Connor Mannion looked to be on track to follow the footsteps of his kin into a future on the baseball diamond, but he kept growing.
Andy Kosco, Mannion’s grandfather, was an outfielder and first baseman for seven Major League Baseball teams over a 10-year span. Mannion also had two uncles who played professionally, and when he got to high school, Mannion was primed to become a pitcher on Lambert’s dominant baseball team.
But after his sophomore season, Mannion’s opportunities began to shift. He went from 6-foot to 6-foot-4 between freshman and sophomore year, and by his junior season was 6-foot-6.
With noticeable height and a sweet jumper he developed in the driveway with his father as a kid, Mannion had transformed into a basketball prospect. It wasn’t the plan—he admits baseball was his sport of choice—but with colleges calling, Mannion made the career decision to focus solely on basketball.
Now, as a 6-foot-7 senior who can play in the post or on the wing, Mannion is a prospect, but more importantly, a key piece of the Longhorns’ basketball team. After reaching the second round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs two years in a row, he’s focused on leading the Longhorns to the semifinals as his last hoorah.
“This year I think we’ve got the best team we’ve ever had at Lambert,” Mannion said. “We’ve got four returning starters, with Ross (Morkem) in the post, Andrew (Melms) at guard, Tanner (Hall) will be able to score for us and get rebounds, and we’ve got some younger kids who are going to be really good.”
It’s all about the team for Mannion, but there’s no questioning his presence and importance.
Head coach Scott Bracco said no player works harder than Mannion, and that he spends hours in the gym using a shooting machine to keep his shot as seamless as possible.
Mannion also spends time with Goldin Athletic Training Association, or GATA, which has developed 281 pro or college athletes since opening its doors in 1998. The workouts include specialized agility training, speed and strength, heavy lifting, springs and jumping. He’s gained 15 pounds from where he was last year.
On the coaching side of things, Mannion has had to learn and develop a post game since growing to his new height, which means he is now considered by many college coaches as a dual-threat player.
Mannion also competes for the Atlanta All-Stars in AAU ball to make sure he’s playing year round. His evolution into a college basketball prospect has earned interest from the College of Charleston, Kennesaw State, Gardner-Webb and Georgia College, as well as official offers from Navy and Stone Hill College in Massachusetts.
“I didn’t see my potential in basketball until my sophomore year, really,” Mannion said. “When I got a lot taller, I realized my potential. The coaches like that I can play the post, as well as shoot.”
Last season Mannion averaged 11.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks, and was an all-county selection by the Forsyth County News, as well as all-region. This season he hopes to improve on his rebounding totals and get more double-doubles.
“This AAU season I feel like helped a lot. We were going against some really good competition,” Mannion said. “Just strength and the ability to get more rebounds, that’s been a major focus of mine.”