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Danny Manning: Big Man Coach

During his tenure at Kansas, Danny Manning was in charge of coaching the forwards and centers. How did their big men perform on the court?


Danny Manning has received widespread praise for being an exceptional big man coach. This piece aims to dive deep into the careers of the big men he coached during his tenure at Kansas. How much of the players' success is because they were highly ranked players coming out of how school and how much is do to their development once they arrived in Lawrence?

We'll start to answer that question by using Dan Hanner's research, which looked at offensive efficiency by high school star ratings.

Fr. So. Jr. Sr.
2 star 91.7 96.3 97.8 100.6
2 to 3 stars 93.8 98.6 101.2 102.0
3 stars 95.3 100.4 103.5 104.9
3 to 4 stars 96.8 103.2 105.3 106.2
4 stars 97.8 102.8 105.3 107.5
4+ stars 103.0 108.8 110.0 109.6

*Bold indicates seasons in which Manning coached the player. All ratings and rankings are according to Rivals.

Darrell Arthur (5*, 16) PPG RPG O Rtg O Reb% D Reb% eFG%
Freshman 9.8 4.7 107.2 12.8% 14.5% 53.8%
Sophomore 12.8 6.3 108.1 11.6% 17.2% 54.6%
Junior N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Senior N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A

Darrell Arthur is the highest rated big man prospect Manning has ever coached. It's difficult to find noticeable statistical improvement in Arthur's game, as most of his increases in production were due to an increase in minutes, but Manning was able to help him get to the point where Arthur was good enough to leave for the NBA after two seasons and get drafted in the first round. Arthur currently players for the Denver Nuggets.

Darnell Jackson (4*, 54) PPG RPG O Rtg O Reb% D Reb% eFG%
Freshman 2.0 1.7 105.4 11.7% 14.9% 54.8%
Sophomore 6.3 4.9 106.2 12.9% 21.30% 50.5%
Junior 5.5 5.1 110.5 15.4% 21.1% 55.0%
Senior 11.2 6.7 123.3 10.4% 20.6% 63.0%

Darnell Jackson's improvement during the lone season in which Manning coached him is obvious. Jackson saw a major jump in minutes this season and was able to dramatically improve his offensive efficiency and increased his effective field goal percentage by 8 points. His offensive rating of 123.3 is well above what you would expect from the average senior four star. Jackson was selected in the second round of the NBA Draft and played in the NBA until 2011. Since that time he has played either in the D-League or overseas. I believe you can make a legitimate claim that Darnell Jackson does not get drafted without the help of Danny Manning.

Sasha Kaun (4*, 34) PPG RPG O Rtg O Reb% D Reb% eFG%
Freshman 2.6 2.3 84.3 10.9% 15.1% 53.6%
Sophomore 8.2 5.3 113.3 12.0% 17.7% 56.2%
Junior 5.9 3.8 105.2 10.7% 13.5% 53.0%
Senior 7.1 3.9 115.2 11.3% 13.7% 61.9%

Sasha Kaun is another player who was a solid prospect coming out of high school, but certainly not a "can't miss." He wasn't even a starter on the championship team in 2007-2008, but he gradually got better and saw a large jump in offensive rating and effective field goal percentage during the only year which Manning coached him. Kaun turned that senior season into a 2nd round draft pick. Although he never played in the NBA, he has been playing in Russia since 2008, where he has played in several all-star games.

Cole Aldrich (4*, 30) PPG RPG O Rtg O Reb% D Reb% eFG%
Freshman 2.8 3 105.6 12.9% 27.7% 51.8%
Sophomore 14.9 11.1 123.9 12.5% 28.5% 59.8%
Junior 11.3 9.8 116.4 13.5% 25.7% 56.2%
Senior N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A

Cole Aldrich received limited minutes his freshman year, mostly due to the log jam of Darrell Arthur, Darnell Jackson and Sasha Kaun, but he shined once he got his opportunity as a sophomore. His offensive rating jumped more than 18 points and his eFG% jumped 8 percentage points. During his career he was first team all-Big 12 and was also the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. He left school after his junior season and was a lottery pick. Aldrich currently plays for the New York Knicks.

Marcus Morris (4*, 29) PPG RPG O Rtg O Reb% D Reb% eFG%
Freshman 7.4 4.7 101.0 12.5% 16.3% 51.1%
Sophomore 12.8 6.1 120.7 12.8% 14.1% 59.0%
Junior 17.2 7.6 121.9 11.3% 19.3% 60.1%
Senior N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A

Marcus Morris increased his production each year he was on campus. He increased his offensive rating by more than 20 points by the time he graduated in addition to raising his effective field goal percentage by nine points. He was highly rated in that he was rated the 29th best player in his class, but he has made the most of his potential. Morris was named Big 12 Player of the Year in 2011 and was also drafted 14th overall by the Houston Rockets in 2011.

Markieff Morris (4*, 49) PPG RPG O Rtg O Reb% D Reb% eFG%
Freshman 4.6 4.4 97.3 11.4% 20.0% 45.9%
Sophomore 6.8 5.3 110.7 11.8% 20.5% 59.9%
Junior 13.6 8.3 117.6 13.6% 25.0% 62.7%
Senior N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A

Markieff is Marcus' twin brother and was slightly less heralded coming out of high school. Markieff improved his offensive rating by more than 20 points from his freshman to his junior season. Over that same period he also increased his effective field goal percentage by more than 16 percentage points. Morris went on to be a lottery pick and is in his second season in the NBA. Markieff actually said of Manning "I'm blessed to have even met him. He's the best big-man coach in the country. Any time that whistle blows and you look over to that sideline, he's telling you what to do."

Jeff Withey (4*, 36) PPG RPG O Rtg O Reb% D Reb% eFG%
Freshman 1.3 1.4 N/A N/A N/A N/A
Sophomore 2.3 1.8 108.9 15.1% 17.4% 64.7%
Junior 9.0 6.3 117.7 10.2% 18.3% 53.6%
Senior 13.7 8.5 113.7 8.8% 20.9% 58.3%

It took Withey some time to develop after transferring from Arizona, but he was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year by his junior season and had an offensive rating of 117.7, which is better than what you would expect of a 4-star junior. Manning did not coach Withey during his senior season, but Withey was drafted 39th overall by the Portland Trailblazers in the 2013 NBA Draft and was subsequently traded to the New Orleans Pelicans.

Thomas Robinson (4*, 31) PPG RPG O Rtg O Reb% D Reb% eFG%
Freshman 2.5 2.7 87.9 17.0% 23.2% 48.5%
Sophomore 7.6 6.4 108.7 18.8% 31.1% 60.1%
Junior 17.7 11.9 106.4 11.2% 30.5% 51.2%
Senior N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A

Thomas Robinson started just three games prior to his junior year, but during his junior season he exploded onto the national scene. Robinson was named Big 12 Player of the Year and was a 1st team all-American. His offensive rating only declined due to his significant increase in usage rate and during his junior year he led the nation in defensive rebounding percentage. He was the #5 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings and he currently plays for the Portland Trail Blazers.

There is simply no denying Manning's unbelievable track record of producing NBA big men. Yes, he's taking Kansas caliber recruits, but with the exception of Darrell Arthur each recruit was rated no higher than 29th in his class according to Rivals. The results truly do back up Markieff Morris' claim that Danny Manning is the best big-man coach in the country.