By Alexander Mantz
The bouncing ball could be heard from the top of the arena. The swish that followed could be heard from fifteen rows back.
Coach Eric Murphy’s, “again,” is heard over the trash talk and squeaking shoes. It is a designed play for Charles Manning, Jr.
He is not the biggest member in the FSW Buccaneer’s intense scrimmage. He leads by his actions. His team follows. Even from the stands, the intensity of the practice matched that of a game.
Manning stands at 6-foot-5, but he plays much bigger. He hustles. He is your perfect Swiss Army knife on the court. Anything a coach asks him to do, he will do it, and he will do it well.
“If you come here, be ready to work, every day,” said Manning. “Just be ready to get better, be challenged by the coaches, by the players. Look to get better.”
Basketball is a high-pressure sport at FSW. The flashy Suncoast Credit Union Arena, which opened in 2016, cost athletic donors, the college and its sponsors more than 25 million dollars.
In its three years of existence, the basketball program has achieved its lofty goals and expectations. At the end of this season, the Buccaneers men’s team was ranked number one in the nation. The women’s squad finished the regular season ranked number nine.
As a freshman in 2017-18, Manning played 32 games. He averaged 12.4 points and almost 5 rebounds a game. He dished out 2 assists a game. He boasts a 53-shooting percentage from the field, shot 28 percent from three, and shot 70 percent from the free throw line. His career high is 27 points.
As a sophomore, he has played in 27 games. His points per game total went up to 16.7. His rebounds moved up to just over 5 per game. His assists bumped up to 3.3. He shot 49 percent from the field this year. His 37 percent three point shot increased from 28 last year. His free throws went up to just under 72 percent.
His hard work earned him a scholarship to play D-1 basketball for the number-13 LSU Tigers.
Manning hails from Riverhead, New York.
“A lot of people don’t really respect you coming from New York,” he said. Sweat was dripping off of his brow. “Coming in with that chip on your shoulder, wanting to be the best, doing what I’m used to – bringing that competitive edge to work out here is what I have to do.”
Manning plans on bringing that intensity to LSU with him next season. He wouldn’t change anything about his overall FSW experience.
“Definitely a 10. The experience, the brotherhood, meeting new people, experiencing new things, these past two years have been amazing.