Charles Manning Jr. didn’t figure to see much playing time for Louisiana State University this season.
After all, the 2018-19 Tigers went 28–7 — tying for the second-most wins in school history — won the program’s first Southeastern Conference regular-season title in a decade, and reached the second weekend of the NCAA tournament for the first time since making the finals in 2006.
Coach Will Wade is back for his third season at LSU, and so are five of his top eight players. But Manning has a history of winning, and playing at an elite level. He led the Bridgehampton Killer Bees to a New York Class D championship title and was named to the All-Long Island third team despite missing the first month of the season while playing for Lutheran High School in 2016.
Last season, Manning, a six-foot, five-inch guard, played for one of the top junior colleges in the country — Florida Southwestern State — and earned second team National Junior College Athletic Association All-American honors.
The buzz had started, and Wade heard it.
“I went to see Charles,” Wade told The Independent. “He was the hardest working player on the floor.”
That earned Manning a scholarship to the Division I powerhouse of which Shaquille O’Neal is an alumnus.
But there was one more hurdle to jump — earning playing time — and Manning set his sights on the starting five. After a blistering preseason, he got his wish: starting shooting guard for the No. 23-ranked program.
So far, the Tigers are 2-1 and Manning is averaging eight points a game. On November 3, with a handful of East Enders on hand at Virginia Commonwealth to see him play, Manning was, well, Manning. He made all four of his shots, scoring 10 points, grabbed five rebounds, and committed only one turnover in 29 minutes of play.
The Tigers will play in the Jersey Mike’s Jamaica Classic over the weekend. Like most of this top-tier program’s games, it will be nationally televised.