App State men’s basketball recruit hungry to join the team in 2021


Photo courtesy Kyler James

App State commit Chris Mantis soars to the basket for a one-handed slam. Mantis’ Lowell (Indiana) Red Devils defeated Hobart 72-48 Feb. 16 behind 26 points from Mantis.

Cameron Burnett, Visual Managing Editor

On March 8, when sophomore forward Donovan Gregory dunked the ball as the buzzer sounded, App State had secured its ticket to the NCAA Tournament with the first Sun Belt title in program history. This is the moment when App State commit Chris Mantis knew the Mountaineers were coming to play in his home state.

Mantis, a 6-foot-6-inch small forward from Lowell, Indiana committed to App State on Christmas Day, long before he knew the team was going to be playing in the NCAA Tournament.

“I’ve been talking to them every day since summertime, I know what they go through in practice and how seriously they take this,” Mantis said. “How (head coach Dustin Kerns) said the goal was to get to March and play in the NCAA Tournament and the fact that he spoke that into existence is pretty dope. They definitely deserve it, I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

When Mantis was making his decision in December, he had 11 offers, but App State’s fanbase made sure that he knew how much the community wanted him. After Mantis went off for a 50-point game during the season, many App State fans reached out to the 3-star recruit with words of support.

“Even before I committed, they would comment about my stuff and it wouldn’t even be about basketball,” Mantis said. “That was the time where my recruitment was 100% open and I didn’t have many offers until a couple months ago, so it was crazy to see that before I committed on Christmas Day. I was like ‘wow, the fanbase is insane and this is awesome.’”

The fans weren’t just supportive on social media, though. When Mantis took a visit up to the High Country, Kerns asked local restaurants to set up signs to welcome the recruit since he couldn’t see him in person due to COVID-19 protocols.

When the Mountaineers punched their ticket to the Big Dance, it was exciting to see for Mantis, but he also took it in an unexpected way.

The fact they made the tournament for the first time since 2000, that means I have to work harder.

— Chris Mantis

“That just means I got to work even harder now. The fact they made the tournament for the first time since 2000, that means I have to work harder,” Mantis said. “My brother’s been there, my dad’s been there, so they tell me ‘when you’re not working, someone else is working.’ My goal when I get down there is to make an impact right away.”

After the high school basketball season ended, Mantis would normally take a break for a week before getting back into the gym. App State’s Sun Belt championship win gave him the motivation to get right back into the gym and prepare for when he comes to Boone.

Before his commitment, Mantis had a connection to junior guard Deshon Parker, whose brother played with Mantis’ brother at Cedarville University. Mantis said they texted quite a few times before his commitment and became closer as friends.

“Once I committed, I think every player on the basketball team texted me,” Mantis said. “The connection with coach Kerns goes all the way back to April now, almost a year now. I haven’t even met them in person and the fact that we’re so close already means a lot to me.”

With the Mountaineers playing their 2021 NCAA Tournament game on Indiana University’s campus, Mantis went and saw the team in person to enjoy the moment from the stands.

“It’s really cool that it’s in my home state, I’m definitely going to go (see App State play) to support them which will be really cool,” Mantis said

Before Mantis comes to Boone joins the team in June, he has a statement for all the App State fans who are excited to see him play:

“Being such a young guy, I want to bring that winner’s mentality,” Mantis said. “When Coach Kerns texted me on game day, it would be #WinnersWin so my statement is to come down and win, period. That’s the goal while making everyone better around me and that’s my mentality coming down.”