Trevor Manuel doesn't boast the most visible profile in the junior class. Far fewer highlight reels featuring his name dot the internet. He's a developing big man who most likely will play center in college.
The Michigan native attracted attention as a rising sophomore and drew widespread acclaim for his blooming talent. By the end of the 2012-13 campaign, he had drawn scholarship offers from N.C. State, Michigan State, Providence and Oregon.
He hit the road last summer and continued to impress. Arguably, Manuel's most impressive quality is a pair of sure hands and a soft shooting touch from the perimeter. He's a finesse big man with the skill level to succeed in that role, despite the fact that defensively he projects as a center.
The primary critique of Manuel's game, then and now, has been that he doesn't mix it up sufficiently inside. As mentioned, he's a finesse big guy, not a devastating rebounder, shotblocker or back to the basket scorer. He's best facing and playing either in the high post or stepping off the block and shooting off the catch from the baseline.
Manuel has taken his need to improve to heart. He transferred to Oak Hill Academy for his junior season and is surrounded by other high-major talents while competing against a national schedule. His progress has been gradual, but definite. When I've observed him this season he appears to have filled out slightly — though he still has a long way to go — and at least can stand his ground more effectively inside.
He benefits from the element of surprise on his side. Manuel catches opposing centers off-guard, who aren't accustomed to defending away from the rim or having to close out on a jump shooter. Though not an explosive athlete, he's reasonably fluid running the court and possesses outstanding hand-eye coordination. I'd love to see him incorporate more power into his game, but there's no disputing that he has the skill level to make his style work down the road.
These comments may not sound effusive, but that's the nature of being a top 40 prospect versus being one who resides in the top 10. While there's no guarantee Manuel or anyone else will hit it big, he possesses obvious ability to score and also facilitate offense for his teammates due to the matchup problems he causes as well as his sound passing skills.
And I've learned, sometimes the hard way, that rushing to judgment on a big man can prove extremely foolish. Manuel has real tools and over the next few months we and college coaches eagerly will assess his trajectory.