PORTSMOUTH — Basketball prospects that are relatively new to the game always carry a high level of intrigue.
Memphis, Tenn. native Will Mangum, however, is not just full of promise and potential.
The 6-7 wing, who played at Cowley College in the NJCAA Division I ranks after transferring from Missouri-Kansas City, has committed to spend the next three years of his basketball career at Shawnee State.
The redshirt sophomore will have three seasons of eligiblity with SSU beginning with the 2020-21 academic year.
“It means everything,” Mangum said of his decision to sign with SSU. “It’s like a big monkey is off of my back now, especially since I felt like I made the right choice. I’m not questioning anything about it. It’s a big sigh of relief. It feels like a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. I’m really thrilled and can’t wait to get rolling.”
Marion unearths Mangum
A high-level talent who starred all across the Memphis metro area, it’d be hard for one to believe that Wagner didn’t start playing competitive basketball until his 10th-grade year.
However, that was indeed the case.
Upon moving to the Memphis-area suburb of Marion, Ark., Wagner began picking up the game, later trying out and making Marion High School’s 6A-sized unit as a sophomore despite his relatively new introduction to the sport.
“I moved to Marion and went over there for my 10th grade year, and while I was over there, the people that I was hanging out with were playing basketball, so I thought that I would try out for the team with them,” Mangum said. “I ended up making the team and doing pretty good over there.”
Top talent awaits at Tennessee Prep
After transferring to Memphis Catholic High School for his junior season, Mangum made the decision to go the prep route, ultimately enrolling at Tennessee Prep Academy and playing there his senior year while also playing a postgraduate season there.
There, Mangum really blossomed.
Under individuals such as Jerry Randolph among others, Mangum became an immediate contributing piece for the Diplomats, who played a national schedule full of powerhouses — Oak Hill Academy, Hillcrest Academy, Hamilton Heights Christian Academy and Findlay Prep just to name a few.
In just his third season playing basketball, Mangum went from a newcoming roundballer to a young man who played against five future NBA Draft selections as a senior in high school — including consensus five-star recruits DeAndre Ayton, Josh Jackson, and P.J. Washington as well as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
When teammate and 7-3 center Chris Sodom went down with a foot injury, Mangum stepped up and manned the five-spot, often times playing against big men three-to-five inches taller.
His dedication to the team concept allowed Tennessee Prep to accumulate a 31-13 record despite the rigorous national schedule in his two seasons with the program.
Not surprisingly, Mangum was named as a team captain in both seasons with the Diplomats.
“I knew how attack the mismatches — who and where,” Mangum said. “I’d use my quickness and ability to play out on the perimeter to create those matchup problems. I’m not gonna lie, I loved it. It was a different type of basketball to me.”
Cowley comes calling
Initially recruited by Missouri-Kansas City, Mangum ultimately took a redshirt during the 2018-19 season, then transferred to Cowley College where the Memphis native again produced against tough competition. ‘
On a loaded roster, Mangum averaged 8.1 points and 4.1 rebounds on 58.3-percent shooting from the field and 40-percent shooting from three-point range for a program that broke 100 points in an astonishing 27 of 32 contests during the season.
He finished eighth nationally in field-goal percentage.
“It was a great experience,” Mangum said. “Interacting with all of the people at Cowley College was awesome. Those will be people that I will talk to for the rest of my life.”
Recruitment comes full-circle
With Shawnee State, Mangum’s basketball journey has officially come full circle.
SSU associate head coach Lindal Yarbrough — who recruited a high school teammate of Mangum’s at Memphis Catholic, Chad Foster, to Cumberland, Tenn. while with the Phoenix — was the lead recruiter for the multi-positional talent in his journey to Shawnee State.
“He (Yarbrough) actually recruited one of my teammates at Memphis Catholic, Chad Foster,” Mangum said. “At that time, I didn’t know that I was going to play in college. I wasn’t really looking at that option. Jerry (Randolph) told me that he (Yarbrough) had a spot and wanted to come and play for him.”
With Yarbrough, along with the rest of the coaching staff, Mangum sees genuine personalities that truly have him excited about the possiblities that are to come.
“Just talking to him at that time, I knew that he was somebody who was genuine, and I see that in not only him but the entire coaching staff at Shawnee State,” Mangum said. “Everybody wants to go to the next level with it and get better. It’s not something that we’re just going to gather around and just do. That’s what made me fall in love with the choice that I made.”