OU men's basketball: After return from COVID-19, Brady Manek's role figures to expand vs. Kansas
NORMAN — Sitting at home two Saturdays ago, Brady Manek was a mess.
Manek was in Harrah while his OU teammates were more than 300 miles away in Lawrence, playing Kansas down to the wire. The Sooners had a chance to win in Allen Fieldhouse for the first time since Billy Tubbs was coaching the crimson and cream.
“Those last two minutes, I was up walking around,” Manek said. “It was one of those most stressful moments where I wish I could have been there.”
It was the first game Manek had missed during his Sooners career and the first time OU had played without Manek in the starting lineup since the end of his freshman year.
But Saturday when the Sooners host Kansas (11 a.m., ESPN), Manek will be a much bigger figure.
“Three additional days of practice will hopefully project into a much bigger role, more minutes,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “There’s a ways to go, like anyone would have after being out for 11-12 days.”
Manek returned Tuesday for the first time since Jan. 6 after missing not only the 63-59 loss to Kansas but also the win over TCU a few days later.
Manek played 11 minutes off the bench, finishing with six minutes.
- Related to this story
- Article: Big 12 sets up back-to-back Bedlam basketball matchups between OU, Oklahoma State
- Article: How to watch OU vs. Kansas men's basketball: Live stream, TV channel, game time, lineups
- Article: Oklahoma State basketball: Cade Cunningham, Rondel Walker to miss game against Baylor
- Article: Oklahoma State basketball: Why Cade Cunningham missed his second straight game
- Article: Oklahoma State basketball: 3 takeaways from Cowboys' win at Iowa State
- Article: Tramel: Oklahoma State basketball won't apologize for sloppy win at Iowa State
“My conditioning, I think, is coming back slowly,” Manek said. “It’s getting there.”
When Manek woke up Jan. 7, it wasn’t a surprise that he didn’t feel well.
In the first half of a loss at Baylor the night before, Manek was bowled over by the Bears’ Mark Vital.
He returned later in that game but the collision left Manek bleeding from his mouth, hit his head and suffered other injuries from the contact — both with Vital and the floor.
So when Manek woke up, sore, he went for a series of checkups — on his chest and lower back primarily — and was told to go home to Harrah to recover a bit.
Not long after he went back home, though, Manek was informed he’d also tested positive for COVID-19.
“It’s definitely weird taking 10 days,” Manek said. “Some of the days you didn’t feel like doing anything. Some days, you would try to do something and it’s 30 degrees and you can’t go anywhere except out in the street and run and that’s about it.”
Using a four-guard lineup during Manek’s absence, the Sooners appeared to have found a winning combination, showing renewed energy on both ends of the floor.
But it’s hard to argue that OU isn’t better with Manek at full strength.
Though he’s struggled offensively for stretches this season, Manek’s combination of length and shooting ability creates plenty of matchup problems, something Kansas coach Bill Self is well aware of.
As a freshman, Manek hit a 3-pointer in the closing seconds to lift the Sooners to a win over the Jayhawks at Lloyd Noble Center.
“The first thing I think of is quick release,” Self said of Manek. “How many guys that are 6-foot-9 have a quick release like that from the perimeter? That makes him extremely hard to guard. He needs no space to get it off.”
Manek is just happy to be back and playing again instead of pacing in front of his television.
“The only positive takeaway (from the absence) is that you don’t have to worry about it later in the year,” Manek said. “Everything else sucks.”