By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
All those long hours Garrett Mann spent in a gym refining his basketball skill are about to pay dividends — literally.
The 6-foot-4 James Monroe High School senior signed a letter of intent on Tuesday in the school media center to join the successful basketball program at Alderson-Broaddus College next season.
“It’s been my dream for a long time, to play college ball, and now it’s happening,” he said.
Mavericks head coach Jonathan McPherson said, “He’s one of those that you pretty much had to kick out of the gym after practice, which is a good problem to have, that he wanted to stay in the gym and get better.”
“If there was any part of his game that he didn’t feel was up to par, he would get in the gym and really work on it.”
Mann’s mother, Lynessa Miller, said that last summer, “When all of his friends were going out, he was in the gym. He stayed in the gym until 10 and 11 o’clock at night, shooting, dribbling, working out — you name it.”
“It is paying off. I can’t tell you how proud I am. He understands if he wants something, he’s going to have to go out and get it, and he has worked very hard for it.”
Mann said, “Honestly, it didn’t bother me at all, because I knew it was important to me ... anything I could do to get better. So I just thought it was a better choice for me.”
“I knew, going into my senior year, I had to work extra hard if I wanted to be a leader and to be a big player on this team.”
The Battlers finished last season 20-9, falling to Fairmont State 75-74 in overtime in the West Virginia Conference tournament semifinals. All three of their top scorers from last season were seniors.
Mann said, “They’re always a winning team.”
McPherson said, “It just seemed like a really good fit for him. Talking with their coaches, and their philosophy — they like to spread the floor a lot and have a lot of shooters on the floor, a really up-tempo style of basketball. That’s perfect for Garrett.”
Mann averaged 12 points “and around 10 rebounds” per game, the coach said, plus “four or five blocks per game.”
McPherson said, “Garrett’s got good size, and I would say he’s a versatile player. He’s had to play both inside and out for us. I’d tell him, ‘Garrett, go post up strong and get rebounds,’ and maybe his role in the next game would be to knock down shots on the perimeter.”
“He’s quick and he can jump and he had a lot of blocked shots this year,” the coach said. “That’ll help him in college, because they’re not looking for only offensive players. They want players that want to play defense.”
“Anything I asked him to do, he didn’t just do that, he would do that with 110 percent effort.”
Mann said he traveled to the A-B campus in Philippi for an “open gym” session a few months ago. “I enjoyed the campus, and the guys,” Mann said. “Coach (Greg) Zimmerman is a nice guy, and assistant coach (Duncan) Williams. It’s just a good place to be.”
“And the (financial) package they sent me, it met the need.”
Miller, his mother, said that when she first heard about the scholarship offer, “I screamed, actually. I cried. I was very happy. Garrett is very humble, and he’s worked really hard this past year.”
“From my understanding, (Alderson-Broaddus is) a very good school,” she said. “It’s going to be three, 3 1/2 hours away from Peterstown, but I think he’s going to be just fine.”
Mann, who plans to major in business, said he has learned from his high school years, “Always play hard, and always listen to what the coach said. He’s the coach for a reason ... . And always respect your teammates.”
He said about the James Monroe coaches, “They get us in the gym constantly, and they work with everybody individually ... . They get you ready for the game, and that’s what you need.”
As far as his role with the Battlers goes, he said, “It’s hard to tell. Whatever they use me at, I’ll just go out and play my hardest and give them what l’ve got.”
He said his approach will be, “Don’t play in fear. Everybody else is there for the same reason you are, so you’ve just got to play with them.”
McPherson said, “We’re excited about his opportunity. We know that he’s going to represent our school well, and I know he’s worked really hard in the classroom as well. He’s going to bring some pride to James Monroe in that aspect as well.”
— Contact Tom Bone at email@example.com