Saturday, January 10, 2015

Manning's Basketball Experiences Helps Sheldon Players Excel

It was 1993 and the first selection in the NBA Draft was Michigan’s Chris Webber, who later became the leader of a Sacramento Kings’ squad that was one of the best in franchise history.

The 40th selection in that same draft was Richard Manning, a center from the University of Washington.

Manning was a 1988 graduate of Center High School and one of the top college prospects coming out of California. 

“That was when the Big East (Conference) was the thing,” Manning recently recalled. “Very few of us in California stayed in the West. Everyone migrated to Syracuse, Georgetown, Seton Hall, those places.”

Now more than 20 years later, the gentle seven-foot tall giant is coaching the sport he loves. He’s the guy who looms under the basket during warm-ups of the Sheldon High School varsity games, encouraging the latest stable of Huskies.

They all listen, too. He’s been there. He knows what it’s like at the next level and beyond.

In 1988 Manning inked a National Letter of Intent to play for Jim Boeheim at Syracuse and join the very best players in the Big East.

“I came in as a true freshman because Rony Seikely had just graduated and I played ten-to-12 minutes a game,” Manning recalled. “My  sophomore year that increased even more. Kentucky got in big trouble with the NCAA and their players all transferred. LeRon Ellis came to Syracuse and Coach Boeheim asked me to sit until my senior year and then we’d see.”

Manning circa 1997
Manning didn’t like the idea of riding the bench so he transferred. He ended up in the then-Pac 10 at Washington playing for Len Nance. Mark Fox, the current head coach at Georgia, was a graduate assistant at that time. Trent Johnson, another assistant coach at Washington, is now at T.C.U.

Attracting the attention of many NBA scouts, Manning was taken in the second round of the ’93 draft by the Atlanta Hawks.

“I was cut the last day of training camp,” Manning said. “That team had Mookie Blaylock at point guard, Dominique Wilkins was there, Andrew Lang was the center. It was a heck of a team.”

Manning then played in the old Continental Basketball Association for a year and a half until he got a call from the Grizzlies, the NBA franchise which was in Vancouver, British Columbia, at that time.

“In 1995 I made the team and stayed there a year and a half, essentially,” Manning said. “I then went back to the CBA and then I was picked up by the Clippers.” 

He was cut by the Clippers at the beginning of the ’97 campaign and signed to play overseas. Manning spent two years in Turkey and a year in Beirut, Lebanon playing professionally.

“Beirut was nice because that’s where all the Europeans vacation,” Manning said.

An ankle injury pretty much forced him to retire from pro basketball in 2001. But, he was starting a family then and knew he’d be active with his sons’ teams as they grew up.

“I always knew when I had kids I wanted to be involved,” Manning said. “My parents were involved. My dad recorded every one of my high school games. He was very active in my life. I knew that example would carry over.”

A few years ago when oldest son Ryan enrolled at Sheldon, it was almost a no-brainer that Huskies’ coach Joey Rollings asked Manning to help him coach the varsity squad. Manning says rarely he pulls players aside to offer advice based on his experience of play in college and the pros.

“I try not to, really,” he admitted. “I did when we had the (2012-2013 team) just to let them know what to expect. But, for the most part I try not to wave my past in their face. What I’m trying to do is help them just like other coaches helped me along the way.”

One of those coaches that helped Manning in his high school days was Charles Wilder, an assistant at Center, then later a coach at Cosumnes River College.

Now with a taste of a few Section championships at Sheldon, Manning hopes the Huskies will be back at Sleep Train Arena for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs in late February. This time, his younger son Matt is on the Sheldon team.

The younger Manning is a 6-5 forward but grew up playing on the same AAU team as older brother Ryan. Their dad coached the team.

“(Matt) grew up playing point guard and that has helped him (in high school),” the elder Manning said.

But Matt isn’t just a basketball player. In fact, two weeks ago he verbally committed to pitch for Loyola Marymount University's baseball team.

And, the elder Manning is just as active there, too. In fact, he’s the treasurer of the Sheldon baseball booster club.

The two have a good relationship as coach/player.

“I let him know when he takes a bad shot,” Rich said. “Coach Rollings and I have a good partnership where he lets me coach what I see and show the guys what to do.”

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