Anaheim, Calif., December 1, 2019 – Part of one of the most heralded freshman classes in the country, Nico Mannion showed his value Sunday during one of his poorest shooting games of the season.
The Arizona guard missed 8 of his 11 shots from the field, including all three 3-pointers he tried. He missed a couple of free throws. He finished with nine points and seven assists, modest numbers for his abilities.
He was still voted the MVP of the Wooden Legacy after the Wildcats captured the title with a 73-66 win over Wake Forest at the Anaheim Arena.
“I mean, it’s big,” Mannion said of hearing his name called as the tournament’s best. Throughout the tournament I wasn’t thinking about that route, I was thinking about just getting the win. It’s more of a team thing, we got a big trophy, now we can go home and celebrate.”
In the three victories, Mannion averaged 15.6 points and 7.3 assists while shooting 51.3 percent from the field. He added four steals and for those who believe in the statistic, he carried a plus-10.6 plus/minus average.
“The first time I played with Nico, I knew he was going to be good,” Wildcats senior guard Dylan Smith said. “His IQ is off the charts. For his age, he is very advanced. He just sees the game differently than everybody, is good at making shots, I mean the kid can play.
“It wasn’t a surprise to me from playing with him in the summer and through practices. He is still getting better and the sky is the limit for him.”
Mannion opened the tournament by scoring 16 points and 11 assists in 93-91 win over Pepperdine. The next night against Penn, Mannion made 11 of 14 shots, scored 24 points and added four assists and two steals.
He and fellow freshman Zeke Nnaji and Josh Green have fit in so well, the Wildcats are off and running on a nine-game win streak to open the season.
“People on the outside might be surprised but I would say on the inside we kind of just have a feel for it,” said Mannion, son of former NBA player Pace Mannion. “We want to play well together, everyone is unselfish, we make the right plays. If you do that and work hard there are so many good things can happen.”
Joining Mannion on the all-tournament team are Wildcats teammates Smith and Chase Jeter, Olivier Sarr of Wake Forest and AJ Brodeur of Penn.