With the NBA draft coming Thursday, the Pacers held the latest in a string of pre-draft workouts for college players Monday morning. Among those invited were a pair of former local standouts trying to beat the odds and make it in the professional ranks after NAIA playing careers.
Kyle Mangas, a former Warsaw and Indiana Wesleyan standout, and Trevion Crews, a former North Side and Bethel star, took the court together – along with four players from Division I schools – in an effort to impress the Pacers before the draft and before summer league roster invites are sent out.
IUPUI guard Marcus Burk, an Indianapolis native, was part of the workout, as well.
“I think it's awesome we had three Indiana guys in here today,” said Mangas, a two-time NAIA National Player of the Year. “And two of them were small-college players, me and Trevion, from the (Crossroads League). It's just awesome basketball in this state, it's just different, people are really passionate about it.
“It's awesome the Pacers wanna bring in guys from their own state, I just think that's really cool, you don't get that everywhere.”
Crews and Mangas faced off in the 2021 NAIA Sweet 16, when the Pilots pulled an upset of No. 1 Wesleyan behind 29 points from the 2014 SAC Player of the Year. On Monday, the pair competed in one-on-one, two-on-two and three-on-three drills, meant to bring out the players' competitiveness.
“I was nervous a little bit, but I talked to my agent a lot about it and he just told me to be who I am, just go out and play hard and leave it all out there on the table, so that's what I did,” Crews said.
The two-time NAIA All-American, who set a Bethel program record with 24.6 points per game in 2020-21, believes he can prove any non-believers wrong.
“Regardless of what level of basketball you play at, if you can play basketball, you can play,” Crews said.
Mangas, who led the nation in scoring as a senior with 29.5 points per game, has similar feelings.
“NAIA, we don't get that spotlight that Division I schools do,” Mangas said. “Just trying to come in here and show that my skills can translate, that I can make an impact on and off the court with leadership and maturity and that type of thing.”
Mangas and Crews are fresh off of playing in The Basketball Tournament, a 64-team midsummer tournament that features a $1 million winner-take-all prize. Crews played for the Summit City-based Fort Wayne Champs, while Mangas was part of Men of Mackey, a team with a large cadre of Purdue alumni. Both teams were eliminated in the round of 32.
Monday was Mangas' second workout with the Pacers during the pre-draft process and he has also worked out for the Cavaliers and Pistons. Crews was experiencing his first NBA workout.
While neither is likely to be drafted Thursday, they are still hoping for invitations to play in the Summer League, which will take place Aug. 8-17 in Las Vegas.
“I feel like I've done well in these workouts, shown that it wasn't a fluke at Indiana Wesleyan, but that I can really play with these guys,” said Mangas, who plans to watch the draft with his family in Warsaw. “Feeling confident right now, hopefully a team takes a chance on me in Summer League.”