Justin Hite - Scout

Oklahoma Sooners center Akolda Manyang continues recovery

Sooners 7-footer steps back on the court but still not 100 percent

This summer was expected to be a big one for Akolda Manyang, when he would hit the ground running to start his career with the Oklahoma Sooners after transferring from Indian Hills Community College. 

A stress fracture in his right heel put a long pause on that hope as he watched his teammates practice from the sideline during the heat of summer. Manyang returned to the court last week, although still not 100 percent or fully cleared.

“It just feels good to be around my team so I can support them and just do what I can do,” Manyang said. “If I can’t score, I’m going to rebound. If I can’t rebound, I’m going to block shots. I’m just going to do the little things.”

Having Manyang on the court is helpful for Oklahoma. Forward Ryan Spangler relishes the opportunity to compete against the 7-footer – a height and wingspan that can’t be simulated.

“It’s a good presence, somebody that’s in there to block shots and finish things around the rim,” Spangler said. “I think it’s good for us to have him on our team. When we’re playing defense against him, it’s like we’re playing other Big 12 teams.”

Oklahoma took a cautious recovery process with the injury in order to try and keep the likelihood of Manyang re-injuring the foot down. Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said that Manyang is six to seven weeks behind.

Manyang, who tried for an alley-oop in practice Tuesday but settled for a lay-up, said he feels about 70 percent right now.

“Every time I run on it, I just can’t fully lash out,” he said. “It’s getting better. . . .  I know before our first game, I’m going to be good.”

Oklahoma is trying to find a fifth starter before the season opener. Manyang, Khadeem Lattin and Dante Buford seem like the most likely candidates for the starting spot alongside Spangler, Jordan Woodard, Isaiah Cousins and Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year Buddy Hield.

Manyang is Oklahoma’s tallest player since 2000 and averaged nine points, seven rebounds and 2.1 blocks in less than 20 minutes per game last season for Indian Hills.

“I just wanted to have a great summer. I just wanted to get things going early,” Manyang said. “I was feeling good. As soon as my injury happened, even though I don’t let it get to me or I try not to, gut when you see your team on the court, and you’re just on the sideline, it hurts. It’s like you’re not doing anything. I’m just trying to take it one day at a time.”

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