About 2,256 miles away from the Staples Center, there was one man sitting in his office hardly surprised by the breakout playoff performance of Terance Mann.
The Lowell native has risen from a second-round pick fighting for a roster spot to a fixture in the Los Angeles Clippers rotation during their spirited playoff run. Mann stunned the basketball world with his 39-point performance in a close-out Game 6 win over the top-seeded Utah Jazz.
Meanwhile, his college coach, the well-respected Leonard Hamilton, who has sent dozens of players to the NBA - including eight who are currently in the league - showed little surprise at Mann’s success.
The son of former Rhode Island coach Daynia La-Force, the workhorse guard was a four-star recruit out of the Tilton School in New Hampshire before committing to Florida State ahead of his senior season. Mann played four years with the Seminoles, helping the program rise to Final Four contention.
“The guy represents what a student-athlete means and what a professional basketball player means,” Hamilton said. “He has all of those things that you need to be the best in those areas.”
The program has had a throng of NBA draft picks over the past several years, including Dwayne Bacon, Patrick Williams, Devin Vassell, Malik Beasley, and Jonathan Isaac. But Mann was chosen 48th in 2019, not guaranteed to make the roster, let alone earn a consistent role.
“We’ve been very fortunate over the last number of year to have quite a few guys [reach] the league,” Hamilton said. “It’s nice to see guys who have been playing extremely well all their lives get rewarded by just being solid and focused on who he is and what he’s about.
“[Mann]’s always just played to win. As a freshman he was a stats stuffer. He gave us everything we needed every night to be successful.”
Mann wasn’t even the first Florida State player drafted by the Clippers in 2019. The club invested a first-round pick in big man Mfiondu Kabengele, who was waived this season. Mann, meanwhile, split time between the Clippers and the G-League as a rookie and played in all 13 playoff games in the NBA bubble.
This season, under new coach Tyronn Lue, his role expanded and he became a reliable reserve playing 19 minutes per game. But in the Utah series, Lue made the mid-series adjustment of going small to expose the Jazz’s perimeter defense. Mann was the beneficiary of that change and scored 39 points on 7 of 10 from three in the performance of a lifetime to put Utah away.
“Like I said before, just play my game, shoot the open shots and get transition and get the easy ones and play defense,” Mann said. “That’s what I do and that’s what I get paid to do. Yeah, I trust my work. When you trust in your work, you trust in yourself, you’re not surprised when any of this happens.”
The Clippers acquired former Celtic Rajon Rondo at the trade deadline to run the offense and turn the club into a more cohesive offensive team. Instead, Lue relied on former Boston College standout Reggie Jackson and Mann to supplement the backcourt. It has resulted in a deep playoff run and the team’s first appearance in the conference finals.
“You know, it’s been happening all year,” Lue said. “Guys go down, guys step up, and it could be anybody’s night. You know, Terance Mann, we talked about it, our coaching staff, just keeping the confidence shooting the basketball after Game 5. You were a 40-percent 3-point shooter; they are going to leave you open, if we get to the paint, Rudy (Gobert) is coming, and you’re going to get open shots.
“For him to come in a big game like this and step up and make seven threes, I mean, it was huge for us, but having the confidence, trusting his work I mean, it was unbelievable to see that.”
Mann has the utmost confidence in his game, built by carrying so much responsibility at Florida State. In his senior year with the Seminoles, he averaged 11.4 points with 6.5 rebounds per game, shooting 39 percent from deep as the program advanced to the Sweet 16.
“Even though I’m excited about seeing him do well, nothing surprises me about what he does,” Hamilton said. “And the best news is his best basketball is ahead of him. He has that thing called ‘it’ that you can’t put your finger on. He has high character, very good student, unselfish spirit, plays the game the right way.
“A lot of what he does is sitting by the table at night talking to his mom about the game. He plays the game the right way and he does it with energy.”