Salem's Mann blossoms into a versatile leader
The Spartans' junior guard, who literally has grown into his team's most versatile player, leads the Spartans into Tuesday night's Group AA Division 4 state semifinal against Potomac Falls.
REBECCA BARNETT | The Roanoke Times
Salem junior Troy Mann (front) puts up a shot against Northside’s Jaylyn Johnson earlier this season. Mann is the Spartans’ leading scorer, averaging 17 points per game.
Don Petersen | Special to The Roanoke Times
Salem’s Troy Mann (right) drives past Heritage’s William McCoy in the Group AA Division 4 state quarterfinals Saturday. Mann, who paced the Spartans to an upset victory, hopes to repeat the feat tonight against Potomac Falls.
Monday, March 4, 2013
Salem junior Troy Mann does not hide the fact that he is a big fan of Chicago Bulls superstar Derrick Rose.
On the basketball floor, Mann dresses like the 2009 NBA rookie of the year, complete with the distinctive black knee pads that Rose has made popular.
“My favorite player is Derrick Rose,” Mann said. “I’ve got his shoes. I’ve got his ankle braces, and these [pads] are pretty much what he wears.”
While Rose has been injured for the entire 2012-13 NBA season, Mann has blossomed for Salem.
The 6-foot-4 guard has become the Spartans’ leading scorer at 17 points per game heading into tonight’s Group AA Division 4 semifinal in Richmond against Potomac Falls at VCU’s Siegel Center.
Mann is Salem’s most versatile offensive player. His strengths are running the floor and scoring in transition, driving the baseline in the Spartans’ halfcourt offense and hitting free throws.Mann went 4 for 4 from the line in the final minute of Saturday’s 53-45 quarterfinal victory over Heritage, finishing with 10 points and three assists.
How valuable is Mann? He was the only Spartan who played all 32 minutes.
“He shoots it well,” Salem coach Kevin Garst said. “He handles it well. But with his size, he can score in a lot of different ways. You can facilitate your offense a lot of different ways through him.
“You can run him off ball screens, give him post touches. He’s a pretty consistent shooter. You’ve got to be aware of him. Honestly, there’s not many guys that can physically match up with him and keep him in front.”
Salem (17-10) started the 2012-13 season 4-8 overall, but the Spartans have won 13 of their past 15 games.
During the past two months, Mann has become the focus of attention, leading Salem to the River Ridge District regular-season and tournament titles after the Spartans dropped their first two league games.
“Every single night, he’s getting the other team’s best defender,” Garst said. “Every single night, he’s getting the other coach’s game plan. They’re going in saying, ‘We’ve got to shut down Number 10.’
“For him to still be able to do the things that he does is really impressive.”
Cave Spring coach Billy Hicks tried many things against Mann this year to no avail. The Salem guard scored 77 points in three games against the Knights.
“He really lit us up,” Hicks said. “In my opinion he was the most improved player in the district. Not that he was bad as a sophomore.
“He spent a lot of time in the weight room. You can tell just by looking at him. He has a lot better control of the basketball out front and when he takes it to the basket he’s much stronger.”
Mann was a 6-foot point guard as a freshman on Salem’s JV team two years ago. Then he hit a growth spurt.
While the extra inches and pounds have paid dividends on the court, they haven’t done much for Mann’s clothing budget.
“Especially since last year, all of the clothes I had, none of them fit me,” Mann said.
Mann said he is hesitant to spend money on new threads because doctors told him he probably is not finished growing.
“I’ve got two jackets and one pair of jeans,” he said. “That’s it. People make fun of me for wearing the same stuff to school every day.”
Hand-me-downs from his older brother, Tyler, who is spending a redshirt freshman year in the basketball program at Bluefield College, aren’t much help.
“Right now, I’m already taller than him by three inches,” Mann said. “None of his stuff fits me either.”
Mann fits in with his teammates at Salem, where team chemistry has not always been a popular subject for some recent Spartans teams.
“It’s a great group of guys,” Garst said. “I think they play a lot in the offseason. They have a natural chemistry. They enjoy being around each other.”
Mann and two other Salem starters — forward Matt Hill and center Alex Light — decided on a recent shopping trip to buy spandex sleeves to wear on their right arms during games.
“Before a game we went out to get something to eat and we went to the mall and each decided to get a sleeve,” Mann said. “We all wear it.”
Mann no longer wears one thing on his sleeves: his emotions.
The Salem standout has curbed some early-season on-court actions that he said negatively affected his production.
“Especially talking to refs,” Mann said. “That’s not going to help at all. Watching film after every game, watching myself and learning from that. I can’t be doing that.
“I’m a whole lot more calm. I’m a whole lot more confident out there. I’m not worrying too much about messing up.”
Salem could have a tough task for the 9 p.m. tipoff in Richmond against Potomac Falls, a program that won back-to-back state titles in 2010-11 and lost to Christiansburg in last year’s semifinals.
However, Salem entered Saturday’s quarterfinal as an underdog to Heritage before shooting 54.5 percent as a team and outrebounding the Pioneers 37-26.
Mann believes the Spartans’ effort will not be lacking.
“We’ve all talked about it,” he said. “We want to make sure we don’t leave the game with any regrets.”
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