MARION – Selfless and fearless.
The pair of words describe the culture of the Indiana Wesleyan University men’s basketball program to a tee.
They also define the best player in that program, Kyle Mangas, to a tee.
Mangas, the former Warsaw Community High School star, completed a season for the record books last week for the Wildcats. The guard led his team to the program’s third NAIA Division II national championship in South Dakota. IWU won five games, four of them by double-digit margins, in six days to claim the title.
Mangas, for his part, was superb in the national tournament. The throwback 6-3 backcourt stud averaged 22 points and eight rebounds per game to earn MVP honors in the National Championships. That culminated a first collegiate season in which Mangas set the program record with 818 points, shattering the old standard of 756 set by Lane Mahurin during the 2016-17 campaign.
“It’s finally starting to hit me,” said Mangas in a phone interview Saturday. “There was a lot of emotion at first when we won. It definitely feels really special what we accomplished.”
Mangas capped his stellar season last week by earning first-team All-American honors. He was the only freshman in the country among the 30 players named to the three teams on the NAIA list.
“Freshman just don’t do what Kyle did this year,” said IWU coach Greg Tonagel, who just finished his 13th season in Marion. “To have a season like he did from start to finish is remarkable.
“We kept waiting for him to hit the freshman wall and he never did. I think a big reason for that is that he is so even-keeled emotionally. A college basketball season is long and it’s a roller coaster. Kyle just does not get too high or too low.”
Mangas averaged a team-high 21.5 points-per-game as the Wildcats went 31-7. He led them to both the regular season and tournament championships in the Crossroads League, the best small basketball league in the country. He became the first freshman in league history to earn Player of the Year accolades.
Mangas, just like during his prep playing days, was consistent and efficient. He was the only IWU player to start all 38 games and led the team in minutes played at 1,150, an average of 30.3 per game. He shot 52 percent overall from the field, including almost 38 percent from 3-point land, and 79 percent from the free throw line. He led the team in 3-pointers with 77 and also was second in both assists and steals while averaging 5.2 rebounds per game.
The most impressive stat about the team-oriented Mangas was that he averaged less than 15 shots per game to score more than 21 points-per-contest this season/
“I give a lot of credit to coach Ogle (Doug Ogle) at Warsaw,” said Tonagel, who is 361-98 at IWU. “Kyle’s game is just so versatile and so well-rounded.
“Kyle wants to be coached and he wants to be pushed to reach that next level. His teammates admire him for the type of person that he is. Kyle’s not in it for himself and that’s what we want all of our players to be about here. He scored 40 in a game versus Saint Francis this year and he was just sitting in the locker room quiet after the game. His teammates started razzing him about how well he had played that night.”
Mangas, in his usual humble manner, credited his coaches and teammates.
“Everyone here just bought into the mentally of seeing others succeed,” explained Mangas. “That’s what coach Tonagel and the other coaches drill to us every day. It starts with them. All of our players responded. No one here cares about their stats.
“I just love being around the guys we have here. I connect with all my coaches and teammates. I just feel really comfortable here. It’s a great fit for me and not just as a basketball player.
“From the start here, my teammates took me in and embraced me. I give a lot of credit to our two seniors, Ben Carlson and Jacob Johnson. They just brought everything out in me. I just know that my teammates have my back.”
Mangas stepped in from day one and gave the Wildcats a huge offensive threat. The fourth all-time leading scorer in Warsaw boys basketball history combined with Evan Maxwell, a 6-10 transfer from Kansas, to total a program record 1,483 points. The two stepped up to the forefront after the Wildcats graduated a pair of 2,000-point career scorers in Mahurin and Bob Peters from last year’s team.
Mangas, who was an Indiana All-Star in 2017, opened the national tourney with a 33-point performance. He capped it by scoring his team’s final two points in the title game, an 84-71 win over fellow Crossroads League member Saint Francis from Fort Wayne.
“It was definitely a grind,” noted Mangas of the national tourney. “Your body gets tired and you get mentally drained, but we were able to push through all of that. I’m pretty banged up now. I’m just trying to relax.”
“The support I got this season from everyone meant a lot to me. I was getting texts and calls throughout the season. It’s just great to have a community like Warsaw behind me.”
Mangas, whose parents Tim and Ann were both outstanding athletes at Wawasee High School, was a two-time Ink Free News Player of the Year at WCHS. His older brother Jake, now a student at Indiana University, starred in both football and basketball for the Tigers.
Tonagel, who was an Indiana All-Star guard himself at LaPorte High School and then played at Valparaiso University, says the future is incredibly bright for his star in a program that subscribes to the “I Am Third” mantra of God, others and self.
“We define success in our program by measuring the growth of others,” said Tonagel, who was the National Coach of the Year. “The challenge for Kyle is to improve his teammates moving forward.
“The thing is that Kyle ended up where he was suppose to be here at IWU. We want to give him an opportunity to be the best person and the best player that he can be.”
No doubt that Mangas is well on his way there.