OU men's basketball: Brady Manek 'maturing in every aspect'
NORMAN — Brady Manek has been making it look easy lately.
The junior forward has been playing some of the best basketball of his career in recent weeks, breaking 1,000 career points, setting a new career high, making 3-point shots from every part of the floor. It’s made him stand out as Oklahoma’s best player right now.
Manek has been outshined for most of his time as a Sooner. It was Trae Young who got the attention his freshman year. Despite being the team’s second-best scorer his sophomore year, the focus was more on Manek's then-Larry Bird-like hair.
But at this point in his junior season, Manek has become OU’s star — one that the Sooners will rely on Saturday against West Virginia as they try to reach the .500 mark in Big 12 play.
“(It’s) continued growth in every way,” coach Lon Kruger said. “It's obvious when he shoots the ball. That's what you notice. But he's also guarding well.
“He's leading better and maturing in every aspect of the game.”
For the first half of the season, Manek was the third in a scoring trio that included senior Kristian Doolittle and redshirt junior Austin Reaves. The three have been one of the country’s top scoring trios for most of the season, but it was Reaves and Doolittle who led the way.
Manek has taken charge lately, climbing the ladder in the Big 12 to be the conference’s No. 3 scorer at 16.0 points per game.
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“The first thing you talk about is his character,” Reaves said. “He's never doing anything he's not supposed to do. It's good to see someone like that continue to get better and strive to be better every day. It's not something that he goes home and settles with just being all right. He works at it. He studies the game. Every day, he listens and just tries to get better.”
Part of what has made Manek so good is his consistency. While other Sooners have slumped at times, Manek has been quick to bounce back from an off night. He’s been especially good in Big 12 play when his teammates have slumped at times. This is Manek’s third time going through the conference schedule, and that experience is helping him right now.
“Having gone through it a couple of times and a couple of years and now in his junior year, he’s playing really well,” Kruger said. “He’s shooting the ball well and recovering well defensively and attacking ball screens and communicating well.”
In addition to carrying OU’s offense, Manek has also drawn some tough assignments on defense. He’s had to matchup against the conference’s best centers and forwards, guys like Udoka Azubuike and Freddie Gillespie.
“He's always banging with everybody's biggest player,” Reaves said. “I know that's tough. But he's got to do it and he's been doing it as good as he can do it.”
Saturday will provide another tough challenge in West Virginia's league-best defense, but Manek's teammates aren't too worried.
Manek has scored a combined 61 points and 14 made 3-point shots in his last two games at Lloyd Noble Center.
“I feel like if he touches it, it's going in every time,” sophomore guard Jamal Bieniemy said. “We just try to get it to him as much as possible.”