When Jonathan Morse found out earlier this year that the Perth Wildcats were traveling to Denver for a preseason matchup with his hometown Nuggets, he thought he'd be attending the game as a fan.
Morse played last season for East Perth, a second-division team in Australia's State Basketball League and had trained with Perth's top club during the preseason. He figured that through some friends he had on the Wildcats, he might be able to acquire a couple free tickets to Friday night's matchup.
But Morse, who grew up in Boulder, Colorado, and starred at Fairview High School, was in for the thrill of a lifetime when he got the call a few days ago that Perth wanted him to play in Denver.
"I was ecstatic, to say the least. I can't describe the feeling I had, the emotions I had, in words," Morse said. "The term 'dreams come true' doesn't do it justice."
Morse's basketball journey has taken him from Colorado to China and finally to Australia. Yet, his career was nearly derailed before it began.
The 6-foot-8 center broke his femur bone in a freak trampoline accident when he was just 4 years old. The bone didn't grow back straight and doctors couldn't operate on his leg because the break was extremely close to Morse's growth plate. When Morse stood with his knees together, his right foot would be aligned with his right shoulder instead of his knee.
"I had a little kickstand as a leg," Morse said.
Still, he persevered. Morse helped lead Fairview to an undefeated regular season during his senior year before the Knights fell in the 5A state semifinals to George Washington. He played his college ball down the road at Metro State, next door to Pepsi Center, where his two brothers Michael and Joshua both starred.
In 2013, Morse became the fifth player in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference history to score at least 1,500 points and grab more than 1,000 rebounds. During his senior season, he helped lead Metro State to the Division II National Championship game
"Playing right across the street at Metro, you look over at the Pepsi Center and dream about potentially playing in an NBA game," Morse said. "It's still just surreal."
After his career wrapped up at Metro State and Morse was done growing, he underwent an Open Wedge Osteotomy, an operation where doctors re-broke his femur and inserted a plate into his leg so the bone would go back properly. But the surgery had to be re-done after four months. Morse was on crutches for more than a year but now says his leg is fully healed and more importantly, straight.
Morse spent a full year training and getting back into game shape before beginning his professional career in Portugal for CAB Madeir. After averaging 12.4 points and 8.3 rebounds in Portugal's top division, Morse found a home in Perth.
When the Wildcats began their preseason training camp, Morse, who finished third in Most Valuable Player voting in the SBL last year, was invited to work out with the first division club. That workout turned into an extended preseason stay with Perth and eventually the unexpected call-up.
"To play against the Nuggets, growing up watching them, cheering for them. I can't describe it," Morse said.