The men’s basketball season has endured a roller coaster ride this season, but there has been one constant: the dominating inside play of center Greg Mangano ’12.
After averaging just 7.5 points last season, the 6’ 10” 240 pound junior leads the league with seven double-doubles this year and has emerged as a serious contender for Ivy League Player of the Year. The junior big man is averaging 14.8 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game and has helped his team win its first two Ivy League games and reach a 9–7 overall record.
Many knew that Mangano could be poised for a breakout year before the season started. He was picked to the All-Connecticut 6 Preseason Team, chosen by the six head coaches of teams competing in the tournament of the same name. But a large number of media outlets including Athlon Sports, Rivals.com, and Lindy’s Sport Annuals did not choose Mangano for their first or second All-Ivy teams. Some chose Michael Sands ’11, but the forward left Yale for personal reasons before the season.
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“I don’t think a lot of people in the league knew much about my game,” Mangano said. “Coming into this year, most teams were going to key on Mike Sands, and he would be the focal point for other teams’ defenses.”
Sitting at 1–3 in late November, the Bulldogs held their home opener against Army in need of a win. Mangano responded and went off for 27 points and 15 rebounds, both career highs at the time. Since then, the Bulldogs have gone 8–4, and Mangano is one of the primary reasons. In that 12 game stretch, Mangano has averaged a double-double with 15.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, and three blocks per game.
But for Mangano, it’s been a long journey to the top.
As a freshman, Mangano appeared in 20 games off the bench. In a 64–36 loss at Cornell, Mangano showed his potential when he finished with a team-high eight points, five rebounds and a block. But during the summer between his freshman and sophomore season, Mangano suffered a broken foot and was out of practice from July until November.
“Like a baseball player, he didn’t have a preseason and was still able to come in and play fairly well,” head coach James Jones said. “But I always believed that he had the potential to be better than what he did last year.”
Mangano credits the strength coaches for getting him back into shape, but he still missed the first six games of the 2009-2010 season and played in 25 contests. In only 18.4 minutes per game a year ago, Mangano averaged 7.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2 blocks. He split time at the center position with Paul Nelson ’10 who helped Mangano mature as a player.
“Paul is a big, big, big guy. He’s about my height and a real strong kid,” Mangano said. “Playing with him really helped me because he was very physical and that’s how guys play me in the league now. Basically, he got me accustomed to the physicality of the game.”
After an offseason of shooting, work around the basket, and strength and conditioning, Mangano has developed into one of the Ivy League’s best players and should be in serious consideration for Ivy League Men’s Basketball Player of the Year. The big man is fourth in the conference in points per game, first in rebounds per game and first in blocks per game. With 106 career blocks, Mangano is already second on Yale’s all-time list and could surpass the record of 172 held by Chris Dudley ’87 sometime next season.
According to Jones, Mangano also has a positive influence on team practices. After spending two seasons behind a group of experienced veterans, Mangano has now assumed a teaching position.
“He brings effort in practice everyday. He tries to help some of the younger guys get better,” Jones said. “Guys like Jeremiah Kreisberg ’14 and Rhett Anderson ’12 have to go up against him in practice every day. That helps them out because they’re not going to see too many guys with his length and shot blocking ability. It enables those guys to get better.”
All of Mangano’s teammates are benefitting from the increased attention on the center. Many teams are double and triple-teaming Mangano, allowing his teammates to find themselves better looks on the offensive end. The team is shooting the highest three-point percentage (.352) of any Yale team since 2006-2007.
Kreisberg is one of those helped most by Mangano’s presence. The freshman is averaging 6.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game and won Ivy League Rookie of the Week for his performance Saturday against Brown. Yale swept the Ivy League men’s basketball awards this week as Mangano was named Ivy League Player of the Week for his 17 points, 12 rebound, seven block outing.
“All of the defenses focus on Greg,” Kreisberg said after Saturday’s Brown game. “I can be efficient with my shooting and play off of him.”
Although Mangano has had a large amount of early season success, his field goal percentage is .465 which, while good, is far behind many of the Ivy League’s top big men including Harvard’s Keith Wright (.586) and Princeton’s Kareem Maddox (.586) and Ian Hummer (.568).
However, Mangano’s true shooting percentage (.547), a statistic that also accounts for three-pointers and free throws, compares more favorably with Hummer (.585), Wright (.617) and Maddox (.651). But Jones sees room for improvement.
“I think a lot of time he settles for jump shots when he should be putting pressure on the defense,” Jones said. “He needs to get to the free throw line more, and the way you do that is taking the ball to rim more than he does. If he can do that consistently he can be a lot better player for us.”
An even better Mangano could guarantee the Bulldogs an Ivy League championship. As it is now, they are on the right path. At 2–0 in the Ivy League, the team will travel southwest to take on the Killer P’s of Penn and Princeton, two early season Ivy League championship favorites. Two wins would be a great step toward Mangano and the team’s goal of an Ivy League championship.
“Personally, It would be great to win Player of the Year, but it’s not something that I’m really too focused on,” Mangano said. “I just know that if I keep doing what I’m doing now, I’ll be able to at least help my team win, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
The last Yale men’s basketball player to be named Ivy League Player of the Year was Paul Maley ’88 after the 1987-88 season.