Mangano's Confidence Continues To Grow As U.S. Departs For China
Aug. 8, 2011 • Colorado Springs, Colo.
On Monday, Aug. 8, the USA Basketball men's and women's World University Games teams depart in the early morning from Colorado Springs on their way to Shenzhen, China, and the start of the 2011 World University Games, which features college-aged athletes from all around the world competiting in dozens of different sports.
Among the the 12 U.S. men's players is Greg Mangano (Yale/Orange, Conn.), a 6'10" forward who has extended a successful 2010-11 college season right through into the summer months, including an impressive selection to the USA Basketball Men's World University Games Team on Aug. 3, after six days of training camp that started with 20 players.
"Coming in to training camp last Friday, I didn't really know what to expect, but I knew either way, just playing against this kind of competition was going to be a great experience for me and would help me improve my game individually," Mangano said. "As the week progressed, things got a little bit better and better, and it's been a great week.
"You try not to think about the committee having to make cuts as much as you can, but it is always in the back of your mind," Mangano admitted. "You just have to go out and give 100 percent everyday and whatever happens, happens. You never really know what they are going to decide, but you can always play hard.
"I had all sorts of emotions when I found out I made the team, I didn't really know what to think at first. I didn't sleep much that night. It was pretty amazing, and my friends and family couldn't have been more proud. There's really not a greater honor than wearing U-S-A on the front of your jersey and being able to represent your country."
Fans of Mangano, however, likely aren't surprised by his recent success. After all, he nearly doubled his 7.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in 2009-10 to 16.3 points and 10.0 rebounds per game in 2010-11 and listed ninth nationally in blocked shots (85) this past season.
"It was a good year, for me and for my team. We were coming off of the loss of our best player, who was also our captain, so after we lost him we knew a couple of guys would have to step up, and I knew I was going to have to be one of those guys. So I think I was just ready, more ready than I had ever been coming into a season to play hard and try and get it done. I think we did a pretty good job of that."
Readiness may be a theme for Mangano, who took advantage of the wisdom of his head coach James Jones, who was an assistant for the 2007 USA Men's Pan American Games Team, and his off season training to come into camp prepared.
"I had been training all summer with my strength coaches, and I think about six of our team members who were on campus. We've been playing at least a few times a week, and I feel like I'm in good shape. It also helped that our coach, James Jones, had experience with USA Basketball. He coached in the Pan American Games, so he knew a little bit about the ins and outs and he had some things to tell me about the whole process, which helped a lot coming out here."
Readiness also may describe Mangano and his U.S. teammates as they prepare to depart for competition.
"I think everybody is really ready to go to China. Even though it's been a great stay at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, I think something new will be great. Everybody is ready to go and ready to compete, and I think that's a good thing."
The team has been working two-a-day practices for most of the past 10 days, preparing to compete for what would be the USA's first men's World University Games gold medal since 2005.
"As a group we have a lot of unselfish guys, and we've really started to mesh together very well. The way we run our offense, everybody is getting great shots, open shots, because everybody out here is a great player. You know if you share the ball, the next guy is going to make a play. I think having confidence in each other, which we do, is a big step towards winning a gold medal."
What they will find when they arrive at the 2011 World University Games village in Shenzhen, China, will be a surprise, even for Mangano, who happened to travel to the region just a few weeks ago with the Yale Bulldogs.
"We actually went to China at the beginning of this summer, so I will be going twice in one summer. We went there as a team and played four games. We were there for about 10 days, so we got to see some stuff. It was a great experience, and it actually was the first time I had left the country. We were in Shangdu and Shanghai, and we flew into Hong Kong, like we will be again this trip. Shang Hai was like 10 New Yorks. It was very crowded, but it was a great experience seeing some of that culture.
"When we went we stayed in hotels, and this time we will be in the village living with other teams. So, it will be a very different experience as a whole. There will be teams from all over the world and teams from different sports, not just basketball. Being able to meet people from all around the globe will be something I've never experienced."
The U.S men open play in the WUGs against Mexico at 6 p.m. (6 a.m. Eastern Standard Time) on Aug. 13, and the team has one exhibition scheduled for Aug. 11 against New Century of the Chinese Basketball Association at 7:30 p.m. (7:30 a.m. Eastern) on Aug. 11.
"Coming out here, I just wanted to be able to play and compete at this level, and making the team has obviously boosted my confidence, " Mangano said. "I'm kind of still just taking everything in right now. I think when I look back and reflect on it, I'll be able to point out things that surprised me. Being able to have this opportunity is incredible, and I don't even think I've realized what it really means to represent the USA. I think when it's all over, I'll be able to look back and think, 'Wow, that was incredible.'