Hall of Famer Danny Manning - Part I

In this two-part series celebrating KU great Danny Manning's induction into the College Basketball Hall of Fame Sunday night in Kansas City, David Garfield recalls Manning's basketball days at Lawrence High School, where he attended his senior year in 1983-84.

Danny Manning landed in Lawrence after moving from Greensboro, N.C., when his dad, Ed, became an assistant coach under Larry Brown at KU. Garfield graduated with Manning at LHS in 1984.

It’s not very often that your high school classmate gets inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. But that will happen Sunday night at the College Basketball Experience/Sprint Center in Kansas City when former Lawrence High star and Jayhawk All-American Danny Manning is enshrined in the Hall.

I graduated from Lawrence High with Manning in 1984, and am thrilled to see him receive this well-deserved and prestigious honor. The eighth all-time leading scorer in NCAA history, Manning was the consensus national player of the year in 1988, a two-time consensus All-American and a three-time Big Eight player of the year. He led KU to the national title in 1988 and was named the Most Outstanding Player.

Manning was the No. 1 pick in the 1988 NBA Draft and played 15 years in the League. He was a two-time All-Star and won the NBA’s Sixth Man Award before retiring in 2003. Manning has been a member of KU coach Bill Self’s staff ever since, and is beginning his second year as assistant coach.

The selfless Manning stressed he couldn’t have received college basketball’s greatest honor alone.

“I’m honored, privileged, humbled,” Manning said. “I had a chance to play for a great coach (Larry Brown). We had wonderful staffs. I played in front of the best fans in the country. I had the best teammates anyone could ask for. I received a lot of attention, but my teammates were the guys that put me in position to do I what I could do. They were very unselfish in their thoughts and their actions. I just want them to know that I appreciate all their efforts and all the battles that we’ve gone through.

“This is something that hopefully we can all cherish together.”

Manning will be inducted Sunday at 8 p.m. along with Charles Barkley (former Auburn great and perennial NBA All-Star), Arnie Ferrin (only four-time All-American in Utah basketball history), Jim Phelan (The Iron Man of college basketball coaching with 830 career victories), legendary coach Nolan Richardson, ESPN icon Dick Vitale, and Billy Packer, who broadcasted the Final Four for 34 straight years.

As Manning enters the College Basketball Hall of Fame, I can’t help but flash back to the fall of 1983 when he arrived in Lawrence to attend LHS his senior year after a standout career at Page High School in Greensboro, N.C. Manning rose to national prominence at Page, where he teamed his junior year with future NFL star Haywood Jeffries to lead the nation’s No. 2 ranked Page High Pirates to a state championship and undefeated season.

My friend happened to attend Page with Manning and once loaned me his 1983 PHS yearbook. The championship squad was called “one of the most dominating high school basketball teams in North Carolina’s history.” The yearbook quoted Will Browning of the Greensboro Daily News on Manning: “He is a player, if surrounded by the proper supporting cast, could take a college team all the way to the NCAA finals.”

Of course, we all know the story how Brown hired Manning’s father, Ed, as KU assistant coach in the summer of 1983. The Manning’s moved to Lawrence, and Danny shortly committed to KU and inked with Kansas in the November early signing period.

Ted Juneau, Manning’s close friend and basketball coach at LHS, was in disbelief when he first heard a high school star from North Carolina might be joining his team. Juneau was going about his business preparing for a new school year and basketball season after winning the Class 6A state championship the previous March with my former T-ball teammate Chris Piper leading the way.

Juneau said Jayhawk assistant John Calipari and the KU coaches kept calling his office.

“(Calipari) said, ‘Ted, there’s a chance that the best high school player in America is going to move to Lawrence.’” Juneau recalled in a 90-minute interview in 1998. “I said, ‘Right.’ He said, ‘Yeah, really.’ Lo and behold, they called (again) and said they’re going to hire Ed as an assistant coach and their son, Danny, is going to be here, (that they were) pretty sure he’s coming.

“From that point on, what I thought would have been a good season, that we’d be competitive, suddenly the pressure was on.”

Juneau and senior co-captain Jeff Johnson went to meet Manning at the Holidome when Danny and his family first arrived in Lawrence.

“Ed answered and we introduced ourselves,” Juneau said. “Danny was lying on the bed watching TV. He got up, and it was just like seeing all legs come up. He didn’t weigh a lot. He was pretty skinny, but boy, you looked up and said, ‘Oh my god, this is for real.’

“So the ride began.”

Both Juneau and Johnson recall Manning being very genuine and classy during that first meeting.

“My first reaction was ‘Holy (cow), this is a big kid,’” Johnson said. “My absolute number one first impression, other than man he’s tall, is what a nice guy. He was very polite. His mom would say ‘Danny,’ and he would say, ‘Yes mam.’ He was just a sincere guy and somebody at that time I didn’t know at all but was looking forward to getting to know and play with obviously.”

With the arrival of Manning at LHS, the fortunes of Lawrence High hoops and KU basketball history would eventually undergo a dramatic transformation. Long known as a tradition-rich football school, suddenly fans were arriving early for the LHS Junior Varsity games to get prime seats to see the new miracle worker in action.

The gym was packed most every game night, and Ed Manning and Brown were regular visitors. They’d sit in the balcony by themselves, and politely clap every time Manning scored a bucket or made a good play.

There would have been more powerhouse coaches in the stands had Manning not already signed with Kansas. In fact, then-North Carolina coach Dean Smith visited Lawrence High School before Manning committed to KU to give one last recruiting pitch to woo him to Chapel Hill.

Johnson, the son of then-KU athletic director Monte Johnson, couldn’t help but joke with Manning after he signed his letter of intent.

“Immediately, I was kidding him,” Johnson said. “‘Doggone it, Danny, you son of a (gun). Now none of these great coaches are going to come watch us play this year. You sure got selfish there, buddy.’”

Seriously, Johnson added: “As a Jayhawk fan, I was thrilled. I really didn’t care (about the other coaches). Instead of having John Thompson and Dean Smith and everybody in the stands all year, we ended up with family and friends, which was fine.”

The likes of Thompson, Smith, and then-N.C. State coach Jim Valvano sure missed a show that season. There’s one particular home game that stands out in my mind. It was Lawrence High’s battle against Wyandotte on Dec. 13, 1983, the Lions’ second contest of the season. Wyandotte was a powerhouse team featuring future Oklahoma forward William Davis and future KU football star receiver Willie Vaughn.

On the game’s first possession, Manning dribbled upcourt, stopped on a dime above the free-throw line, and swished a jumper. The crowd went off. On Lawrence High’s next trip down the floor, Manning again dribbled upcourt and pulled up at the same spot.


The fans stomped their feet on the bleachers and roared. It was the loudest I had ever heard that gym; the cheers still echo in my mind 25 years later.

Manning finished with a game-high 27 points, but Wyandotte prevailed, 66-57.

While Manning could take over games at will, he always felt more comfortable passing to his teammates. Like Brown would cajole Manning at KU, Juneau urged Manning to be more assertive. Juneau and Manning now laugh about old times, but the former LHS coach had to “pull teeth” (in Johnson’s words) sometimes to get Manning to shoot the ball.

“There were times, I can remember telling him, because he was being so unselfish, sharing the ball, making the passes, not taking an eight-foot shot to get someone a two-foot shot, and the ball bouncing off someone’s nose because they weren’t expecting it, in some respects, he was being selfish trying to be so unselfish,” Juneau said.

“He tried so hard not to dominate the game,” Juneau added. “He just wanted to be one of the guys.”

Juneau, though, said he genuinely appreciated Manning’s selfless nature and respected him for being such a team player. He called Manning a true joy to coach.

“That made that season a lot easier for me as a coach because of his attitude,” said Juneau, now head basketball coach/athletic director at Haskell Indian Nations University. “If he had come in and said, ‘I don’t need to listen to you, I can do what I want,’ I think it would have been a struggle.”

While there were a few games when Manning scored just 12 or 14 points, make no mistake, he could light up the nets. Three games after the loss to Wyandotte, Manning exploded for a season-high 36 points in the Lions’ 67-59 victory at Shawnee Mission West on Dec. 16, 1983.

Being a star player, opposing teams loved to heckle him. And they occasionally went over the line. Take the game at hostile Leavenworth on Jan. 13, 1984.

“There was a sign up saying, ‘Danny can’t read,’” Juneau recalled. “Danny looked at me and said, ‘We’ll see what they can read after this game’s over.’”

Manning was on a mission that night and scored 27 points to lead LHS to a resounding 73-54 victory.

Ten days earlier on Jan. 3, Manning and the Lions had a hostile awakening in K-State country at Manhattan High School. Students threw a banana at him when he was introduced in the starting lineups. They even lit firecrackers underneath the bleachers as the lights went out.

Howard Fulton, a starting guard on the team and my former basketball teammate at South Junior High, remembers that night quite well.

“I think we (he and Manning) joked about it,” Fulton recalled about the banana incident. “He couldn’t believe they threw a banana. Danny said, ‘C’mon man, let’s just go out there and play.’ I think he was real pumped up after that.”

Manning scored 10 points in the first quarter and a game-high 20 to lead LHS to a 60-38 victory.

Johnson said Manning always rose above the opposing fans’ rude behavior.

“Not to be a cliche, but he let his basketball do the talking,” Johnson said.

Johnson truly enjoyed playing with the versatile Manning and best player in Lawrence High history. He also teamed with Manning at KU for two years as a Jayhawk walk-on.

“He was kind of a point guard in a big man’s body,” Johnson said. “It was exciting. I remember just the thrill of walking into the gym and having everyone’s attention on him.

"You could throw the ball anywhere near the basket and look like a hero. He’d turn average plays into great plays.”

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