Jan. 8, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – There will be a lot of focus on a Manning on Wednesday night at the Cam Henderson Center.
If it’s mostly about new Tulsa Coach Danny Manning and not Thundering Herd guard Tamron Manning, that’s OK with the latter.
The former has an NCAA Tournament title (1988) from his playing days at Kansas, where the 6-foot-10 star was a two-time consensus All-America and a national player of the year.
As for the other Manning?
The 6-foot-4 MU freshman has been pretty much learning to play point guard on the fly for a team (7-8, 0-0) that entertains Tulsa (9-6, 1-0) in the Herd’s Conference USA opener.
Manning has made four starts since coming off the bench to play 30 minutes against Cincinnati’s pressure trapping in the nationally ranked Bearcats’ win in mid-December at the Charleston Civic Center. With junior DeAndre Kane back despite still dealing with a right hand injury, Manning may be in reserve again on Wednesday night.
However, the surprise exit of newcomer Kelvin Amayo from the program after only three games means Manning will still get his share of point guard minutes. A year ago at this time, Manning was the scoring star for a Scott County (Ky.) High team that finished as the Kentucky Sweet Sixteen State Tournament runner-up.
Then, he was more about “points” than the point, but to date he has only three points in 11 games (117 minutes) for the Herd.
He’s getting guidance from his coaches as well as another experienced source.
“I played point a little bit in high school, but it was more by committee,” Manning said. “Now, it’s a different level, different talent, and I’m just trying to learn how to handle the ball and do what I can do for my team to win. It’s going pretty good, but I still think I can do a lot better.”
Manning thought he’d be a wing guard when he signed with MU. He said his experience at the point started in late summer in the Herd’s early workouts, and Coach Tom Herrion
and his staff liked Manning’s presence and height at the top of the offense.
Then, once the Herd learned that recruit Kareem Canty was denied initial eligibility by the NCAA, Manning’s contribution became more crucial. His role grew even more once Kane was ruled out the week of the Cincinnati game.
Asked what has the largest degree of difficulty for him at “one,” Manning sounded like he was considering a multiple-choice question.
“The toughest thing is getting everybody in the right spots, and handle the ball and run the offense, be the main distributor,” Manning said, laughing. “There are a lot of tough spots, but I’m just gradually getting used to it and gradually getting better as year continues. I think I’ll show a lot more improvement.”
Manning can get pointers in more than practice and during timeouts in games, too.
His father, Terry Manning, was a backup point guard at Eastern Kentucky in the mid-80s. The Herd guard said some fatherly tips have helped, too.
“My dad was kind of in my shoes (at EKU),” Manning said. “He said the main thing is just to stay poised, because you’re going to make mistakes. You’re a freshman and you’re playing at a high level, so you’re going to make mistakes; just make sure you don’t make too many of them.
“He told me to try to stay poised through all the bad things that can happen. Don’t let everything get into your head, a turnover, a mistake. Stay pretty even keel, don’t let them see or know if you’re nervous.”
Manning has committed only four turnovers in his last 64 minutes over four games, but knows he remains a work in progress with the ball at the top of a Herd attack that has labored to score for the last month.
“I try to stay positive,” Manning said when asked about dealing with the Herd’s recent struggles. “I try to bring as much positive energy to practice as I can, keep everyone uplifted, talk a lot, make sure my team on defense is talking, keep the energy going. If we lose our energy, that could be bad, so we don’t want that.”
He said being a rookie trying to guide a team with plenty of juniors and seniors on the floor hasn’t been an issue.
“Being a freshman doesn’t matter a whole lot, because once you’ve gained their trust in practice, then they’ll trust you in a game,” Manning said. . And I think I’ve gained their trust in practice in practice, so they listen to me when I tell them to do something in the game.
“I have the trust, I think. The tough part is the communication to the other four guys instead of just one at a time, communicating to everyone on the floor, getting them in the right spots as quickly as you can.”