Mannion, the No. 14 prospect in the ESPN Top 100, is considered one of the best advanced goalkeepers in this repechage class, averaging 14 points and 5.3 assists per game for the Wildcats this season while being nominated for the second All-Pac-12. team.
“Nico is an exceptional teammate, a very coachable player and a fun person,” said Arizona coach Sean Miller in a statement. “His future as an NBA leader is very bright! We all in Arizona wish him nothing but success! “
The 6’3 ” playmaker was identified as an exhibition player early in his career. He was invited to three basketball camps in the United States at the age of 15 and 16 before finally committing to play for the Italian national team at the U16 European Championship, in which he collected averaging 20 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists in just 28 minutes. . Mannion holds dual citizenship, being born in Siena, Italy, while his father, Pace Mannion, an NBA draft pick in 1983, played professional basketball there.
Mannion also spent time with the Italian senior national team as part of their FIBA World Cup qualification campaign in the summer of 2018, playing 30 minutes in a match against the Netherlands while ‘he was only 17 years old. After being named to the McDonald’s All-American Game in March 2019, he burst onto the NBA radar screens with a performance of 28 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in 27 minutes at the Nike Hoop Summit in April, in front of the watchful eyes of dozens of NBA decision makers.
“My international experience will be a big plus,” Mannion told ESPN. “Having played international ball with the U16s and against pros with the men’s team. I think I have proven that I was part of the Hoop Summit, that I am one of the best pure point keepers in this draft. People have seen before college that I can really shoot the ball, even if I haven’t shot as well this season in Arizona. “
Mannion’s basketball IQ, wide reach and fleeting creativity should allow for a smooth transition to modern NBA play, despite concerns about its defensive projection due to its narrow frame. He’s a good size for a point guard and will likely continue to add volume since he just turned 19 three weeks ago.
Mannion told ESPN that he is currently preparing for the draft at his home in Arizona, where he has access to a private gym and a weight room thanks to a family friend.
“I’m just trying to be positive right now by managing what’s going on in the world with the [coronavirus] with my preparations for the draft, “said Mannion. It’s difficult because you don’t have a specific day or training to wait for. It could be one, two, three months or more, who knows? Our state is locked, but I’m really lucky to have access to a gym near my home where I can lift and shoot. No one is using the facility except me. Every day, I have representatives who try to improve what I can improve on and off the field, whether by passing, wielding balls or exercises on the ball screen, and trying to get stronger. I am working to extend my range. This leave gives me the opportunity to improve. This is where I have a small advantage. I watch a lot of movies about Steve Nash and Chris Paul. How they use ball screens to enter the lane and end up with floats. “
Mannion’s mother Gaia was born and played professional volleyball in Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. She still has a family living there.
“Our family has been locked up there for weeks. My mom talks to them every day, ”said Mannion. “It’s weird to declare for the draft right now, but everyone is going through the same thing. There is no mercy. It is what it is. The virus is bigger than anything, but individually we all have to do our part. We just have to stay safe and listen to the rules that are given. If everyone follows the rules, everything will take care of itself. “