AUBURN HILLS – The Pistons found a player for the modern NBA in the middle of last year’s second round in Bruce Brown. They might find another in the middle of next week’s second round in his best friend.
Terance Mann – AAU teammates of Brown’s in Boston since before they got to high school – is showing he’s got the same sort of tenacity that took Brown from the No. 42 pick in 2018 to 56 games as a Pistons starter for a playoff team as a rookie.
Mann went to the Portsmouth Invitational to earn an invitation to the G League elite camp, then subsequently was invited to the NBA draft combine from there. After a four-year career at Florida State that included 101 starts, Mann might have been a little irked that he needed to further establish his credentials in such a manner.
And, in fact, he was – while simultaneously understanding the reasoning.
“I mean, they like the younger, flashy players,” he said after Wednesday’s six-player workout the Pistons conducted, bringing their total of players brought to Auburn Hills ahead of the June 20 draft to 54. “But I earned my way into it. I did what I do. I played hard and made it all the way to the combine.”
What Mann does – a little bit of everything, including a 3-point shot that became a genuine weapon as a senior – at his size, 6-foot-6½ as measured at the combine, is in high demand these days. Though Mann is now listed as the 68th-ranked prospect according to ESPN.com, he expects to be taken in the 60-player draft.
“The range is all over the place,” he said. “We’ll see on draft night.”
Brown said after his rookie season ended that it came as a revelation to him soon after pulling on a Pistons uniform that he wasn’t at all out of place against NBA players that he thought were on another plane while he was outside of that world. Mann said Brown imparted much the same advice to him.
“It’s the same for these workouts,” Mann said. “You see players you’ve never played against, always hear about, then you get in a workout with them and you realize you’re just as good as them, if not better. Each level you go to, I think, you eventually end up realizing that and then you come into your own.”
Mann and Brown felt the same way in the summer before their freshman year of high school when they were unknowns and teammates for the first time in an AAU tournament finding themselves going against a favorite in the championship game.
“Me and him ended up dunking on two different people. We were attacking the rim the whole game, getting downhill, dunking on people and, mind you, we’re just getting in ninth grade and nobody really knew about us. It was in Boston, everybody was there and we were just dunking everything relentlessly, playing off of each other. Right then and there, that was going to be my boy through high school.”
They wound up attending rival New England prep schools and Mann got to Florida State a year ahead of Brown leaving for college.
“That’s my best friend. We go way back,” Mann said. “We talk every other day. We’re always in contact. We’ve just known each other for so long.”
The Seminoles had too many guards while Brown was pondering his college options – NBA players Malik Beasley and Dwayne Bacon were in Mann’s recruiting class – so Brown opted for an ACC rival, Miami, leaving after his sophomore season.
What Mann offers is what the Pistons perhaps need most out of this draft – a bigger wing capable of guarding a variety of perimeter players while presenting the threat of a 3-point shot: a classic 3-and-D player, in other words.
“Definitely selling myself as 3 and D,” Mann said. “I feel I can guard multiple positions. I’m confident shooting the ball, comfortable driving, making the right plays.”
Mann averaged 11.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists while playing a team-high 32 minutes for a Florida State team that went 29-8 before losing to No. 1-seeded Gonzaga in the sweet 16. He took his 3-point shooting from under 30 percent over his first three seasons to 39 percent as a senior.
Mann, who impressed during combine scrimmages, felt he gave the Pistons something to consider in Wednesday’s workout. “It went real well,” he said. Mann was the highest-rated prospect, according to ESPN.com’s rankings, with Saginaw native Brian Bowen on his heels at No. 73. Bowen played professionally in Australia last season after being declared ineligible by the NCAA the previous season, swept up in the Adidas legal tangle.
“The biggest thing with me was just playing for a year,” said Bowen, who attended the combine a year ago before pulling out of the draft and signing to play in Sydney. “That’s all I was missing. It’s the biggest feedback I was getting – want to see improvement, want to build that confidence back up. I feel like I have.”
Like Mann, Bowen would fit a roster need for the Pistons as a 6-foot-7½ wing player. He might have more offensive upside than Mann, though likely wouldn’t be as physically ready to compete as a rookie. Bowen said living on the other side of the globe as a 20-year-old competing in a man’s world tested his mental toughness.
“I learned that I’m a lot more mentally tough than I thought I was,” he said.
That’s a quality that carried Bruce Brown a long way from the middle of 2018’s second round. The Pistons will be looking for the same in whomever they grab with the 45th pick next week.