It started with an injury and then a phone call.
Former GW Graham basketball star Lucas Mannes was home for the Christmas break, resting up after an extremely productive start to the season.
Mannes spent the previous two months ripping up the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference, dominating the circuit as a member of the Briercrest Clippers — the ACAC is often referred to as the best collegiate league in the country.
“Christmas break was almost over, it was a Saturday night and I’d just finished scrimmaging with some members of the (Trinity Western) Spartans,” Mannes said. “One of my good buddies (Tyus Allen), a really great player for them, had torn his ACL, and their other point guard had some eligibility issues with grades and stuff. But I figured it was the middle of the year, so no way. Then I get a call.”
Trinity Western’s head coach, Scott Allen, was on the line, telling him he could be a Spartan.
“I assumed he was talking about next year,” Mannes laughed. “But after my dad talked to him he came into the room and said, ‘I have good news and bad news. Trinity wants you. The kind of bad news is they want you now.’”
Meaning two days away.
“Trinity is sort of a dream come true, the place to be for most Christian athletes in BC,” Mannes said. “By 3 p.m. the next day I’d made my decision and cancelled my flight back to Saskatchewan.”
The toughest part was calling Briercrest coach Rod Adrian.
“He said, ‘I’m going to put my coaching hat on and say I don’t really want you to leave because we have a good chance to make a playoff run,’” Mannes recalled. “Then he said, ‘I’m going to put my friend hat on and tell you that this is something you need to do.’ He was incredible about it, but it was probably the hardest phone call I’ve ever had to make.”
Then, the teammates.
Mannes sent an email to Adrian, who read it aloud at a team meeting. Mannes asked them to respond and they did.
“Even if they had negative things to say, I wanted to hear it,” he said. “Almost all of them were happy and excited for me and gave me their blessing. There were a couple who were disappointed, but I don’t think there are any hard feelings.”
Mannes spent a year and a half in Caronport, SK, a place he freely describes as being ‘in the middle of nowhere.’
“I’d never heard about it before I went to Briercrest College, and most people will never hear about it,” he chuckled.
“Because it’s a bible school I knew it was going to be good for my development as a man, spiritually,” he said. “And the athletic program surpassed my expectations. In some ways it’s too bad I couldn’t have finished it off and seen what could’ve been. But being on my own for a year and a half, figuring out who I was and maturing, it was still an incredible experience.”
Mannes had three days of practice before playing his first CIS basketball game, against the University of Manitoba Bisons on Jan. 10.
He went one for two from the field in five minutes, adding one steal and two assists.
“I got one layup and it felt like I’d just scored 30 points,” he said.
Mannes played five minutes the next night against the Winnipeg Wesmen, recording one helper.
“It was abrupt, and there were some moments when I wondered what I’d gotten myself into,” he admitted. “But looking back, this is where God led me to be.”
It took a while for Mannes to finally hit his stride. In the final game of the season, Feb. 15 against the University of the Fraser Valley Cascades, Mannes had 10 points, four assists, three rebounds and a steal in 34 minutes.
Mannes played 12 games and by season’s end finally felt comfortable.
“In that last game I finally felt I was able to play how I play,” he said. “Everything was new. A higher level. Faster and more athletic. It was a real journey, but I got a little more comfortable every game, and now I know exactly what to prepare for this summer.”
Whatever he did was good enough to impress Allen and get Mannes a scholarship extension into next season. The point guard will be the focal point of Allen’s offence, a player he expects to be dynamic and an on-floor leader.
“He expects a lot from his players and so, if you’re not performing to the level he thinks you could and should, he’ll let you know,” Mannes said of his bench boss. “You perform or you don’t play, and personally I appreciate that. I feel lots of athletes, including myself, take it for granted and dog it at times. With him you won’t be taking any players off, even in practice. He brings your full potential out of you.”
As he preps for the 2014-15 season, Mannes is also diving into coaching, helping out with TransCanada basketball.
He and Allen ran a spring break camp together at Highroad Academy.
Get information on the Spartans online at twu.ca/athletics.