Photo: Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated Press
STORRS — Dan Hurley thought he had a pretty good chance of recruiting Terance Mann to play at Rhode Island a few years ago.
Mann’s mother, Daynia La-Force, had just been hired as URI’s head women’s basketball coach, so Hurley figured Mann might want to join mom in the Ocean State.
“We thought we had a real chance at him,” said Hurley, who coached at URI for six seasons before taking over at UConn this season. “Then, we didn’t make his Top 5 list.”
Indeed, Mann’s star rose over his final year at Tilton School, and the likes of Florida State, Indiana, Boston College, Iowa, Maryland, Florida and West Virginia started coming after him.
“At the end of the day, I wanted to be away from home,” said Mann, who grew up in Lowell, Mass. “I think Hurley knew that.”
He wound up at Florida State, and on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., Mann will go up against Hurley for the first time as a collegian when No. 11 Florida State faces UConn in the Never Forget Tribute Classic.
“I spent a lot of time with Terance, he was always working out at (URI’s Ryan Center), always playing pick-up with our guys,” Hurley recalled. “I think he’s one of the best all-around perimeter people/hyrid players that we’ll play against this year.”
Mann, a 6-foot-7 senior, leads the Seminoles’ well-balanced scoring attack at 11.1 points per game, and is also the team’s top rebounder at 7.3 per contest.
When he takes the floor against the Huskies on Saturday, he’ll not only be going up against his mom’s former co-worker, but also one of his best friends. Jalen Adams, UConn’s top scorer, has been tight with Mann since the two were in high school. Adams, who is a year older than Mann, played in the Boston Amateur Basketball Club briefly with Mann before moving over to play for Mass Rivals. The two went up against each other numerous times in AAU and in high school, when Mann was at Tilton and Adams was at Cushing Academy, then Brewster Academy.
In AAU, as Mann recalls, the teams split in their two head-to-head meetings. But in prep school, Adams seemed to always get the better of Mann’s teams.
“His team was always stacked,” Mann noted.
Now, the tables are a bit turned. Florida State (7-1) is one of the very best teams in the country, with wins over Florida, LSU and Purdue and a loss only to defending national champ Villanova. And the Seminoles, who return seven of their top nine scorers from last year’s Elite Eight squad, have been without last year’s top scorer, Phil Cofer, who’s been out with a foot injury.
UConn is trying to take that next step up, seeking to knock off a ranked team for the first time in nearly three years.
“I definitely got the best of him in high school, but their team is really good,” Adams said after the Huskies’ blowout win over Lafayette on Wednesday, “and he’s been playing really well this year and since he’s been in college. We’ve got to get back to work and prep for Florida State.”
La-Force and Hurley had a good relationship while both were at URI, sometimes sitting in on each others’ practices.
“I’ve always admired how hard the guys practiced, and how organized his practices were,” said La-Force, whose Rams were 5-2 heading into a Thursday night bout at Kentucky. “And just how much effort and energy the guys performed with in practice. It’s the same effort and energy you see in the basketball game. With Coach Hurley, there was no differences in practices and games.”
The summer after his freshman year at UConn, Adams spent a couple of days at Mann’s home in Rhode Island. They still communicate frequently via text or social media, and there has been some trash-talking about Saturday’s game lately.
“It’ll be fun,” Adams promised. “We haven’t played against each other since AAU, high school days. I’m sure it’ll be competitive.”
Mann said he wished he would have been recruited by UConn, but never really was. He has been at a UConn game, however — a UConn women’s game at Gampel, when his mom was an assistant at Northeastern.
Needless to say, Mann hopes his team fares better against the Huskies than that Northeastern team did several years back.
“It’s definitely gonna be an amazing experience, to be in an atmosphere like that,” he said.
Mann is also just 11 points shy of his 1,000th career point. What better way to reach that milestone than against a couple of old friends?