Hardly a day passes by without Terance Mann's cell phone lighting up with texts or phone calls from persistent college recruiters.
Off the top of his head, Mann rattles off Cincinnati, Maryland, Florida State, Boston College, Texas Tech, the University of Rhode Island, Providence, Georgetown, Wake Forest and Marquette as schools frequently in contact with him. He then acknowledges he's forgetting a few.
Many of those schools have already offered him scholarships. If they don't check in with Mann today, they probably will tomorrow or the next day. Such is the aggressive nature of big-time college basketball recruiting.
The 6-foot-6, 195-pound Mann will be a senior this fall at the Tilton School in New Hampshire.
Last week, he competed at the prestigious LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas, where he met James. In the championship game at the four-day camp, Mann threw down five dunks.
He's come a long way since playing pickup ball in Lowell at the Boys & Girls Club and Father Maguire Park.
"It's kind of overwhelming. I never thought it would be like this," said the 17-year-old Mann.
Before fifth grade, Mann moved to the Belvidere section of Lowell with his mother, Daynia La-Force, and his younger brother, Martin -- a 6-foot-6, 15-year-old hoop prospect headed to Lawrence Academy.
The move was due to the fact that La-Force was hired as the head women's basketball coach at the University of Rhode Island in May. Prior to that, she was the head women's coach at Northeastern for eight seasons.
Surrounded by the sport
Mann was surrounded by the sport at a young age. He quickly learned to be a student of the game, always wanting to attend practices with his mom. A close mother-son bond was largely built on basketball.
"I guess he was pretty much born and raised in the gym," said La-Force of her son. "I've been coaching for a long time. You travel a lot and you are constantly in a gym. He was so excited about being able to be a ball boy -- he was maybe about three-years-old and he wanted to be one. He would memorize the girls' jersey numbers.
"He has a real coach's perspective on the game, and I think that benefits him. Coaches like smart players."
La-Force is a 1995 graduate of Georgetown University, where she was a four-year letterwinner. As a sophomore, she was part of the 1993 Big East Championship team and helped lead the Hoyas to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
She also spent one season (2005-06) as the head women's coach at Division 2 New Haven, and before that was an assistant at St. John's (2002-05) and Long Island University (1995-2002).
The family moved around quite a bit, but Mann found a comfort zone in Lowell. He tirelessly worked on his game while attending the Bartlett School and then Sullivan Middle School. He made many close friends that he still keeps in touch with, such as former Lowell High football star Jack Galvin, who graduated this year.
Mann also played baseball during his middle school years in Lowell. Somewhat apropos, considering he nearly shares the same name with Terence Mann, the character played by James Earl Jones in the 1989 iconic baseball film "Field of Dreams."
He gave up baseball before high school to focus on basketball. And, yes, Mann hears the "Field of Dreams" reference often.
Lowell on his mind
Mann lives on campus at Tilton during the school year. If he has the chance, he'll go see his old buddies play for Lowell.
"I used to go watch Lowell High games, and I'd think 'man, I wish I could play in these games,'" said Mann. "But Tilton opened up a lot of opportunities for me. It's an amazing place to play and the NEPSAC is the best high school league in the country."
Last season, Mann averaged over 16 points and eight rebounds per game for 14-11 Tilton. In true coach's son fashion, he is highly efficient as a scorer and distributor. He likes to get to the rim and take advantage of his athleticism, and continues to improve his strength and jump shot.
Mann plays his AAU ball for the famed Boston Amateur Basketball Club (BABC), founded and coached by Leo Papile. The BABC routinely plays against the nation's premier AAU teams. Former BABC players include Lowell's Alex Oriakhi, Boston Celtics point guard Phil Pressey and Philadelphia 76ers teammates Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel.
Mann was one of 77 high school players who attended the LeBron James Skills Academy. The players were divided into eight teams and Mann's squad won the championship. He played well all camp.
James was there for most of it and even played in some games, providing a thrill for the awestruck high school kids.
The academy coincided with last Friday, when James, an NBA free agent, shocked the basketball world and made public his decision to take his talents back to the Cleveland Cavaliers and his home state of Ohio.
"It was an amazing experience," said Mann. "Playing with those other guys at the academy made me know where I stand. LeBron is a really friendly guy, he kept everything real. We kept asking him where he was going before he made his decision, even though they told us not to ask him."
Mann and the BABC are in North Augusta, S.C., this weekend, playing at the Peach Jam. It's usually the summer's top showcase for prospects and attracts many prominent college coaches.
La-Force knows the drill and has bestowed some sound advice to her son.
"Terance understands the importance of developing a relationship and a trust with these coaches," said La-Force. "He spends a lot of time on the phone. He knows that is part of the process and he has embraced it. I told him he has to have a good feeling about the coaching staff before he makes any decision.
"I hear from people all the time that he is very personable. He is a young man, so the last thing he wants to do is talk to his mom all the time. He can be such a passive and selfless player. I want to see him take over a little more, and I was very happy to hear that he played well at the LeBron Academy."
Mann says he is keeping an open mind and intends to take his time before choosing his college.
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