The scream Jordan Morgan unleashed in the closing minutes of Saturday's win against Texas was equal parts excitement and relief, with a heavy dose of validation. It was genuine emotion, the type that defines the NCAA tournament.
Another genuine display followed in Michigan's locker room as Morgan, fresh off his second consecutive double-double for the Sweet 16-bound Wolverines, smiled while he reflected on the moment.
"I just don't want to go home, man," the fifth-year senior forward said. "Last year was magical, and I want to experience that again."
Michigan could have enough magic to return to the national championship game, but Morgan's experience will be markedly different. It was around this time last March, after the Wolverines survived the tournament's first weekend, that Morgan reached the latest hollow in an undulating career.
A bus charioted the victorious Wolverines from The Palace of Auburn Hills to their campus in Ann Arbor. Michigan had just vanquished VCU by 25 points, thanks to a dominant performance by freshman forward Mitch McGary (21 points, 14 rebounds).
But Morgan, while attempting to celebrate the victory, looked defeated.
"Jordan was trying to fake it, but you could see the pain on his face," said Josh Bartelstein, then a senior guard and captain for Michigan. "It was like, 'Two weeks ago, I was on the Big Ten all-defensive team, and now I'm not even playing.' This team had worked so hard to get to that point, and to see Jordan not enjoying it as much, as one of his good friends, it was hard."
The growth Morgan showed in the days and months that followed has led him to this point. He's the co-captain of a Michigan team headed back to the Sweet 16 despite the loss of two guards to the NBA and McGary to a likely season-ending back injury after just eight games.
Morgan no longer contributes from the fringes. He followed up a 10-point, 10-rebound effort in Michigan's tournament opener with 15 points and 10 rebounds against Texas, while limiting Longhorns standout center Cameron Ridley to six points on five shots.
After the challenges of the past five years -- a 30-pound weight loss, knee and shoulder surgeries, three different point guards, last season's ankle injury and the reduced role that accompanied it -- Morgan is at the top of his game at the perfect time.
"It's almost unbelievable," said Morgan's mother, Meredith. "My husband and I always felt it was there within him. We had been waiting for it and waiting for it.
"To see it happening, it's like a dream come true."
Jordan had to wait, too. He showed up to Michigan as an undersized, overweight forward hobbled by knee surgery. He redshirted as a freshman in 2009-10, sustained a shoulder injury that required surgery, and spent more time in the weight room and training room than on the court.
Normally, basketball players would love to be linked to the figure 29.6. The problem for Morgan: It was his body-fat percentage when he arrived at Michigan.
"He couldn't go a minute or two without being gassed," Bartelstein recalled.
"He wasn't physically equipped to compete at this level," said Jon Sanderson, Michigan's strength and conditioning coach. "Initially, it was, 'We've got to change that percentage.'"
Morgan went from 270 pounds to 240 and dropped his body fat to around 8 percent. He since has kept it there.