After 2 seasons off, Tiana Mangakahia has the ability to be the nation’s best point guard

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on February 27, 2018 at 10:40 pm Contact Andrew: aegraham@syr.edu | @A_E_Graham Tiana Mangakahia moved from Meadowbrook, Australia, to Hutchinson, Kansas, to play basketball.But there was a problem.Mangakahia had signed an amateur contract while playing in Australia, something she said wasn’t “anything big.” Still, it threw her eligibility into question. The head coach at Hutchinson Community College, John Ontejs, said she wasn’t eligible according to NJCAA rules.Ontejs and Athletic Director Josh Gooch were going through Mangakahia’s paperwork when they discovered the issue. The two met with Mangakahia and broke the news. She’d have to sit for two years.“That was probably the harder year, my second year,” Mangakahia said. “Just because I had to do it all over again.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textStill, Mangakahia persisted, and now, after two of the hardest years of her life, she is the starting point guard for Syracuse (22-7, 10-6 Atlantic Coast). Mangakahia’s transcendent court vision and passing drew D-I eyes despite her sitting on the bench for two years. It’s those traits, the essence of a pure point guard, that made Mangakahia the ACC single-season assists record-holder. And it’s those traits that have coaches at SU saying Mangakahia, a junior-college transfer, has the foundation to become the best point guard in the country.“That’s what your goal should be,” said SU assistant coach and former WNBA guard Tammi Reiss. “That’s what you’re working towards. She has the talent, she has the skill level. It’s those intangible things she needs to grow her game.”No one, not even Mangakahia, is quite sure where she gets her court vision from.Mangakahia remembers being good at basketball as a child, playing competitive pick-up games with her older brothers. She thinks that helped her vision and passing, but she’s not sure. She also remembers Christmas-time pick-up games with extended family, where her uncle displayed passing that wowed Mangakahia. She joked that maybe it’s genetic.“Just natural instinct, I guess,” she said.Codie Yan | Staff PhotographerShe parlayed her passing ability into a chance to train at the Australian Institute of Sport, the nation’s sports development academy, Mangakahia said. During her time there, Mangakahia practiced on the women’s team while the likes of current NBA players Ben Simmons and Dante Exum played for the men’s side.After two years at AIS, Mangakahia played point guard for the Australian under-19 national team, leading her country to a bronze finish at the 2013 FIBA World Championships in Lithuania. Then, she returned home from Eastern Europe, playing a season with the Townsville Fire in the Australian Women’s National Basketball League. Eventually, she moved on to Hutchinson, following her friend and current professional basketball player, Kalani Purcell.She couldn’t play in games, but Mangakahia practiced with the team, leading the scout team and challenging other players in practice, Ontejs said. There were days she struggled, but Ontejs and his staff pushed her just like any other player.“When we got her here and recognized and realized the situation,” Ontejs said, “we weren’t going to bail on it.”Come gamedays, Mangakahia took on the role of player-coach. From the bench, she focused on reading the defense, picking up little nuances and developing ways to exploit them. When teammates came off the floor, Ontejs said, Mangakahia almost always had a tip or bit of advice for someone to help expose a defense.Even though she wasn’t playing, she still directed her teammates. But simply showing some leadership and coaching prowess wasn’t enough to reel in a D-I offer. Luckily for Mangakahia, junior colleges play in preseason jamborees, essentially weekend tournaments packed with scrimmages, that pose no eligibility issues.The jamborees and her coaches’ advocacy focused Syracuse’s attention on Mangakahia, who finished her junior college career ranked the No. 1 junior-college recruit by espnW HoopGurlz.“It made me go to bed very comfortably at night knowing you have a very good point guard,” Reiss said.And so, despite not playing for two years and having potential eligibility problems, the offers rolled in. Oklahoma State and Nebraska were in the running, but Syracuse always stood out to Mangakahia. Partially because of the play style and due to the coaching staff, but also because SU head coach Quentin Hillsman promised her that if she got her paperwork in order, they would do everything possible to get her eligible.Kevin Camelo | Digital Design EditorMangakahia needed a litany of documents due to her international and junior-college status. That included records from Hutchinson all the way to under-nine basketball registration, which no one in Australia keeps, Mangakahia said. Her parents managed to hunt down all the documents, though, and after Syracuse’s compliance office looked everything over and deemed it a possibility, Reiss said, it was time to go to the NCAA for an eligibility waiver.A waiting game ensued, and the unknown filled Mangakahia’s mind. The main concern surrounded how many years of eligibility she’d get. Eventually, in the summer of 2017, Mangakahia sat in the Stevenson Educational Center on SU’s South Campus. The team’s director of program management and development, Cedric Solice, walked by.“You know you got three years of eligibility?” Solice asked.After two years of waiting, Mangakahia could finally play. At Hutchinson, she couldn’t be a player, so she learned to lead from the side. At Syracuse, she’s had to focus on playing, refining her skills with every game.Mangakahia’s vision allows her to make unexpected plays. Sometimes her own teammates are caught off guard. Against Pittsburgh on Feb. 19, Mangakahia hit Gabrielle Cooper going to the rim, but Cooper missed the layup. After the play, Mangakahia said, Cooper apologized, saying she expected Mangakahia to shoot.But teammates are adjusting. With just less than two minutes remaining in the first quarter against Duke on Feb. 15, Mangakahia came off a ball screen to her right and whipped a pass to Isis Young in the corner for a wide open 3. About five seconds before the screen, the two made eye contact.“She’ll make a decision, go, and then she’ll distribute the basketball,” Reiss said.Earlier in the season, after No. 4 Louisville came to the Carrier Dome and scraped by Syracuse, 84-77, UofL head coach Jeff Walz heaped praise on SU’s point guard.“If you’re a basketball fan in this city and you don’t come out to watch her, shame on you,” Walz said postgame. “I have no idea why there’s not 5,000 people, 6,000 in this place watching that kid play.”Codie Yan | Staff PhotographerSo far, Mangakahia’s skill has been enough to take SU to a 22-7 record and has the Orange feeling comfortable about its NCAA tournament chances, but Reiss wants more. She wants Mangakahia to be both a player and a leader.As a point guard, Mangakahia is expected to take charge, something she hasn’t done much this year. New to the team and admittedly not that vocal, Mangakahia acknowledged that being the leader isn’t easy. Reiss said she’s gotten better, even claiming Mangakahia is a top-tier point guard in the country.“That’s a point guard,” Reiss said. “That kid reminds me of Dawn Staley and Ticha Penicheiro as far as the vision, the passing with the swagger to her game. A real point guard, a pure point guard.”But, Reiss said, there are things Mangakahia needs to improve to ascend from good to the best point guard in the country: decision making, 3-point shooting, athleticism and leadership.The shooting, Reiss said, opens up the entire offensive game. Reiss cited Brittney Sykes’ 3-point shot as the thing that made her unguardable, and said the same applies to Mangakahia.She also needs to emphasize time in the weight room and dedicate herself to conditioning, Reiss said. Early in the season, Mangakahia held her hands on her sides, gasping for breath as her face flushed after sprinting up and down the court in Hillsman’s high-octane system. As the season has progressed, she’s gotten back into game shape, she said.“She has to become an unbelievable athlete,” Reiss said. “‘I can play 40 minutes, I can go balls to the wall, I’m strong, I’m fast, I’m agile, I’m quick.’”The decision-making comes with time and film study. It’s a tedious but necessary process. Each day, the coaching staff tries to impress upon Mangakahia the importance of making the right play, not the flashy one. Mangakahia persevered at Hutchinson, and she seems destined to prevail at Syracuse.When smart play, shooting and athleticism all come together, Reiss said, is when Mangakahia will be the leader, not just because she’s the point guard, but because she’s the best player on the floor in every game she plays.“When she leads by example,” Reiss said, “when no one can beat her in anything we do, now you follow her.” Commentslast_img read more

Matt Barnes returns as Los Angeles Clippers defeat Denver Nuggets for fourth win in row

first_imgLOS ANGELES >> The Clippers got off to a fast start, responded when challenged, and romped to a simple 112-91 triumph over the visiting Denver Nuggets on Saturday night, welcoming Matt Barnes back to the court with a comprehensive performance.Blake Griffin and Chris Paul contributed their customary double-doubles and Barnes saw his first action in more than a month as the Clippers (19-9) matched their season-best winning streak before a sellout crowd of 19,129 at Staples Center, making it four in a row for the third time this year.Jamal Crawford scored a game-high 27 points on 10-of-20 shooting, including 6 of 12 beyond the 3-point arc, and the Pacific Division leaders’ extraordinary defense left the struggling Nuggets (14-12) little chance to compete.Griffin scored 24 points and pulled down 16 rebounds for his 19th double-double of the season, and Paul had 10 points and 11 assists for his 21st as L.A. raced to an 11-2 lead barely two minutes after tipoff, extended it to 19 before halftime, then pulled away — behind three third-quarter 3-pointers from Crawford — after Denver climbed within six points shortly after the break. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Barnes saw his first action since Nov. 18, coming on to a rousing ovation with 3:02 to go in the first quarter, sporting goggles that he “didn’t like — I got elbowed, and the goggles gave me a bruise.”He needed a few minutes to adjust after missing the previous 16 games after he suffered a torn retina in his left eye, requiring three surgeries, a month ago against Memphis, but got stronger as the game went on, making 5 of 12 shots and three 3-pointers for 13 points, with three rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes.“It felt good,” said Barnes, who dealt with a series of ailments before the eye injury. “It’s been hard for me to catch a rhythm all season, you know, being hurt (in the) summertime, training camp, beginning of the season, up to now. So it’s really been a mental season for me so far, kind of seeing where I can help the team when I get back. Tonight, I tried to do a little bit of that.”Barnes, who was in uniform but did not play Wednesday against the Pelicans, turned the ball over the first time he tried to penetrate, then blocked a Jordan Hamilton shot. He hit a 3-pointer early in the second quarter and scored after grabbing a loose ball after a Griffin miss in the final minute of the half, both restoring double-digit leads. He made 3 of 6 attempts in the second half.“Overall, he was really good, and he just gives us something extra,” Rivers said. “You can see it. He gives us the toughness, the cutting, the basketball IQ. For a guy that missed that amount of days — to me, he missed basically the whole year, because he’s only played and then in-and-out. I thought that was the best he has looked since he’s been with us because of his rhythm. He had pretty good rhythm and his shot looked good. He didn’t look rusty, so that is good.”Said Griffin: “Love having him back. He’s a guy that has a positive impact, even if he doesn’t score a basket. Just the way he cuts offensively and the way he plays defensively, and just his experience. Having a veteran guy out there who always plays hard is great for us.”DeAndre Jordan had a dozen rebounds for L.A. Timofey Mozgov scored 15 points, Lawson had 13 points and six assists in 33 minutes, and Nate Robinson scored 11 for the Nuggets.center_img “We said we didn’t feel like we had the right energy or played with the right spirit against New Orleans (in a victory Wednesday night), and we have a back-to-back tonight and (Sunday evening against Minnesota),” said Paul, who had four assists in the first 3½ minutes and a half-dozen a little more midway through the first quarter. “So we wanted to come out and try to put them away, and I think we did that.”Wilson Chandler scored 19 first-half points on 8-of-11 shooting but missed all four of his second-half shots for the Nuggets, whose cause wasn’t helped by point guard Ty Lawson’s flu-triggered fatigue, which limited him to just two second-half minutes, nor power forward Kenneth Faried’s departure after rolling his left ankle just 3:15 into the game.Denver pulled within six points twice — at 56-50 and 58-52 — but a 19-8 spree over the final 8½ minutes of the third quarter boosted the Clippers’ lead to 19 points, and they led by as many as 23 in the fourth quarter.L.A.’s defensive play was pivotal. The Nuggets were held to only 35.2 percent shooting — and just 31 percent before making 9 of 17 fourth-quarter shots.“What I like the most was the transition defense,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I think that they had nine points in transitions. That is what they do so well: They come down, spread the floor, they beat you to the basket. … And I thought we did a great job taking that away and making them run their half-court [offense], which was great for us.”last_img read more

‘Heading Home’ depicts a unique moment in the existence of Israel’s unique baseball team

first_img Angels’ Mike Trout working on his defense, thanks to Twitter Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error “I had a one-way ticket (to South Korea) because I didn’t know how they were going to do,” Newberger said in a telephone interview from New York. “I thought it was going to be a quick trip. I ended up being away from my family for about a month.”The resulting film, “Heading Home,” is currently enjoying a limited run in Los Angeles theaters through Sept. 19. I attended a special screening Friday at the Laemmle Royal in West Los Angeles. Cody Decker and Zack Thornton, two players on Israel’s 2017 WBC team, also attended and took questions from the audience afterward.You don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate the story depicted in the film. Online oddsmaker Bovada gave Israel 200-to-1 odds to win the 2017 WBC, making it the biggest underdog among the 16 teams. To win one game, let alone four, would have been a major upset. The film’s title is a double-entendre; heading home is something one does both on and off a baseball field. Judging by the questions from the audience, the non-baseball meaning of the Israel trip held more fascination than winning four games in Asia.Start with the always-intriguing question of who is eligible to play for Team Israel. As with any WBC team, players must be able to gain citizenship in the land they represent. In the case of Israel, one Jewish parent or grandparent is all it takes. This is where “Heading Home” begins, with general manager Peter Kurtz scouring for evidence of the necessary bloodlines among professional baseball players. Scott Burcham, a minor league infielder in the Colorado Rockies’ system, says his manager asked him one day out of the blue if he was Jewish. He is. (Congratulations, Scott, welcome to the team!)The film makes these rules for eligibility fairly clear. It also makes clear that the same citizenship rule applies to the other WBC teams – United States, Japan, Mexico, etc. But I think some in the audience were taken aback by the fact that most Team Israel players were not practicing Jews, let alone Israeli citizens. One, Ike Davis, offered the camera a revealing quote in Israel: “A Jewish-run state is pretty cool. It’s not as weird as you’d think.” The round-trip, all-expenses-paid journey to Israel could be more or less than a Birthright trip, depending on your point of view. Angels’ poor pitching spoils an Albert Pujols milestone “He has his issues with Israel, and I thought it was a really good thing that he got his perspective into the movie,” Decker said. “I thought that’s important to have because this movie is as pro-Israel as it gets. But it’s important to see other people’s perspectives. He’s someone who has a complete opposite perspective as pretty much everyone in this room. But he has the same love of baseball that we did. It just tore down every wall possible for that short time.”It so happens that an Israeli baseball team is now attempting to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Some of the players on the 2017 WBC roster are on that team, too. The Olympic roster eligibility rules are stricter; all players must be Israeli citizens themselves. Reds pitcher Jon Moscot and recently retired infielder Ty Kelly, formerly of the Mets and Phillies, are among the American-born players who gained Israeli citizenship – a process known as Aliyah. Maybe something about heading home the first time, in 2017, made them want to call Israel home on a more permanent basis.They probably won’t win a gold medal, but Newberger wouldn’t mind. A sequel is already in the works. The working title, he said, is “Heading Home 2: Return of the Mensch.” How Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling topped the baseball podcast empire center_img Angels fail to take series in Oakland, lose in 10 innings Dodgers hit seven home runs, sweep Colorado Rockies Through the lens of baseball, it was more.“The team that went on the trip to Israel, they bonded in such a way that I don’t think other teams had the ability to do,” Newberger said. “No other team had cried on each other’s shoulders at a Holocaust museum.”There are other heavy moments in Israel. At one point, a terrorist takes a bus on a violent rampage through the streets of a city where the team had stayed a day earlier. Most moments are lighter, though. Decker said his favorite part of the film captured a moment in an Israeli market where he and a pair of Arab merchants struck up a conversation about baseball.Related Articles Previous“Heading Home,” a documentary film about the baseball team that represented Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic is currently enjoying a limited run in Los Angeles theaters through Sept. 19. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)In this Jan, 5 2017 photo, Ryan Lavarnway, an American baseball player, signs autographs to Israeli fans before the practice at the Baptist Village sport complex near Petah Tikva, Israel. “Heading Home,” a documentary film about the team that represented Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic is currently enjoying a limited run in Los Angeles theaters through Sept. 19. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)In this Jan, 5 2017 photo, American Jewish professional baseball players Ike Davis, left, and Cody Decker chat during practice at the Baptist Village sport complex near Petah Tikva. “Heading Home,” a documentary film about the team that represented Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic is currently enjoying a limited run in Los Angeles theaters through Sept. 19. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov) SoundThe gallery will resume insecondsIsrael’s starter Jason Marquis throws against Cuba during the first inning of their second round game of the World Baseball Classic at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Sunday, March 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Toru Takahashi)Team Israel catcher Nick Rickles, right, pitcher Jake Kalish, second from right, and other players listen to their national anthem during the opening ceremony of their game against the Netherlands at the 2017 World Baseball Classic on March 13, 2017 in Tokyo. “Heading Home,” a documentary film about the team is currently enjoying a limited run in Los Angeles theaters through Sept. 19. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA – MARCH 09: Manager Jerry Weinstein #1 of Israel runs to the dugout after a pitching change in the top of the eighth inning during the World Baseball Classic Pool A Game Five between Netherlands and Israel at Gocheok Sky Dome on March 9, 2017 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)Team Israel infielder Cody Decker holds the team mascot “The Mensch” after a World Baseball Classic game against the Netherlands in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)TOKYO, JAPAN – MARCH 12: Ike Davis #29 of Israel hits a foul ball in the first inning during the World Baseball Classic Pool E Game One between Cuba and Israel at Tokyo Dome on March 12, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)TOKYO, JAPAN – MARCH 12: Pitcher Josh Zeid #28 of Israel celebrates after winning the World Baseball Classic Pool E Game One between Cuba and Israel at Tokyo Dome on March 12, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)TOKYO, JAPAN – MARCH 12: Israel celebrate after winning the World Baseball Classic Pool E Game One between Cuba and Israel at Tokyo Dome on March 12, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)TOKYO, JAPAN – MARCH 13: Infielder Nate Freiman #45 of Israel juggles the ball prior to the World Baseball Classic Pool E Game Three between Netherlands and Israel at the Tokyo Dome on March 13, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)TOKYO, JAPAN – MARCH 13: Pitcher Jeremy Bleich #27 of Israel throws in the top of the third inning during the World Baseball Classic Pool E Game Three between Netherlands and Israel at the Tokyo Dome on March 13, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)TOKYO, JAPAN – MARCH 13: Outfielder Zach Borenstein #18 of Israel is seen before the top of the sixth inning during the World Baseball Classic Pool E Game Three between Netherlands and Israel at the Tokyo Dome on March 13, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)TOKYO, JAPAN – MARCH 13: Pitcher Alex Katz #25 of Israel throws in the top of the sixth inning during the World Baseball Classic Pool E Game Three between Netherlands and Israel at the Tokyo Dome on March 13, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)TOKYO, JAPAN – MARCH 15: Israel players are seen in front of the dugout prior to the World Baseball Classic Pool E Game Six between Israel and Japan at the Tokyo Dome on March 15, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)TOKYO, JAPAN – MARCH 15: Infielder Ty Kelly #56 of Israel makes a catch a pop fly by Infielder Nobuhiro Matsuda #3 of Japan in the bottom of the second inning during the World Baseball Classic Pool E Game Six between Israel and Japan at the Tokyo Dome on March 15, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)Israeli designated hitter Ike Davis hits an RBI single in the top of the ninth inning during the World Baseball Classic Pool E second round match between Israel and Japan at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo on March 15, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / TORU YAMANAKA (Photo credit should read TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images)“Heading Home,” a documentary film about the baseball team that represented Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic is currently enjoying a limited run in Los Angeles theaters through Sept. 19. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)In this Jan, 5 2017 photo, Ryan Lavarnway, an American baseball player, signs autographs to Israeli fans before the practice at the Baptist Village sport complex near Petah Tikva, Israel. “Heading Home,” a documentary film about the team that represented Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic is currently enjoying a limited run in Los Angeles theaters through Sept. 19. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)NextShow Caption1 of 17In this Jan, 5 2017 photo, Ryan Lavarnway, an American baseball player, signs autographs to Israeli fans before the practice at the Baptist Village sport complex near Petah Tikva, Israel. “Heading Home,” a documentary film about the team that represented Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic is currently enjoying a limited run in Los Angeles theaters through Sept. 19. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)ExpandSeveral years ago, a filmmaker named Jeremy Newberger had an idea. The Birthright Israel foundation sponsors seven-day visits to Israel from around the world for Jewish adults ages 18 to 32. What if, Newberger wondered, he could organize and film a Birthright trip just for Jewish baseball players? His team interviewed Ike Davis, Josh Zeid, Joc Pederson, Brad Ausmus, Ryan Braun, and others whose heritage qualified them for the trip. Newberger combined the clips into a sizzle reel. He shopped the project around.“The problem was, no one wanted to pay for that idea,” Newberger said. “We shelved the project.”Flash forward to September 2016. In a qualifying tournament for the World Baseball Classic, Team Israel placed first in a four-team pool in Brooklyn. That guaranteed Israel its first berth ever in the 16-team WBC. Led almost entirely by professional baseball players born in the United States, the team clinched a trip to South Korea in March 2017.Behind the scenes, the idea for another trip – and another film – was hatched. In January 2017, Team Israel’s roster boarded a private jet and flew to, of all places, Israel. The cameras followed. Before long, Newberger had a different film than he originally envisioned. Team Israel had staged a team-bonding excursion to their ancestral homeland, followed by a series of improbable upset victories in South Korea and Japan in March. Ultimately, Israel fell only one win short of a berth in the WBC semifinals in Los Angeles.last_img read more