Change is nothing new for Charles Manning. In fact, it seems to have suited him.The native son of Bridgehampton helped lead the Killer Bees boys basketball team to its ninth state championship in the 2014-15 season, when he joined the team for just one year, transferring from Riverhead as a junior. It was the team’s first state crown since 1998, and he was named the state tournament MVP for his standout performances in both the semifinal and championship wins.
Mr. Manning departed for Long Island Lutheran for his senior season, taking on the challenge of tougher competition in hopes of increasing his profile and attracting notice from colleges. After making a name for himself as a standout sixth man for the perennial powerhouse, he is now at Combine Academy in North Carolina, on a basketball team that has a proven track record of sending players on to the collegiate level.
The competition is some of the best in the country as well—one of the school’s opponents is Oak Hill Academy, the alma mater of some top NBA players, including Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant. Combine competes against both prep schools and junior colleges, meaning Manning and his teammates are competing against players as old as 21.
Mr. Manning arrived at Combine via a circuitous route. After securing a place at another prep school in North Carolina, he was forced to find a new school when that school’s basketball program suddenly folded after a dispute within the coaching staff. Mr. Manning’s father, former Bridgehampton basketball star Maurice Manning, found Combine through a friend who knew of the school and its staff, and Combine head coach Matt Jones said they were happy to have the young player.
“He’s obviously an extremely talented kid, and any program would be happy to have him,” he said. “The first thing you notice about him, is he’s a lanky kid with a huge arm span. He can do a lot of different things: He protects the rim well and blocks shots, and I’m also confident in him guarding a point guard.”
Mr. Jones said that while Mr. Manning still has aspects of his game he needs to work on, and might not yet be on the radar of some of the top college scouts, he is heading in the right direction and still hasn’t reached his potential. “He’s a major athlete,” he said. “I’m trying my best to get his name out there.”
He added that Mr. Manning’s persona off the court will only help him as well. “He’s an extremely personable kid,” he said. “He’s always respectful and goes out of his way to be friendly and polite.
Mr. Manning is currently starting for Combine, and is averaging 14 points, six rebounds and 2.5 steals per game. The team is 10-7 on the season.
At 18 years old, this will be Mr. Manning’s last year at the high school/prep level, and he’s got his eye on the next step, aiming for several Division I collegiate programs, including Radford, DePaul, Minnesota, Coastal Carolina and Iona. He received an offer from Division I Southeast Missouri State on Monday.
And while his hoop dreams are inching closer and closer to reality, Mr. Manning has clearly matured in the two years since his time at Bridgehampton—when he stated, without hesitation, that his future goal was to play in the NBA. Now, when he speaks of what the future holds, he has a more well-rounded, one-day-at-a-time kind of answer.
“My main objective is to just keep playing basketball and get to a school where my education comes first,” he said.
The advances in maturity can be attributed to his experience at Long Island Lutheran, as well as the influence of his parents—father Maurice, and his mother, LaShanne Dozier.
“[Going to Lutheran] was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” he said. “It was a great school with great people, and it taught me to stay true as a young man, always tell the truth, believe in God, and keep striving to be great.”
Those messages were backing up what he was hearing at home as well, and Mr. Manning added that the challenge of being in a new program every year also ultimately had a positive effect. “It made me a stronger person,” he said. “It’s prepared me for the long haul. Having to travel all around, my mom just always drove it into my head: It’s for a better you and a better opportunity. And, basically, I just believed what she told me.”
Ms. Dozier admitted that there were challenges along the way, both for her and her son. Charles Manning moved out of his mother’s home and in with his father to attend Bridgehampton School, and she admits she misses him now that he’s several hours away. But she’s been happy to watch her son grow and evolve through the process.
“I tell Charles all the time that I am so proud of him for pushing forward toward his dreams despite the obstacles he’s faced,” she said. “We don’t always agree, but he’s finding his way and he’s doing well. Through it all, I remind him to always stay humble and give all glory to God.”
Mr. Manning has also heeded his father’s advice—and it’s advice that comes from experience.
The elder Manning was one of Long Island’s most highly touted players after helping the Killer Bees to three state championships. His post-high school career took an unexpected path when he dropped out of prep school after his senior year at Bridgehampton, losing out on a chance to attend a Division I program. He ultimately led Suffolk County Community College to back-to-back junior college championships—but it wasn’t the path he had intended to take, and he is quick to impart the lessons he learned to his son.
“My dad is always just asking me to work hard and be better than he was,” Charles Manning said. “I’m seeing the real world now, and I’m seeing what my dad has told me, about how basketball is a business. I’ve seen people not get let in, and I don’t want that to be me.”
While he only coached him for one year, Bridgehampton head coach Carl Johnson has stayed in touch with Mr. Manning. He’s always been close with him, as he coached his father, Maurice, and says he is not surprised that Charles has found success.
“I think he will be a tremendous asset to whoever he decides to play for,” Mr. Johnson said, referring to the college level. “I’m very proud of him. Whatever comes his way, he seems to deal with it and try to conquer it, and that’s a good quality to have.”
Regardless of how his basketball career pans out, it’s obvious that Charles Manning is in a good place. His dreams of starring at the top level in college—and possibly beyond—are still in play, but he’s grounded in reality as well.
“A few years from now, I see myself being a successful African-American, either on the court or investing in my own business,” he said. “I’m just thinking of a master plan. If basketball does or doesn’t work out, I want to know I have money coming in either way.”