Randallstown's 6-6 senior forward Chris Manning has enjoyed the lead role in two school productions, sang plenty of solos in the choir and played four different instruments in the band on top of being one of the stars on the basketball team.
But he still has something left to do before he leaves Randallstown: Win a state championship.
The No. 8 Rams are primed for a strong run. In addition to Manning, Jerell Cooke and Devin Smith are also back as third-year starters with a strong supporting cast around them. The Rams are also motivated by last year's close call, a tight loss to eventual champion Edmondson in the Class 2A North region title game.
Maintaining a 3.75 grade point average, Manning is set for Mount St. Mary's on a basketball scholarship and plans to major in mass communication with a minor in either music or theater. But there's still work left for Manning on Randallstown's hardwood, starting on Friday when the Rams open the season against MATHS, a charter school in Baltimore City.
How excited are you to get the season started?
It's going to be real fun. I just really want that state championship. It's going to take a lot, the guys have to bring it together. But I can't wait for the state championship game because I just know we're going to make it all the way.
What's it going to take to get there?
Defense. Our defense definitely creates offense. I'm very vocal on the floor as far as defense because I try to get our guys [buying in] that defense definitely does create offense.
With so many seniors on the team that have played together for a while, how does that camaraderie help on the floor?
It's great. We've played AAU together and also three of us have played on varsity since the 10th grade. So we have a lot of chemistry, which helps a lot on the court as far as running plays and knowing our strengths and weaknesses.
Is going into this season any different because it is your senior year?
It's really not that much of a difference, but you definitely have that urge. This is my last ride, and it's all or nothing, so we really have to do it and go the whole way. It's going to take hard work and sacrifice from the whole team and that's all 15 guys, definitely.
What did you take away from the playoff loss to Edmondson last season?
I think our downfall there was definitely defense. We let them get a lot of transition baskets. They love to run and when we got in our press, we didn't shut them down like we should have. The playoff run was good. We had a nice win against Lake Clifton in the first game, but the tough loss to Edmondson hurt us. The hurt helps — also this being our senior year — it ties in with that. Since this is the last ride and we didn't win it last year, it's like we can actually do this. If we just put a couple things together and tweak some things we know we can do it.
What's it like having the lead role in some of the school productions you've acted in?
My first production, I had a lot of butterflies … But having the lead role was a great feeling because I had that leadership position [in basketball] also. I like it, it's a lot of fun.
What's more nerve-racking: Having the lead role in a play or getting ready for a big game?
I think getting ready for a big game is more nerve racking. On stage, all you have to do is remember your lines and everything. But in a game, it's unpredictable and you don't know what's going to go down. So, it's like you have to hope all your teammates are ready and you have to trust them to do their jobs. During a play, it's more set. People have their lines down and we've gone over it a lot of times.
When did you begin singing?
I've been singing since I was 5 and have sang in different events around the community and church. Singing really is my passion besides basketball. I used to tell my teammates if I had a bad day at practice I would go home and sing to get some stress out. It's another way to release stress for me and it's also really fun, too.
What were the key factors in deciding on committing to Mount St. Mary's?
Every time I go up there, it's like home. I love the Mount. I like the way they play, how humble they are, and it's really a family up there. It's a lot like here at Randallstown … They also have great basketball, too, so that's what led me to the Mount.
What's it take to be a strong leader?
Hard work, dedication and just being able to talk to people. A lot of people feel they have to yell at your colleagues to be a leader, but you really don't. I think that's why my team looks at me as a well-rounded leader because I don't come across acting like I have so much power. I treat them as an individual and as my equal.