Not too far from the Sprint Center, Kansas walk-on Evan Manning’s dad, Danny, rocketed to national stardom 25 years ago as he led the Jayhawks to the 1988 NCAA men’s basketball national title at Kemper Arena.
The younger Manning, a freshman guard for the Jayhawks, wasn’t alive to witness “Danny and the Miracles,” but he’s heard plenty about it.
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Evan — who graduated from Lawrence Free State in 2011 and attended the New Hampton School, a New Hampshire prep school, before enrolling at Kansas — remembers his father’s 15-year NBA career, but he’s only seen Danny’s college exploits on a well-worn video tape.
“When he played in the league for a while, I remember going to some of those games when I could,” said Evan, who was born in Manhattan Beach, Calif. “But ever since I’ve lived here, I’ve always heard about (the 1988 national championship). I wish I could have seen it.”
During the top-seeded Jayhawks’ victory over Western Kentucky in NCAA Tournament regional action on Friday night at the Sprint Center, Evan got his first peek at March Madness from the inside.
While Evan may not emerge as the star during a national-title run at Kansas or get drafted into the NBA first overall, he’ll always have his own one shining moment.
And the fact that Evan’s first NCAA Tournament experience comes in Kansas City, where a passionate Kansas fan base still reveres his father as a hero, makes it even more special.
“It’s really exciting to think that my dad ended his college career here and I’m just beginning my NCAA Tournament career here in Kansas City,” Evan said. “It’s cool that it’s come full circle like that.”
Danny served as a Kansas assistant from 2006 to 2012 before taking the reins at Tulsa this year. Evan considered following his father to Conference USA, but opted to live out a dream instead.
“I always knew he wanted to get a job as head coach once I was done with high school, so I might have the chance to play for him,” Evan said. “But growing up in Lawrence, KU is the only place I’ve ever wanted to go. I had the chance to come play for coach Bill Self, and I don’t regret that decision at all.”
Tyler Self, another walk-on who doesn’t play much (and happens to be Kansas coach Bill Self’s son), feels the same way.
“It’s an honor to be able to put on a Kansas jersey,” Tyler Self said. “Being around the program for so long, I’ve really gotten to know the history of it, and it’s a humbling experience to be part of it.”
Neither Manning nor Self ended up getting in the game against Western Kentucky.