Brady Manek wasn’t an Oklahoma Sooners fan at first. Initially, he was a fan of Blake Griffin – growing up just a few minutes from Oklahoma Christian School where Griffin threw down massive dunks in high school that Manek described as “insane” and “dangerous.”
His family grew up as lifelong Oklahoma fans, but it wasn’t until Griffin signed with the Sooners that a nine-year-old Manek become a full-fledged diehard.
On Thursday, he committed to his favorite school, becoming Oklahoma first pledge for the 2017 recruiting class.
“I really didn’t ever expect anything like this to happen,” said Manek, who has made more than a half dozen unofficial visits to the nearby campus. “I actually just realized that this is actually happening. This is where I’m going to school.”
Occasionally, Manek’s parents would ask him what he wanted to do. The 6-foot-9 2017 wing was drawing interest for a few major colleges, including Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. They came in to the house Thursday after school with the same question.
‘Do you know what you want to do?’
Manek had just gotten through with unofficial visits to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and had already taken one to Creighton. He also had offers from Santa Clara, Tulsa and Mercer.
There was no special reason for the question this time. They hadn’t really talked about anything in particular. But this time, he turned away from the TV with an answer.
“I want to commit to OU,” Manek remembers telling his parents.
He called Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger with the good news before calling over to Oklahoma State and Creighton to break the bad news. Then, he took to Twitter.
“I just love OU,” Manek said. “I was ready to be a part of it.”
For much of his life, Manek has done things earlier than usual. Growing up, he was always bigger and more skilled than players his own age. As a result, he played up a level with his brother, Kellen, Iowa State commit Jakolby Long, Curtis Haywood and 2016 Oklahoma commit Kristian Doolittle.
If he wanted to score, he had to move without the ball or attack the glass. He had to find unique ways to get the ball as the youngest player on a team full of high-level talents. It turned him into a talented scorer; one who Harrah coach Bryan Jennings said can do it in many different ways.
“He just has knack for scoring the basketball,” Jennings said. “It doesn’t matter where you put him. He’s crafty around the basket. He can shoot the three. He’s good off the dribble in the mid-range. He’s just a scorer. It doesn’t really matter.
“There are a lot of guys that can shoot the 3. There are a lot of guys that can post. He can do a lot of different things.”
Jennings, who is entering his 24th year as a head coach, has known Manek for a long time. Jennings was childhood friends with Manek’s mother and college roommates with his father, when the two played basketball together at Oklahoma Christian University.
He’s never coached a player like Manek before – a 6-foot-9 player ready to sign a letter of intent to play in the Big 12 Conference. As a sophomore, Manek averaged 14.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.3 blocks for Harrah, which made the state semifinals.
“It’s certainly special,” said Jennings, who added that Manek is a person who beats to his own drum – a boy that is funny, goofy yet very competitive.
Jennings doesn’t think Manek is done growing either – in height or in his talent. Manek is working with former Oklahoma football player J.D. Runnels trying to improve his foot speed and overall strength. For his final two years at Harrah, he wants to work on ways to create his own shot.
Improvement has never been something to slow Manek down. He’s been doing it most of his basketball-playing life.
“I do think him playing up all those years really did help,” older brother and high school teammate Kellen Manek said. “He seemed to progress faster and learn quicker because he was playing against kids bigger and stronger.
“I do think it really helped him on pretty much all phases of his game. I think that was one of the big things for him playing as a kid, just getting to play all those older kids and get tougher and learn that if I’m going to play with the better kids, I have to do this.”
Kellen Manek is the self-proclaimed one-on-one champion on the Manek household, a fact that his younger brother, Brady, would vehemently argue. But the siblings, who are one year apart, haven’t played for a couple years.
Usually, it devolved into a fight, the kind that young brothers have routinely. They just stick to horse now, but it might be time for a rematch.
“That more than likely has changed,” Kellen Manek said with a laugh.