Trinity Episcopal center learns about America, game

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 6, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; It’s not a moment Robert Manson likes recalling.

On a vacation in Denver from his home in Australia, Manson and his host strolled down to a local gym to play some pickup basketball.

It wasn’t long before teams were picked, with the 6-6 Manson an attractive commodity.

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Manson, a swimmer and cricket player at heart, knew he was in over his head, but did not grasp the gravity of the situation until a middle-aged man explained it to him with a facial.

The Trinity Episcopal exchange student swore he’d never be dunked on again, and his aggressive play for the Saints this season is testament to that promise and a reason why Trinity heads into the semifinals of the District 7-A tournament as the No. 1 seed against host Amite School Center at 8:30 p.m. today.

&uot;I didn’t play that much back home, but when I did, the rules were a lot different,&uot; the 210-pound Manson said. &uot;The play is a lot more physical in Australia than it is here.&uot;

However, that punishing style was on exactly what he got during the Saints’ 58-29 loss to Adams County Christian School on Jan. 15.

The chants of &uot;U-S-A,&uot; the distracting signs in the stands and the clashing bodies all got to Manson, who finished with a season-low four points, a technical and five fouls before the first half was over.

He said that was an atypical reaction for him, chalking it up to the biggest and most intimidating environment he had ever played in front of.

&uot;That was a growing experience for him,&uot; Trinity head coach David King said of that fateful night at AC. &uot;It was the biggest crowd he had ever played in front of. He learned to understand what fouls are called and to go on about it.&uot;

Manson, whose three siblings all stand 5-10 or better, is the third Australian in the last five years to enroll at Trinity Episcopal, which has had an exchange student program since the 1970s.

All three Australians &045; Tristan Samuel (1999), Kris Thompson (2000) and now Manson &045; come from a picturesque locale known as the Gold Coast.

&uot;There’s a misconception about Trinity recruiting these guys,&uot; King said. &uot;They’ve wanted to come to the states. We’ve learned all about their country and they’ve learned a lot about ours.&uot;

Manson is still learning a thing or two about the language believe it or not. Mild profanities such as &uot;damn&uot; or &uot;hell&uot; are part of an Australian’s vocabulary.

However, those same words are not necessarily expected from the lips of a Southern gentleman at Trinity.

&uot;I got picked on in class,&uot; Manson said. &uot;I got in trouble a couple of times. I know now not to say those words.&uot;

He’s also developing into quite the worker on the hardcourt, averaging nearly a double-double every game.

King wants to see his coordination and stamina mature, and hopes to build both by adding Manson to his defending Class A state championship track team.

&uot;At times I even catch myself realizing he’s a 6-6 kid and I expect a lot out of him,&uot; King said. &uot;A lot is always expected of big guys, but he’s never been at a level remotely like this before. Next year I think you’ll really see a good product on the floor.&uot;

Manson worked at a hockey rink back home and enjoyed that physical sport, while swimming competitively until big sis’ Kate (6-2!) told him to &uot;beat it&uot; because the water is where she shined.

For father Ian (6-8), who never let his boy participate in the taxing sport of rugby, the idea of Manson suiting up in pads and a helmet is frightening.

Nevertheless, it’s exactly what King and Manson plan to do come fall’s football season.

&uot;I’ve never played real football. We played a modified version of it, but didn’t have the equipment,&uot; Manson said.

The junior &045; only in classification, never in size mind you &045; has adjusted well to life stateside thanks to new friends, the community and the home of Johnny and Scarlett Rachal, Manson’s host family.

King has seen maturity in Ryan Rachal, a Trinity teammate and senior, who has played the big brother role to Manson.

There are, naturally, things Manson misses; namely the beach, which was a boomerang’s throw from his home.

&uot;Just knowing that it was there and that we could go was enough I think,&uot; said Manson, an avid bodyboarder. &uot;The weather is crazy. Some days it’s like all four seasons at once. In the afternoon it’s hot, but by night it’s freezing and by lunch time it’s sunny again.&uot;

Much was heaped onto Manson’s broad shoulders in his first game as a Saint: he had to both live up to the past successes of his patriots and fill a void left by former Trinity post Dudley Guice Jr.

Guice (6-4, 215), who commanded a lot of attention last season for the Class A state runner-ups, transferred to Jefferson County two weeks after Manson enrolled.

&uot;I never saw Dudley play, but everybody says, ‘Dudley could do this’ or ‘Dudley did that,’ but I’m not Dudley,&uot; he professed. &uot;I’m doing my best to step up into his spot.&uot;