In a county where basketball is woven into its very fabric, Kyle Mangas, over his brilliant four-year career at Indiana Wesleyan, has established himself as one of the best to ever play in the city of Marion.
Heading into his final Crossroads League Tournament, Mangas has scored nearly 3,300 points for the Wildcats, and has dazzled fans, coaches, and teammates alike with his unique blend of scoring ability, his mastery of fundamentals, tenacious defense, and behind it all, a generous and humble spirit which endears him to anyone he meets.
“Kyle continues to prove to us all that humility is actually a form of strength,” IWU Head Coach Greg Tonagel said. “I doubt there has ever been a player to score 3,000 points in his career without ever once showing up his opponent in any way. He scores, he runs to the other end, and plays good defense. Show me another player who in his junior year got National Player of the Year [honors,] but found a way the next summer to grind and become an even better basketball player.”
After being selected as the 2020 Bevo Francis Award last spring, given annually to the best small college basketball player in the nation, Mangas officially received the award in a special ceremony on Saturday morning with his family, his coaches, and his teammates in attendance, adding to his already remarkable legacy.
“It’s an honor for not only Kyle to carry on this legacy, but Indiana Wesleyan becomes a part of this legacy as well,” Tonagel said. “You better believe we will be telling [Bevo’s] story and spreading the word.”
Small College Basketball founder John McCarthy, together with University of Rio Grande Athletic Director Jeff Lanham, came up with the idea for Bevo Francis Award five years ago in an effort to recognize talent, success, and character in college basketball’s small leagues, including the NAIA, NCAA D-II, and the NCCAA. While season statistics and individual achievements are taken into consideration, personal character and team achievements are also considered.
The award honors the legacy of Clarence “Bevo” Francis, who from 1952 to 1954 took the basketball world by storm, becoming one of the best players of his era, and saving Rio Grande College, now the University of Rio Grande, in the process.
“From the very beginning, we had two primary purposes for the creating of this award,” McCarthy said. “One was to keep the legacy of Bevo Francis alive. And number two was to honor a group of today’s finest players, and ultimately, the player who had the finest season of anybody in all of small college basketball.”
During his first year at the school, the Redmen went 39-0, the team averaged 101 points per contest, and Francis averaged 50.1 points per game -still the highest in college basketball history. He is also the only college hoops player in history to score 100 points in a game – twice.
On February 2, 1954, he scored 113 against Hillsdale, then an NCAA record. While that record was eventually broken by Grinnell’s Jack Taylor in 2012, Francis still owns the No. 2, 7, 8, 17 and 25th highest scoring games in NCAA history.
But Francis was more than just a tremendous basketball player in a long-forgotten era – he was an even better person. He was humble, never taking too much credit for the team’s success. He cared about his teammates, and he had tremendous humility for a man so gifted in the realm of basketball.
Mangas, much like Bevo, checks all of those boxes.
“I’ve never been close to the fastest, the strongest, the tallest, or the quickest, so I have a deep appreciation for guys who know how to play the game the right way,” Mangas said. “Reading about Bevo Francis and his story, it seems as if he was that type of player. He had a smooth stroke and he could score it from inside and out, and obviously scoring over 100 points in a game is incredible. It’s truly an honor to be recognized for this award.”
In his junior season, Mangas led the Wildcats to a 29-4 record, 17-0 at home, and helped the Wildcats win the Crossroads League regular season and tournament championships. He averaged 26.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game, while shooting 55 percent from the field and 83 percent from the line. He was named the Crossroads League Player of the Week six times and the NAIA Player of the Week twice. He was named the Crossroads League Player of the Year for the third consecutive season, while also being named a First Team NAIA All-American and the NAIA D-II National Player of the Year.
“I’ve told people that he is remarkably effective and efficient. He works so hard and plays so hard on both ends of the court. I’ve now been involved in college basketball for 25 plus years in various capacities, and I’ve watched a lot of college basketball. During my 25 plus years of observing NAIA basketball, Kyle is the most consistently effective and efficient NAIA player I’ve ever seen — the most efficient, effective, and consistent player in this entire generation.”
But Mangas’ greatness goes behind his sheer talent and basketball IQ. He’s a tremendous basketball player, without question, but an even better person. That is what stuck out to McCarthy most about Mangas as he went through the selection process.
“At this point, I’ve watched 50+ Indiana Wesleyan games, and I’ve watched closely,” McCarthy said. “Myself, and others, have done a tremendous amount of research on Kyle on and off the court. I’ve learned that Kyle is quiet, humble, and kind, and an incredible teammate. I’ve watched him on the bench cheering on his teammates. I’ve watched him and learned about Kyle as a human being. He’s respectful of his teammates, and he is respected by teammates.”
Mangas, along with thanking his coaches, his teammates, past and present, and his family for helping him to get to this point, he also thanked Indiana Wesleyan for giving him the chance to play the game he loves and be immersed in a culture that is bigger than basketball.
“I knew IWU was the right fit from the beginning. It’s been so fun to play in a culture that emphasizes qualities such as fearlessness, selflessness, and joyfulness,” Mangas said. “When you choose to be a part of Indiana Wesleyan basketball, you are choosing to be a part of something bigger than yourself.”