Mangok Mathiang is the only player on this years team that was on the 2013 championship team roster. Although he didn’t play he gained a wealth of experience. Mangok was ruled ineligible that year due to a delay in getting his high school transcript. Even though he was ineligible for the 2012-13 season, he was allowed to train and practice with the team. Practicing against Gourgi Dieng on a daily basis could only help develop the 6’10” Mathiang.
After a year of learning from Dieng, freshman Mangok would be a backup to the senior for the 2013-14 season. But after the 2013 national championship, Dieng decided to enter the NBA draft leaving Mangok as the main man in the middle. Mango had a lot to learn and learn quickly. Playing alongside the likes of future NBA big men Montrezl Harrell and Chinaua Onuaku coupled with the coaching of David Padgett, Mangok has developed into a solid college player and now it’s time for him to shine.
Through the years of his development we have all had that moment where we yelled at him for making a mistake or two. If you say you haven’t then you are either lying or you are his relative. I said earlier this year that the only shot I wanted him to take was a put back on an offensive rebound. Mangok averaged 9 points and 6 rebounds during the month of January. His averaged dropped to 7 points and 3.8 rebounds in February.
But then the calendar turned to March. It appears as though Mangok has realized that the end is near. He is averaging 15 points and 10.5 rebounds in March so far. He is playing with the same aggressiveness and desperation that Wake Forest played with when they beat us last week. Mangok seems to be more confident playing with his back to the basket and more decisive with the ball in the paint. He is the vocal leader on defense and he knows exactly where everyone should be in Pitino’s complex switching defense. We all know a championship team has great guard play and great defense. This team has that and if Mangok can continue his March pace, then Louisville will have that added piece that could push then straight to the top. Mangok doesn’t have to put up huge numbers but if he continues his aggressive style of play it may be contagious and we might just see Spalding, Johnson or Mahmoud elevate their game making the Cards that much more dangerous.
The 24 year old Mathiang is the key to Louisville making a deep NCAA tournament run. He has experienced it all. The culmination of sitting out the national championship year, being unfairly compared to Gourgi, winning the only AAC tournament Louisville ever played in, sitting out after an injury, losing a heartbreaker to a rival in the sweet 16, Losing the first ever ACC tournament game, missing a free throw to send Louisville to another Final Four vs. Michigan State and sitting out a full postseason because of a self-imposed ban should make Mangok a driven and motivated man. This is the end of the road for Mangok. He knows it and I believe you will see March Mango at his finest to end his career at Louisville.
As Always, GO CARDS!