People Sports

AU basketball star shoots for dreams on and off court

Kennedi Manning brings her “A” game both on the court and in the classroom.

“I feel like I’ve made my mark here at Augusta,” said the Stone Mountain, Ga. native, who is one of the top players on the Augusta University women’s basketball team.

Kennedi Manning of Augusta looks to make a pass to a teammate against Lander at Christenberry Fieldhouse on Jan. 24, 2024. Mike Adams/Augusta Good News.

The fifth-year senior is now a graduate student working towards a master’s degree in counseling education at AU. She is one of many collegiate athletes across the country who were given the opportunity to play another year after the COVID-19 pandemic. She earned her bachelor’s degree from AU in 2022 while majoring in psychology and minoring in sociology and kinesiology.

Manning grew up in a family that enjoyed athletics, with all her siblings playing sports of some kind. She originally played tennis with her older sister but took up basketball as a preteen after finding that the pressures associated with playing tennis caused her to place a significant amount of pressure on herself.

“I had to find something that was enjoyable for me…I thankfully had supportive parents that would allow me to transition to another sport,” she said. “I found a better fit. I really like the team aspect basketball.”

She wasn’t the first one in her family to shoot hoops. Manning said her father has been a role model for her as she’s continued to growth in the game.

“My dad played basketball as well at University of South Carolina,” she said. “I kind of really just looked up to my dad, wanted to be like him.”

Kennedi Manning of Augusta, right, attempts a shot against Clayton State’s Jessica Maye at Christenberry Fieldhouse on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023 in Augusta, Ga. Mike Adams/Augusta Good News. Clayton State defeated Augusta 63-56.

Continuing to perfect her sport through high school, Manning set goals on playing at a higher level while furthering her education.

“I just knew that if I wanted to play in college, I had to get stronger for sure,” she said.

Millette Green was the head coach of the women’s basketball team when Manning joined AU as a freshman.

“I was really just grateful for her giving me an opportunity,” Manning said of Green. “She was taking a chance on a skinny, tall kid that she only watched film on.”

The Jaguars are now coached by Celeste Stewart, who was assistant coach at the time. As of Feb. 8, the women’s basketball team is tied for first place in the Peach Belt Conference. The Lady Jags take on conference rival USC-Aiken at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10.

Manning said competing in the conference is nothing short of easy and can take a toll on the body, but the team approaches it with seriousness and a game-winning attitude and competitive spirit.

“We bring our A game every time,” she said. “Everything that we do in this conference is kind of personal. We take that to heart.”

Maintaining a “close-knit” relationship with her teammates through practice and playing on the court, Manning said every experience on the court is a learning moment, whether in triumph or defeat.

“We like to learn from our losses and it’s even better when we can learn from a win,” she said.

In February 2023, Manning surpassed the goal of scoring 1,000 career points while winning a game against North Georgia in the PBC.

“It was special,” Manning reflected. “Like I said, this conference is not easy at all. I fought for my life for those points.”

She said her team’s support and coaches made the moment more memorable.

“I just remember my teammates, they gave me flowers and balloons and candy, and it was so cute and I loved their support,” she said.

Like many athletes, Manning has a routine she does before each game and hers involves a touch of glam.

Kennedi Manning of Augusta battles for a rebound against Georgia College at Christenberry Fieldhouse, Saturday Feb. 4, 2023. Mike Adams/Augusta Good News

“I started doing my eyebrows before every game, started putting on lashes before every game. I had to have my edges done before every game. I always have to have lip gloss. I know it sounds really frivolous, or like bougie,” she said. “I just feel like I feel better, I play better.”

She also has her go-to game socks and athletic gear.

 “It may not be big to other people, but I just feel like that works for me,” Manning said.

Balancing academics and athletics are a common challenge for many student athletes. Selected to the Peach Belt Conference’s Women’s Basketball Team of Academic Distinction three times, Manning shows that succeeding in both areas is possible.

“I realized when you get to college, you have no choice but to study,” she said.

As a graduate student now, she said she’s grown to enjoy her area of study and has ideas for future career plans and professional goals.

“I think that’s my forte, is really writing papers, doing research,” she said.

“I would like to be a counselor,” she added. “I think once I get more experience with actually being involved with people and knowing what works best for me, then I’ll have a better idea of what type of counselor I would like to be.”

Augusta University’s Kennedi Manning fights with Flagler players for a loose ball on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023 at Chrstenberry Fieldhouse in Augusta, Ga. Mike Adams/Augusta Good News. The Lady Jags defeated Flagler 68-52.

Looking at her journey overall, Manning said she has learned a lot about herself through situations she’s encountered on and off the court.

“Basketball has taught me nothing will ever go your way,” she said. “You have no choice but to keep going.”

She said, “I’m just grateful for the experience and it’s really taught me a lot about discipline, taught me a lot about working hard in life and you have to work hard to get where you want to be at.”

Correspondent Rakiyah Lenon is the editor-in-chief of Augusta University’s Bell Ringer. Subscribe to the Augusta Good News’ newsletter here.

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