Indiana Wesleyan freshman sensation isn’t fooling anyone any more

Indiana Wesleyan freshman guard Kyle Mangas looks to pass to a teammate during Monday's NAIA Division II national semifinal against IU East in Sioux Falls, S.D. (Photo courtesy of Indiana Wesleyan Athletics)
Indiana Wesleyan freshman guard Kyle Mangas lays in a shot during Monday's NAIA Division II national semifinal against IU East in Sioux Falls, S.D. (Photo courtesy of Indiana Wesleyan Athletics)
Indiana Wesleyan men's basketball coach Greg Tonagel watches his players come off of the court for a timeout during Monday's NAIA Division II national semifinal against IU East in Sioux Falls, S.D. (Photo courtesy of Indiana Wesleyan Athletics)

It’s easy to overlook Kyle Mangas on the basketball court. That is, unless you are veteran Indiana Wesleyan men’s basketball coach Greg Tonagel.

“I remember watching him one time (at Warsaw High School) and I told our staff,” Tonagel told, “I think that he’ll be the greatest player we have ever had. He was blowing me away with all of the things that he was doing. But for whatever reason, people passed on him.”

Tonagel isn’t complaining.

The former Indiana All-Star out of Warsaw High School has wasted little time in becoming the best NAIA Division II player – in the best conference – in the entire country.

Mangas hit 8 of 15 shots Monday and finished with 20 points to lift the Wildcats (30-7) to their third appearance in the national championship game in the past five seasons.

Indiana Wesleyan will battle rival Saint Francis (29-8) tonight at 7 p.m. (EST) in Sioux Falls, S.D. The game will air on ESPN3.

Tonagel didn’t know what to make of the 6-foot-3 guard when he was in the process of recruiting Mangas. He kept watching him play and he loved what he saw, but every time that Tonagel looked around for other programs in pursuit of Mangas, the Wildcats were standing there, pretty much alone.

“Kyle doesn’t pass the look test,” Tonagel said. “If he showed up at the park, he’d probably be picked toward the end. But he’d be able to stay on the court all day because, at the end of the day, he just knows how to play.”

Mangas may flunk the “look test,” but he has aced the “play test.”

In his first collegiate game, Mangas scored 16 points against NAIA national power Cornerstone and that sent him on his way to stardom.

Mangas has averaged nearly 22 points per game as a freshman and earned Crossroads League Player of the Year honors. Not Freshman of the Year, PLAYER of the Year.

Now THAT did surprise Tonagel.

“Absolutely not,” Tonagel said when asked if he expected THIS. “Guys in our system haven’t put up huge numbers. Now, he’s been able to do it because he stays within the framework of the system.”

That is one of the ways in which Mangas plays below the radar, if you will.

He’s not 6-foot-7, he doesn’t have the “guns” that would stand out on a beach, and Mangas doesn’t jack-up shot after shot after shot in order to “get his.”

He finds ways to quietly annihilate the opposition.

“He’s got a great basketball IQ,” Tonagel said. “He’s got a knack for scoring. He set our single-season scoring record and he did it in just about every single way.

“There are very few guys who can score in high volumes without taking a lot of bad shots. Kyle scores without taking bad shots.”

Mangas is shooting 52.5 percent overall this season (37.7 percent from 3-point range) and he has been very productive at the free throw line (142 makes at a 78.9 percent clip).

It is that latter area which concerns Saint Francis coach Chad LaCross heading into the title game.

“We’re just going to try and do everything we can to make it tough on him,” LaCross said. “We need to make him uncomfortable. We understand that he is going to get his points, but we can’t give him second and third opportunities.

“He is one of those guys that if he misses his shot, he is always getting his points on second effort.”

Mangas has scored at least 33 points on three occasions, including a season-best 40 against… Saint Francis. He is averaging just under 30 points per game in three games against the Cougars.

“He is a great player,” LaCross continued. “It’s just going to be one of those things where we just need to do everything that we can to make him as uncomfortable as possible.”

Mangas does more than just score. He has also managed to grab nearly six rebounds per game, which exhibits his underrated athleticism, according to Tonagel.

“He does play above the rim,” Tonagel said. “It’s surprising. He’s had a lot of dunks this year. He’s athletic. He just kind of fools you.”

Mangas has fooled a lot of people through the years, but not Tonagel. The highly-successful coach knew a great player when he saw one.

For more on college basketball, follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010 and on Facebook at Thomas Davis.

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