Editor’s note: Macey Franko’s name was misspelled as “Macy Franko” in the original online and print article. Her name has since been corrected for this version. The Collegian apologizes for this error.
One young player is garnering respect on the Kansas State men’s basketball team.
Redshirt freshman forward Taj Manning had a unique high school career, to say the least, playing for three different high school teams in four years and, more impressively, winning two of those respective teams’ state championships.
He signed with K-State under the previous coaching staff, but the three-star recruit held out through the coaching change. Now, under head coach Jerome Tang, Manning is gaining high praise from both coaching staff and players in practices. Tang and his teammates spoke highly of him at the postgame press conference after defeating TCU.
“I think at some point in time Taj Manning is going to be an all-conference player,” Tang said. “And he is going to score in a ton of basketball games, and every year he is just going to continue to get better and better.”
His talent has had the opportunity to refine as he has taken on some of the Big 12’s best in practice.
“[Manning] does a lot of great things. He really matches my physicality, so we just go at it with each other and make each other better,” guard Tykei Greene said. “He’s gonna be a great player for [Tang].”
Manning’s teammates have helped his growth and development as a player. His size and athleticism make him a premiere player to watch. He fits into the system at forward, primarily in the paint standing 6-foot-7.
“He is like a magnet. I don’t know what it is, but whenever the shot goes up Taj is always there rebounding,” guard Markquis Nowell said. “Whether it’s offensive rebounding or defensive rebounding you could always catch Taj.”
The historic season for K-State has allowed the coaching staff to greatly improve on their recruiting. Because of three 2023 signees, K-State is a top 18 recruiting class, according to 247 sports.
“Our scout team is really good, and they really help us prepare,” Tang said. “And I leave practice a lot of times thinking, ‘Boy we are gonna be really good next year.’”
Tang’s staff has set up premiere talent for K-State’s roster for years to come. Manning’s talent development stands as a motivation for other potential players to commit and transfer to K-State.
The roster stands as an experienced unit, but with experience comes age. Forward Keyontae Johnson, Nowell, Greene, guard Desi Sills and center Abayomi Iyiola are all in their senior year, so bringing in younger talent for the roster will be important for creating lasting competition in the Big 12.
Tang has set the stage for young talent to come to K-State and instilled confidence and high standards in his players. His presence is a major reason why players buy into the program.
Manning has yet to receive playing time, but it’s clear the coaching staff and his teammates respect his game.
“One day y’all will be sitting here writing stories about maybe the all-time winningest player in K-State history because he does all the little things and big things that help you win basketball games,” Tang said.