Everything was going great for Sterling Manley in early February. Manley was playing the best basketball of his high school career, his stock was soaring, coaches were coming in to see him, and his team was playing well. Then in a huge rivalry game he landed funny after jumping for a rebound, and it all changed.
Upon landing Manley broke his leg. It was so bad that he had to be stretchered out and taken to the hospital. At that moment no one knew what the future held for Manley, it was his second major leg injury, but Manley himself never doubted anything, and has battled back and is now better than ever.
“It was a humbling experience,” said Manley of the injury. “The first time to me was more shocking than the second time. I knew I had been through the process before. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to get back.”
Manley continued, “I was upset and emotionally and mentally challenged, but my leg had been hurting before, so I said that this is going to be a challenge, but I was going to be better because of it.”
For Manley’s father, Eric, it was tough to see his son on the floor with a broken leg, but he couldn’t be prouder of how he responded to adversity.
“Obviously it was tough,” said Eric Manley of the injury. “But as his father I have been really happy with him. He has kept a level head and he has really worked hard. I haven’t had to tell him anything. He has attacked his rehab without me having to push him.”
Eric Manley continued, “Sterling has been great about this. He now knows how to take care of his body better than ever. He is stretching more, he is rehabbing the right way, he just doing everything I could ask of him.”
With Manley back at open gym and playing 100 percent, there has been a steady stream of coaches coming through to see him.
About the feeling he had to get back out on the court and play full go for the first time in seven months, Manley said, “There were no words to describe it. I was just elated to be back on the court. I hadn’t played with the team since February. I was just happy to be back on the court. I honestly didn’t even care if I didn’t touch the ball. No doubt I wanted to touch the ball, but I was just happy to be out there playing basketball.”
West Virginia actually offered Manley in January after seeing him, and Xavier offered him in the summer when he made a visit to campus. Since then schools such as Nebraska, Purdue, and Pittsburgh have all stepped forward with offers.
Recently Manley made an official visit to West Virginia, and he was impressed with what he saw in Morgantown.
“Coach (Bob) Huggins, the staff, and the players all showed me a good time,” said Manley. “Of course on an official visit the coaches are going to take you around and show you all of the good things about the school, but the thing I was most impressed with was how the players liked Coach Huggins.”
He continued about West Virginia, “The players told me about the great culture they have, how the style is fun to play, and just how everyone is close with the coaches. They have great facilities there, and it is just a very good school.”
According to Eric Manley more visits are coming up shortly.
“We are going to make an unofficial visit to Purdue the last Saturday of the month (September 24), we then are going to make an official visit to Xavier the first and second of October, and we also have an official visit set up with Nebraska on October 22 I believe,” said Eric Manley.
Eric Manley continued, “I explained to the Purdue coaches it doesn’t matter if the visit is official or unofficial. We aren’t making a decision based on that. We like their style of play and how they use big men, and we are going to make the visit and see how he fits. The other schools we will do the same and see them officially.”
The visit to Xavier was supposed to happen this upcoming weekend, but Manley is up for Homecoming King and had to push the date back.
About the Musketeers, Manley said, “I like Xavier a lot. I like how laid back the coaching staff is. Coach (Chris) Mack and Coach (Travis) Steele are so easy to talk to. Some coaches are just all about basketball and recruiting. Those guys are just laid back and get to know you as a person.”
He continued, “When I went down there for a visit they just showed me great hospitality, and gave me good advice on my game things like that.”
Two schools who don’t yet visits, but are working their way into the picture are Indiana and North Carolina.
Indiana recruited Manley early on, and they now are trying to jump back in the mix.
“Indiana had been on me during the year when I was a sophomore,” explained Manley “They saw Ibi Watson, who went to Michigan, and they started recruiting me some. Coach (Tim) Buckley would send me a text, then some mail, and we just stayed in touch.”
Manley continued about Indiana, “This past year they were kind of off and on checking on me, but when I came back from my injury and started to play in open gym, they started hitting me up again. When Coach (Tom) Crean was thinking of coming in, I didn’t know, he called my high school coach, so I asked Coach Buckley, who said they were trying to stop by.”
Manley went on, “So I didn’t even know if they were going to make it or not, but about halfway through Coach Crean stopped in and saw me and that was exciting.”
The story with North Carolina is a little different. The Tar Heels have never seen Manley in person, but a tip from their women’s program has them intrigued.
“I am very close with our girls high school coach,” said Manley. “We were talking about recruiting and I told him it would be cool to have North Carolina come by. He told me that he has a good relationship with the women’s coach at UNC and would send a video to her, and see if she would be comfortable giving it to Coach (Roy) Williams.”
He continued, “From there he messed with me about UNC coming in, but then my high school coach told me he was on the phone with them and they were coming to check in on me, and I was excited. I never thought I’d have North Carolina coming to open gym to see me.”
For now according to both Eric and Sterling Manley they are just enjoying the recruiting process. The family wants to make a great decision not only based on basketball, but academics, and relationships as well.
Currently the plan is to host coaches for in-home visits, take college trips, and just see which situation is best for Sterling on and off the court.
Even with as crazy has his recruitment has gotten, Manley is able to sit back and reflect on what an interesting eight months it has been.
“When I was down injured I knew I was going to come back strong and someone was going to get a good player,” explained Manley. “Still I never thought all of these schools would be coming to open gym, trying to set up in-home visits, and having my phone ringing constantly. It has been a true blessing.”