Jackie Manuel is the player every coach wants on his team. He hustles, plays great defense, and rarely plays beyond his ability. His fourth season in the D-League and second as a BayHawk featured career high averages in minutes (41.7) and points (13.9) per game. Manuel also started more games as a BayHawk this season (43) than any other player.
Manuel missed a few games due to a death in the family, but he was Erie's Iron Man. He didn't just lead the team in minutes per game, he was second in the entire league, trailing only Iowa's Curtis Stinson. In addition to a spike in his scoring, Manuel boosted his assist numbers by almost a full point from 1.8 per game to 2.7.
Of course, Manuel's most valuable attribute on the court remains his defense. He was the defensive stopper when North Carolina won the 2005 NCAA championship, and he was the defensive stopper with the BayHawks this season, regularly accepting the challenge of guarding the other team's best perimeter player. His defensive range shows in the defensive stat categories as well. He was 25th in the league in steals (1.48) per game and 24th in blocks (0.91) per game.
Manuel is one of the most experienced D-League players. With that in mind, he'll have a tough decision on his hands next season. Does he return for a fifth D-League season? Does he test the overseas market? It's tough to say.
Despite enhancing his offensive game and adding some bulk last offseason, Manuel's improvements were not enough to earn him the NBA call-up he's worked so hard for. Aside from the issue of body size, the biggest question mark with Manuel is on the offensive end, specifically his jumpshot. It went from suspect to streaky this season. His 3-point percentage and free throw percentage both showed marginal gains from last season, but neither is where he needs them to be if he wants to catch the eyes of NBA scouts.Also, his overall field goal percentage dipped from 47.9 to 44.2 percent.
That said, Manuel has one of the most consistent performers for the BayHawks this season, scoring in double figures in 36 of his 44 games. He also probably had more highlight reel plays than any other player, mixing in a fair share of posterizing dunks and big time blocked shots. If Manuel doesn't return to Erie, it won't be because of a lack of interest from the BayHawks.