Living in the Gym:
Tre Mann’s Comfort Zone

Nick Gallo

It was 9:58pm ET when 20-year-old Tre Mann jumped up off the couch. Mann burst into the living room in the Brooklyn penthouse loft he and his family were anxiously waiting in, just minutes away from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn where the 2021 Draft was being held. He had gotten the call of a lifetime. As NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stepped to the podium and announced the Thunder’s selection at number 18, the family celebration began.

“Once I got to New York for the draft with all my family that kind of calmed me down a little bit,” said Mann. “Once the draft started, not knowing where you're going, if you don't get drafted, it was kind of nerve-wracking. Once I heard my name called it was just like a whole bunch of pressure and stress just fell off on my shoulders.”

After about 20 minutes of hugging and frantic talking and excitement, Mann settled in. He wanted to spend some time with his father. They played a game of pool, got stuck on the 8-ball and called in Mann’s mentor, Mike Williams, who proposed a $100 bet if he could hit the shot on the first try. Williams nailed it. The billiards match over, Mann’s mind turned to a thought he’d had early in the day, when he was getting his hair cut and imagining his draft night ahead. He wanted to get to the gym.

“That’s just my life,” said Mann. “I'm not gonna change because I made it. This is the beginning for me so I'm going to stick to what got me here, and that's always being in the gym wherever I can.”

Mann talked to his agents and asked them if he could go get some shots up and soak up the moment he’d been looking forward to his whole life. He didn’t want to party. He didn’t want to go out and be seen. He wanted to go where he feels most comfortable, most himself.

“It wasn't even about working out, it was just being in the gym,” Mann explained. “That's my spot. That's where I go. It clears my mind. So I was just in there just getting up shots, processing everything and thinking about it.”

Staying consistent is a part of Mann’s nature, and it’s the mentality he plans on carrying over to his rookie season with the Thunder. He’ll be focusing on defense, playmaking, his footwork, getting to his spots – all of the elements of the craft that helped him rise from a small guard from The Villages, Fl. to the University of Florida to the pros. His mentor Williams and his high school coach, Colt McDowell, helped him work on his change of direction and change of speed, all the subtle tools that scorers use to refine their arsenal.

“That's what I'm looking forward to – coming in, just doing exactly that what got me to this point,” Mann said. “Working hard and doing whatever coach wants me to do and my teammates need me to do.”

Mann grew a couple of inches between his freshman and sophomore years of college, but it was actually the 15 pounds of weight that he gained that he credits for the major leap he made in terms of production, efficiency and ability to impact winning. He finished his sophomore campaign starting all 24 games for the Gators, averaging 16.0 points on 40.2 percent three-point shooting to go with 5.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.4 steals. Overall, he shot 45.9 percent from the field and 83.1 percent at the free-throw line.

“I just felt more comfortable being able to get to the rim, playing my game on offense and defense,” said Mann.

“I haven't went to the doctor lately,” Mann quipped. “Hopefully I'm still growing.”

In his first game of Summer League on Sunday, Mann was extremely active. Playing in front of fans for the first time in two years, adjusting to the enhanced speed and timing of the game, everyone on the floor for the Thunder and Pistons took a bit to settle in. Mann used a quick first step, crafty footwork and the ability to create separation. At 6-foot-5, he generated 14 field goal attempts for himself. To get a guy who shot 40 percent from three in college 14 attempts in 26 minutes is a win for the Thunder.

In his second game, against New Orleans, Mann got the Thunder on the board with a step-back jumper on the team’s first offensive trip, but then showed his playmaking chops the rest of the night. Undeterred by makes or misses, Mann just played within the flow and gave his team what it needed possession by possession, racking up seven assists and six rebounds to go with 12 points.

“He’s shifty, and he can get into his shot,” said Summer League Coach Grant Gibbs. “We trust his ability with the shot and we’re going to pump him with confidence to continue to shoot through tough stretches. That’s what the best shooters in the NBA do. They’re unfazed by misses.”

On the other end of the floor, Mann has helped connect a defensive unit that has forced its first two Summer League opponents into 39 combined turnovers. Mann recognizes that as a guard, a huge factor in keeping him on the floor will be how many times he can fight over a screen and get back to the ball. Taking the hits to the shoulder time and again, repositioning between ball and the rim and keeping hands in passing and shooting lanes, Mann showed he can be a helpful defender. In the first game against Detroit, he even found himself in position to make the ultimate hustle play by taking a charge.

“I'm not scared to stick my nose in there and make those plays,” said Mann, referencing his penchant for taking charges in high school and in college. “I was in the same position the other the night.”

“I feel like it's very important, especially at this level,” Mann added. “Guys are stronger, more physical. I’ve got to be able to make those plays, sacrifice my body for the team, to win games.”

There are still three summer league games ahead, plus about six weeks before the start of training camp back in Oklahoma City. While there’s a ton to look forward to, Mann is staying in the moment, remaining grounded to his task at hand, using each day as a springboard to the next as his first NBA season approaches on the calendar. Just like he did on draft night, Mann is soaking it all in by relying on what gives him clarity – a basketball, a court and a hoop.

“It's just been amazing. I can't really describe the feeling,” said Mann. “It’s something I’ve dreamed about my whole life, putting on an NBA jersey.”

“I'm not going to take any of it for granted.”


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