August 05, 2011
This is the first of two mini-profiles on the two least heralded members of the U.S. team that will compete in the World University Games. Coming later this morning: A look at UC Santa Barbara star Orlando Johnson.
Skim through the list of players who made the U.S. team that will compete in the World University Games in China later this month, and there's at least one name that may not be familiar to even the most knowledgeable college basketball fans.
He is Yale's Greg Mangano, a 6-foot-10 sharpshooting big man who beat out the likes of Texas A&M's Khris Middleton, Northwestern's John Shurna, Cincinnati's Yancy Gates and West Virginia's Aaric Murray for a roster spot.
For Mangano, it's especially valuable having the opportunity to compete against some of college basketball's top big men and earning the chance to test himself against top international prospects later this month. The Ivy League doesn't offer him too many chances to show he can hold his own against future pro big men, so Mangano sometimes has a bad habit of coasting through games rather than playing with consistent urgency every possession.
"For me individually, it's been a great experience to play against this caliber of talent," Mangano said Thursday. "It's going to be a huge help when I go back to Yale. If I can play at the level I'm playing at now, it just puts me in position to have the type of season I want for myself. It puts me in a position to dominate."
Any progress Mangano makes is terrific news for a Yale program that returns four of its top five scorers from a team that quietly went 8-6 in the Ivy League a year ago and finished third behind co-champs Princeton and Harvard. Mangano was the catalyst for that success, averaging 16.2 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocked shots, all team highs.
Enough NBA talent evaluators liked Mangano's potential that they suggested through his coach that he enter the draft without hiring an agent. Mangano withdrew his name prior to the May 8 deadline as expected and returned to Yale intent on adding muscle, improving his low-post game and developing better moves off the dribble to use when opposing big men close out quickly to take away his outside shot.
In addition to giving maximum effort on every possession, those three facets of his game had been Mangano's focus prior to arriving in Colorado Springs for tryouts for the World University Games. He said he hasn't felt out of place at all despite being among higher profile players this week.
"After the first day, I felt like I could definitely play with any of these guys," Mangano said. "It was just a matter of playing hard and not taking any possessions off. I never knew whether I was going to make it or not, but I was happy with the way I was playing. I knew if I was to go home, I wouldn't have any regrets."
U.S. coach Matt Painter made sure Mangano didn't have to worry about that by selecting him to the team late Wednesday night. Mangano likely received a roster spot because his perimeter-oriented style suits the international game and complements fellow U.S. big men Trevor Mbakwe of Minnesota and JaMychal Green of Alabama.
Learning that he'd made the team late Wednesday night was exciting for Mangano, but he's not sure it will sink in until he pulls a U.S. jersey over his head for the first time once he arrives in China.
"You watch the guys at the Olympics and events like this and you just envy them," Mangano said. "Being able to represent your country is probably the highest level of honor I've had the opportunity to do. I couldn't be more happy. I really can't put it into words."