SIOUX CITY | Morgan Ili's basketball abilities have taken her from New Zealand to Hawaii to Oregon to Sioux City.
Ili found herself in the Woodbury County seat on Wednesday, concluding her collegiate career for the Oregon Tech Lady Owls in an 87-63 loss to the Jamestown Jimmies.
"We beat Jamestown in the first round last year," Ili said. "Jamestown got us this year."
The former Morgan Roberts, who turns 23 on Sunday, wasn't despondent over the loss. Rather, she expressed gratitude for the opportunity to play a child's game into her 20s, maybe beyond.
"It's been a great experience," she concluded. "Not everyone gets to play at the national tournament."
Morgan Ili grew up in New Zealand, and played basketball for national youth teams there. After winning national titles on various 15- and 17-and-under teams, Ili secured a scholarship to play basketball at the University of Hawaii. She lasted three months in Honolulu.
"It just didn't work out," she said. "I left Hawaii, went home and took a year off."
She never really left the radar of Scott Meredith, women's basketball coach at Oregon Tech. Meredith recruited Ili during her youth basketball days, although she never visited the campus in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Meredith's college roommate, who resided in Hawaii, read in 2012 that Ili had left school. He suggested Meredith reach out. He did.
"I emailed Morgan to ask if she was done with basketball," Meredith said. It kind of sounded like she was.
Meredith said the door to the Lady Owls program would always be open. It took three years, but she took him up on the offer.
"I emailed Coach (Meredith) and introduced myself in 2015," Ili recalled. "I asked him if he remembered me."
"Of course I remembered her," Meredith said. "I had recruited her."
Meredith invited Ili to give college in the U.S. another shot. She set foot for the first time on campus that fall and became a Lady Owl. She played last season and this season with the team, which posted a 24-9 record.
Ili on Wednesday scored nine points and registered three assists in the 24-point loss, a game she said will be her last as a collegian, despite having one more year of eligibility. Instead, she plans to take her psychology degree after graduation this spring and return to Auckland, New Zealand.
"I miss home and I miss my husband," she said.
Ili's husband, Shea Ili, is also a basketball player, only he plays for pay, toiling in a professional league for the New Zealand Breakers. He's also a member of the New Zealand national team.
Interestingly, the brother of the Jamestown point guard, Bryn Woodside, played with Shea Ili in New Zealand last season.
"It's a small world," Morgan Ili said.
A world she's crossed thanks to her ability to run, dribble, pass and shoot. Ili said she plans to pursue her master's degree in psychology once she's back in New Zealand. Oh, she may also play some basketball. There's a semi-pro league for women that has caught her attention.
As she headed from the Tyson Events Center, Ili reflected on a short-but-satisfying stay in the 2017 national tournament. Enrolling at Oregon Tech helped her fulfill her dream of playing college basketball in the U.S. Earning a berth in two national tournaments was an "and-one" to use a basketball term; a "bonus."
"I had a great experience," she repeated. "It's sad to go out on a loss, but I doesn't take away from the great experience I had here."