VERMILLION — His parents’ advice still resonates with Trey Burch-Manning.
Remember to have fun.
Basketball, they would tell him when he was a youngster, is just a game. Keep that in mind.
“A lot of people always take it so seriously, which isn’t always a bad thing. But you need to have fun with it,” said Burch-Manning, a senior forward on the South Dakota men’s basketball team.
“That’s when you play the best.”
Sure, it’s a simple — and not all that ground-breaking — concept, but make no mistake, it’s come in handy for Burch-Manning, who has become an all-Summit League performer for the Coyotes after transferring from a junior college.
Among all the other reminders bouncing around in his head before and during games, ‘have fun’ is prominent, he said this week.
“That’s the important thing,” Burch-Manning said. “You can get through all the other stuff in life; all the mistakes and everything, or all the turnovers in a game.
“But nobody’s ever played a perfect game.”
That’s a mindset that began early for Burch-Manning, when he was growing up in Federal Way, Washington, a city located between Tacoma and Seattle.
“When I was in high school, I’d get so upset with my games and my dad would remind me to not worry and just have fun,” Burch-Manning said.
“He’d say, ‘Just be you and play how you can.’”
And how Burch-Manning — whose hair color has earned him the nickname ‘Red’ — can play has made a significant impact on the USD men’s basketball program since he arrived in 2016.
Following a season at North Idaho College, he transferred to USD, where he has been a steady force on both ends from day one: Burch-Manning has averaged 9.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in 90 games with the Coyotes.
From knowing very little about South Dakota when he arrived, he’s since made relationships that Burch-Manning said he’ll always cherish.
And it’s all because of basketball.
“I’m really thankful for the game of basketball,” he said. “It’s put me in a lot of positions throughout my life, to better my life.”
One of Burch-Manning’s earliest remembers of the game, he said, was watching his father play locally — in men’s leagues, etc.
“My dad was a really competitive guy,” Burch-Manning said. “I learned a lot, just watching him, and just how he was as a basketball player.”
His father also played with a few retired NBA players, according to Burch-Manning. And his home town’s proximity to Seattle (25 miles) also allowed Burch-Manning and his family to attend Seattle Supersonics games — before the franchise left town.
“I remember going to games when Ray Allen was there,” Burch-Manning said. “I just really appreciated those opportunities.”
The game of basketball also presented Burch-Manning, at a young age, with an opportunity to travel around the region and around the country.
“That’s one thing I’ve always remembered, traveling all over and meeting people,” he said.
Those travels have continued at USD, as Burch-Manning has been able to visit places like Spain and the Bahamas (this season), in addition to all of the other road trips.
It’s the memories made on those trips that will last a lifetime, he said.
“I’ve known a lot of guys who have gone to other universities and not had it like we do here,” Burch-Manning added. “They weren’t able to really hang out with their teammates outside of practice or games. But here, we’re so close.”
Following Wednesday night’s home game against Denver, Burch-Manning and the Coyotes have three regular season games remaining before the Summit League Tournament (March 9-12 in Sioux Falls).
Not only has it been an up and down season for the Coyotes (they’ve been snake bitten with injuries), it’s been a roller coaster for Burch-Manning. He missed four games with a foot injury, but is back and ready to help USD make some noise in the conference tournament.
With some shuffling still to do, it’s likely that the Coyotes will be a low seed in the tournament, which means they’ll be the underdog and have to prove people wrong.
And that’s another mindset Burch-Manning has embraced, he said.
Asked what drives him, he said, “I like to prove people wrong, I guess. Not that people didn’t think I was good, but from a young age, people thought I was good, but maybe not good enough.”
And so, for Burch-Manning, not only does he remind himself to have fun out on the court, he wants to simultaneously prove that he belongs.
“That’s been my fuel,” he said. “I want to show everyone that I can play and play with the best of them.
“Showing them that they’re wrong has kind of always been my thing.”
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