INDIANAPOLIS – It’s not often an NAIA student athlete gets the opportunity to play professional sports, let alone try out for them.
“I had hoped I’d get workouts, but I didn’t know,” says Kyle Mangas, a standout performer for Indiana Wesleyan over the past four seasons. “It’s really hard to tell because you don’t get that national spotlight.”
But that spotlight found Mangas at IWU, as he earned All-American honors all four years with the Wildcats. This week, Mangas joined a group of other NBA hopefuls at a pre-draft workout hosted by the Pacers in downtown Indianapolis.
“I really felt like I belonged,” smiled Mangas after the workout, “especially at the offensive end, getting to my spots and creating for other guys and just shooting the ball at a high level. I thought I did that well.”
A talented scoring touch should come as no surprise as Mangas averaged better than 25 points per game at Indiana Wesleyan, quite the feat for the Warsaw graduate who didn’t get a single NCAA scholarship offer coming out of high school. Back then, he didn’t even know how much of an opportunity playing for the Wildcats would be.
“It was my parents heading down to the first game,” he explains. “My mom and dad were like ‘I just hope he gets to play. I hope he gets to go in the game.'”
Four years and two NAIA DII Player of the Year honors later, Mangas doesn’t take that opportunity to play for granted. He knows a future in pro basketball is possible, but it’s a future that will require a slight shift in his mental game, from the dominant alpha among his competition to the challenger hoping to knock off the favorite.
“I’m the one hunting these bigger D1 guys I feel like,” says Mangas. “I don’t have anything to prove with anyone. My mindset has been to play in freedom and play fearlessly.”
That mindset will be tested with more workouts over the next few weeks to find out if the 2017 Indiana All-Star has what it takes to succeed at the next level.