- Sep 12, 2009
- Reaction score
GERRY BROOME, ASSOCIATED PRESS
North Carolina’s Sterling Manley reacts following his basket and a foul against North Carolina State
Sterling Manley felt like a kid again last weekend in Tampa.
The 7-foot, 250-pound former North Carolina center was a big kid on the court at the Tampa Bay Pro Basketball Combine. He was smiling, laughing, enjoying basketball again – and standing out as a result.
Being on the court was fun, especially now that the 22-year-old Ohio native and Gophers' target is finally healthy and getting the chance to showcase his talent.
"That was the biggest thing for me was playing basketball again," the redshirt junior told the Star Tribune. "I don't know what the future holds and what the next step is, but I know right now I'm having fun and getting better at basketball."
New Gophers coach Ben Johnson and his staff have been in constant contact, which makes them as good a landing spot as any if Manley stays in school.
Manley, who entered the transfer portal in late March, averaged 4.6 points and 3.2 rebounds in 58 career games, but his breakout performance alongside NBA hopefuls last weekend proved that the knee issues sidelining him for most of his UNC career appear to be far in his rearview mirror.
Highlighted by a 24-point game in Saturday's combine action, Manley averaged 14 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in four games. He measured 7-1 in shoes, with a 7-4 wingspan and displayed impressive athleticism with a 35-inch vertical leap.
An announcement on returning to college or pursuing a pro career is expected to come after Manley competes in the Myrtle Beach International Combine from June 13-15 in South Carolina.
After leading his combine team (alongside former Wisconsin big man and Lakeville native Nate Reuvers) to an undefeated record in Tampa, Manley spoke to the Star Tribune about his process.
Q: How did you like the inaugural Tampa Bay Pro Basketball Combine?
A: I was grateful to be able to showcase my skills and be around top talent. It was definitely good to prove I belonged there. They had me as an alternate. A couple guys dropped out, so they were able to put me in. All I needed was an opportunity. And once I got that opportunity and got a jersey, I was able to handle the rest.
Q: What have you enjoyed most about your conversations with the Gophers?
A: The biggest thing is just relationship building and seeing what the dynamics of the team is and seeing what job and opportunity they have for me in the route to become an NBA player and becoming a pro. I want to be around a good group of guys and coaching staff, and a good program that has a winning culture. A program that wants to win and has good player development. I think with Coach Johnson, [assistant coach Jason] Kemp and the other coaches and players at Minnesota, they're trying to build that culture. He's a new man on the job, so he has that chip on his shoulder and things he wants to accomplish and prove. But for me, it's relationship building.