Connor Mannion wants to be an engineer. That’s the Lambert senior forward’s plan after his college basketball career is over at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Hopefully a pilot, he says, but at least an engineer on an aircraft carrier.
Which is fitting, because Mannion engineered his game this season into dominant form for the Longhorns, averaging 19.3 points and 13.2 rebounds a game to be named the Forsyth County News’ Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
Along the way, he helped Lambert go a school-best 27-3, win a second straight Region 6-AAAAAA championship and advance to the second round of the state playoffs.
Question: How did this season live up to your expectations?
Mannion: “We expected to do that well in the region. So in region we met our expectations; we wanted to win every game in the region, and we did that. I was hoping we didn’t get a third Sweet 16 in a row. I really wanted a Final Four. That was my overall goal for the season. But still 27-3 is a great team record, and I thought we had a great season overall.”
Q: What about your expectations for yourself?
Mannion: “I felt like I, just from all the work I put in the past few years, it really paid off the most this year. I think I almost doubled my numbers from last year, points and rebounds, so I was really happy about that. I felt like I deserved to get that, and probably did better than I expected.
Q: Why do you think it clicked?
Mannion: “Just a lot of things came together for me. My shots felt great all year. Got more size. I think I’ve hit my full height. Through strength and all the training I’ve done, gotten better at rebounding. That was the most impressive part I thought this season. That’s something I worked on a lot, which is what I need for the next level.”
Q: What will you remember most about playing basketball at Lambert?
Mannion: “I’ll remember all my friends that I made from playing, because I’m friends with all the guys on the team, I hang out with them. We had nine seniors this year, I think. I love playing for Coach [Scott] Bracco. I just had a lot of fun playing and getting better with all my teammates.”
Q: What do you want to accomplish at Navy?
Mannion: “I’m hoping to come in and get an opportunity to maybe get some minutes my freshman year. Right now they don’t have a great 3-point shooter, especially at the four position. So I have an opportunity with my shooting ability to get some minutes.
“But there are a lot of experienced guys. It’s hard to play at a Division I program freshman year anywhere. But I think if I keep training as hard as I’ve been I could get an opportunity to get some time there. Then maybe by sophomore or junior year be a big factor for the team.”
Q: Do you know what you want to study?
Mannion: “I think I want to major in engineering. I’m not sure what kind of engineering yet. And then possibly being a pilot or working on an aircraft crew if I’m not the pilot who flies it.”