The days are passing slowly for Greg Manning.
He has been at his parents' home in Highspire, Pa., for the last month. His Maryland basketball career is over. On May 3, his days as a college student ended when he graduated from Maryland in prelaw with a 3.3 grade-point average.
Now, Greg Manning waits. Each day, he awakes and goes off to do his work -- running, shooting a basketball, exercising. He is waiting for Tuesday, the day of the NBA draft. Then he will have a better idea what the future holds for him.
"I've heard a lot of things," Manning said recently. "I've heard I'm going to be drafted in the third round; I've heard the fourth round; I've heard I won't be drafted at all. All I can do is wait and see."
Because he is a good student, Manning's future is not tied to basketball. He could stop playing tomorrow and know what direction he wants to go: political law. But the game still owns the rights to his heart.
"Each morning, I wake up and the first thing I think about is getting out on the court and playing, working on my game, getting myself in shape. Right now, the most important thing in the world to me is making it in the NBA. It's not a life-or-death thing, I know that, but I think I have to go in with the attitude that it is if I'm going to succeed. When I get to camp, wherever it is, I'm going to be in the best shape of my life."
Manning's problem, in the eyes of NBA scouts, is size. He is a slender, 6-foot-2 wing guard. But with the right kind of team, an up-tempo transition team, Manning can be an asset. In the Atlantic Coast Conference, he was known as the best layup shooter around; he never seemed to miss going to the basket at any speed, from any angle.
Manning was part of a Maryland threesome that endured one of the most turbulent eras in Lefty Driesell's 12 years at College Park. When Manning, Albert King and Ernest Graham arrived in 1977, Manning was barely noticed amidst the hoopla surrounding King.
The Terps were in disarray. Their four returning players were on academic probation and there was constant infighting. Mike Davis was bounced by Driesell. Billy Bryant was benched and later transferred.
And so, with little notice, Manning stepped in, even though he was playing out of position at point guard.
He remained a solid player. When the Terps were at their best, Manning often was a key figure. But the headlines went to King, Graham and Buck Williams.
In 1979-80, the year the Terps won the ACC regular-season title after being picked sixth in preseason, Manning shot 65 percent from the floor. But with King emerging as a first team all-America and with Williams becoming one of the best rebounders in the country, Manning almost was taken for granted.
"It never bothered me," he said. "First of all, I think it helped me in games because teams were always doubling Al or sloughing on Buck. That left me with wide-open shots.
"As for the pub(licity) well, everyone likes it. It's nice to have your work recognized. But I think I got my share. I never had any complaints." w
That's Manning in a nutshell. Never a complainer or a whiner. He always spoke softly but carried a deadly jump shot. He admits, however, that the ending to his senior season left him somewhat bitter.
The Terps, picked as high as No. 1 in some preseason polls, struggled all season, finishing fourth in the ACC, then losing the conference championship game, 61-60, to North Carolina. It all ended in Dayton when Indiana beat the Terps, 99-64, in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
"It was a sour note to go out on," Manning said. "The whole thing was kind of a shock. When I sat down and thought about the whole thing later, though, I looked back on the four years and I think they were pretty good years.
"There were certainly some down moments, but there were some great moments, too. Practically our whole junior year, when we played so well, was almost like one long, great moment.
"This year, I still don't know what happened. We expected so much. I think it was just one of those things that happens in sports where you have the same guys, doing the same thing, doing the same kind of work and it doesn't work as well.It's like a pitcher who wins 25 one year and can't buy a win the next."
Two games during his junior year are most vivid in Manning's memory. Both were against Duke. The first, in Cole Field House, was one of the finest any Maryland team has played. The Terps routed Duke, then ranked fifth in the country, 101-82, putting on a matchless display of passing, shooting and rebounding. Driesell says today that he has never had a team play better in 25 years of coaching.
"It's definitely the best game I've ever been associated with," Manning said. "That was seven guys doing everything right for 40 minutes. It was amazing."
The second, a month later, is not nearly as pleasant to remember. It was the ACC championship game, superbly played by both teams. With three minutes left, the Terps led by five points.
"I remember standing on the foul line thinking, 'We finally got this thing; we're finally going to do it,'" Manning said. "It's funny. I can remember little things from that game better than any other game I ever played in."
He remembers Vince Taylor stealing the ball twice in the final two minutes, Mike Gminski tapping in the ball to put Duke ahead, King's shot hanging torturously on the rim and Kenny Dennard undercutting Buck Williams a split second after Williams tried to tap in the King miss.
"I try not to think about it too much, but I know I'll remember it a long time; we all will," Manning said. "The ACC tournament shouldn't mean that much because the regular-season winner should be the champion. But it is important. You work so hard for it, you want to win it. Especially when you come that close."
The Terps had a 79-41 record during Manning's four years, won the ACC regular-season title once and played in two NCAA tournaments. Manning finished as the school's fifth-leading scorer.
"During the last few weeks of school, the fact that it was all ending began to really hit me," Manning said. "I found myself taking short cuts through campus so I could drive by the library, things like that. When I would work out in Cole, I would look around and think that I would never play in here as a Terp again.
"It really hit me when I moved out of the dorm. I'd lived in that same room with the same roommate for four years. During the last week before graduation (when he was living off-campus), I would go by and look up and see the window. But there was no key, nothing. It was kind of an empty, sad feeling.
"But it's time to move on. Everyone goes through it when college is over. You go to class a last time; to the dining hall a last time. It's inevitable, but it's still a sad time."
With his boyish looks, Manning appears to be someone who can be pushed around. But he may be as intense a competitor as any player who has worn the Maryland uniform.
Driesell knew that, so he rarely jumped on Manning the way he might have another player. Manning's memories of Driesell are, for the most part, good ones.
"He never pulled any punches with anybody. He always said whatever came into his head at that moment. I've always liked him, respected him."
Will he tell Driesell stories in the future?
"Oh, gosh, yes. There are lots of stories I could tell and then there are some I probably shouldn't tell," he said with a laugh.
"I'll never forget junior year in practice one day we were really sluggish. We were tired from a road trip. He told us to do something. It didn't get done. So we're all standing there and he goes over to this big tray which had all these cups full of water on them. He just picked up the tray and hurled it into the stands. There was water, cups, the tray all over the place.
"And all 14 of us just stood there staring at him. He got our attention."