Two seniors chase hoop dreams

Center Greg Mangano ’12, who averages 18.4 points per game, is one of the seniors Yale will lose to graduation.
Center Greg Mangano ’12, who averages 18.4 points per game, is one of the seniors Yale will lose to graduation. Photo by YDN.

May is a time of uncertainty for Yale seniors as they look to begin the rest of their lives, but two Yale seniors are searching for a job on the hardwood rather than in an office or classroom.

Center Greg Mangano ’12 and forward Reggie Willhite ’12 are currently preparing to enter the world of professional basketball after Commencement.

Mangano has produced most of the buzz between the two players, as he has tried to show NBA teams around the country what he is capable of. He recently returned to campus after participating in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in Portsmouth, Va., from April 11 to 14.

“I thought he did a real nice job at proving that he can shoot from the perimeter,” Yale head coach James Jones said. “[That was] the emphasis that his agent has put on him.”

At the Tournament, Mangano averaged 10.7 points and six rebounds while shooting 46.2 percent (6–13) from beyond the arc in three games. The next step for Mangano will be to participate in individual workouts with several NBA teams, Jones said.

“I thought I played well. I shot the ball from deep,” Mangano said. “Going to a small mid-major school, you don’t get the same kind of exposure.”

Mangano added that he has a work-out set up with the Utah Jazz. He has been training in New Jersey during the weekends.

Although all 30 NBA teams had scouts at the Portsmouth tournament, it was not the first time that scouts have seen Mangano play.

“During the course of the season there were a couple of scouts that requested credentials to the games,” Assistant Director of Sports Publicity Tim Bennett said.

He added that the Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs all requested press passes for scouts to attend Yale games this past season.

The Spurs were one of two teams, along with the Boston Celtics, who contacted Jones after Mangano filled out the paperwork for the draft after last season, Jones said.

Jones suggested that Mangano test the waters of the NBA draft to create interest following a junior season during which he averaged 16.3 points and ten rebounds per game. But Mangano did not hire an agent last year and returned to Yale for his senior season.

“There was nothing really last year that he did other than put his name into the draft,” Jones said. “I [suggested he enter the draft] because I thought Greg should’ve been Player of the Year and he wasn’t. I thought it important for him to have his name put out there.”

Although it is not likely that Mangano’s name will be called on draft day, Jones said, Mangano will still have a good chance to make an NBA team. The center will be able to try out over the summer to sign a free agent contract with a team, and if not, he will have the option of playing the NBA’s Developmental League — the NBA’s version of the Minors. Mangano also said that he could play in Europe, adding that he is open to playing overseas and has talked to representatives from teams in Spain, Israel and Lithuania.

In this case, Mangano will face a tough choice, Jones said, because the D-League gives players more exposure to NBA teams but European teams can pay more.

“I want to show that I’m a versatile 6’ 11’’ player who can stretch the floor,” Mangano said.

Although Mangano is the more traditional NBA prospect with his superior height, Willhite is also looking to play professionally and has hired an agent in the hopes of landing with a team in the United States or abroad.

“Reggie’s a great prospect and I wish him just as much luck in the process,” Jones said. “It’s just easier when you’re six-eleven.”

Willhite did not respond for comment Tuesday.

As the 2012 Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year, Willhite could make a team as a lockdown defender rather than as a long-range scoring threat like Mangano.

The Ivy League is not traditionally a pipeline to the NBA, but with Jeremy Lin’s sensational run with the New York Knicks earlier this year, new hope has been given to Ancient Eight ballers such as Mangano and Willhite.

The 2012 NBA draft will be held on June 28.

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