines Classic
at West High
12:30 p.m. -- West vs. Sitka
4:15 p.m. -- Nome vs. Dillard
6 p.m. -- Wasilla vs. Wasatch Academy
7:45 p.m. -- ACS vs. Christian Life
By VAN WILLIAMS