LANSING--- Lansing Everett’s gym echoes with the sound of sneakers squeaking across the hardwood. The energy level was high, matching a fresh team, not one at the end of a grinding regular season.
Forward Trevor Manuel sweated profusely as he raced up and down the court, barking out defensive assignments and swatting shots. Manuel was working hard, under the banner of Everett’s most famous alumni, Earvin “Magic” Johnson.
Manuel competes like an athlete fighting for minutes, rather than a star player for a team that already won its conference championship.
“We came up with three goals to begin the season,” Manuel said. “One was to win the CAAC, we did that. Next was to win our District and after that is the state championship. That’s why we’re working so hard.”
The 6-foot-9 senior is considered the next “big thing” to come out of Everett. The school has produced several professional basketball players, including Johnson, Desmond Ferguson, Goran Suton, brothers Carl and Charles Thomas.
Johnson is the leading scorer in school history, with 2,012 points, while Ferguson and Suton are among Everett’s leaders in several all-time categories. The trio won two state championships between them and went on to play college ball in the state of Michigan.
Manuel said he wants to be mentioned in the same breath as the greats who have come out of the Lansing area.
But the Lansing product hasn’t followed the standard blue print of hometown heroes. Manuel has bounced around, with Everett being his third high school in four years. Manuel said each decision was well thought out.
He has embraced traveling around, meeting new people and playing high level basketball.
“It’s been real easy for me because I’m an outgoing person,” Manuel said. “I can mix with anyone really, I talk to everybody and it’s been real cool making all these new bonds.”
Manuel began his high school career at Lansing Sexton under coach Carlton Valentine, a former Michigan State player. The team was led by current MSU stars Denzel Valentine and Bryn Forbes. Manuel was a role player for the backend of the team’s back-to-back state championship run.
“It was the best feeling I’ve ever felt,” Manuel said. “They (Valentine and Forbes) took me under their wing. We were in that spotlight all the time.”
As a sophomore, Manuel’s role increased and he led the team to the regional final. Then Valentine took a year off from coaching in order to watch his son, Denzel, play at MSU. With Valentine’s departure, Manuel weighed his options.
“I just wanted to get away and check out some other stuff,” Manuel said. “Pretty much see what life away from home was like.”
The forward decided to advance his academic and athletic career at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. The school has been a basketball powerhouse producing 25 NBA players and 170 Division I athletes since 1978. Jerry Stackhouse, Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings and Rajon Rondo have come out of its system.
“You can’t really get better than Oak Hill,” Manuel said. “They’ve produced tons of pros and coach (Steve) Smith is a great coach and knows what he’s talking about. When the offer came, I couldn’t turn it down.”
During the 2013-14 season, Oak Hill went 41-4 and advanced to the championship game of the Dick’s National High School Tournament at Madison Square Garden. The team finished with a Top 3 national ranking. Playing time was sparse on a team loaded with future Division I players, and after the season Manuel decided to return home.
He said he doesn’t regret the year he spent in Virginia and considers it valuable experience.
“(I learned) just how to compete every day,” Manuel said. “I competed against eight Division I players in practice and I played against eight Division I players the next day in games. I played against great competition every day, it was a great experience.”
Manuel said he wanted to finish his high school career playing in front of family and friends, and wasn’t dissatisfied with Oak Hill. With Valentine’a return to the sidelines, there was speculation that Manuel would reunite with the coach at his former high school, Sexton.
Instead, Manuel opted to attend Everett for his senior year.
“It wasn’t really a choosing, a lot of people have said that,” Manuel said. “I lived in the district, so I could have come here and played right away. If I went to Sexton, I would have had to sit out half the season.”
On the court, the senior has enjoyed his highest personal success, averaging 23.5 points and 11 rebounds per game. Ferguson said Manuel is unmatched when talking about the elite players in the state.
“His basketball IQ is really high,” Ferguson said. “He does so much with his height, he blocks shots on defense and is versatile on offense. He scores from different positions, whether that be in the paint, on the perimeter or in fast break opportunities.”
Manuel is a Mr. Basketball candidate and only strengthened his chances after monster performances in the last few games of the season. He recorded a triple-double on Feb. 24, scoring 24 points, grabbing 17 rebounds and blocking 11 shots against Sexton. Manuel followed up with 23 points and 12 rebounds against Jackson on Feb. 27.
“It would be a great feeling, knowing my hard work is paying off.” Manuel said. “Even if I don’t win, I’ll be happy because I’ve had a really good season.”
Teammate LeAndre Wright has an up close look every day at the talent level Manuel possesses.
“He has all the accolades that someone can have,” Wright said. “He’s a 6-foot-9 shooter that can dribble and has all the ability.”
The impact Manuel’s had on the program has been substantial. Everett has quadrupled its number of wins since last season, and has a 17-2 overall record with one regular season game remaining. His experience of winning a state championship as a freshman and playing high-level competition at Oak Hill has been a factor in helping a young team overcome adversity.
“He talks to us every day about the importance of each game,” Wright said. “He tells us how big winning a [state championship] is. He’s like another coach out there for us.”
Manuel said he wasn’t worried about coming to a program that had won only a few games over several seasons. He said he believed in Ferguson’s winning pedigree and just wanted to play basketball.
“Ever since I came here, it’s been real positive,” Manuel said. “Everyone has been working hard, they’ve been great to me and we have a really good bond on this team.”
Many assumed the next step for Manuel was committing to MSU. The forward has a close relationship with men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo, former teammates Valentine and Forbes play there, so it seemed a logical move.
Recruitment of Manuel started when the forward was in eighth grade. His father, James Manuel, took over the process early, in order for Manuel to enjoy high school.
“My Dad’s the reason I got really good,” Manuel said. “He went to Everett, he knows the game and I can turn to him at any time for advice.”
James restricted coaches from calling his son, except for one -Izzo.
“I’ve known Izzo since I was a little kid,” Manuel said. “We’ve had a great relationship since I was young, I would talk to him every day.”
But, Manuel didn’t choose the standard path. He followed his heart and chose to sign with Oregon.
“I liked Oregon before I even went out there, it was one of my top schools,” Manuel said. “When I got out there it felt like home away from home. It felt like family to me and I didn’t want to see anything else.”
And once again, the Lansing product will leave the area to pursue his basketball dreams somewhere else. But, Manuel is firmly planting seeds in the area and is in the early stages of creating an organization in Lansing. The Team Trevor Organization plans to install a community center for kids where they can play sports and receive mentoring.
“It was a difficult decision,” Manuel said. “Continuing my career in front of my family would have been nice, but I just wanted to get away.”