Smyrna's J.J. Mann makes Belmont better
by Carlton D. White
cwhite@mdjonline.com
March 19, 2013 12:29 AM | 2005 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Smyrna native and Belmont University forward John “J.J.” Mann joked that he was “too cool for school” during his high school days as a Marist student-athlete.

Community service work wasn’t much of a focus in his life, but it also wasn’t something he was totally against doing.

That all changed when Mann stepped onto the Belmont campus as a freshman for the 2010-11 season. He made community service a focus, and between basketball practice, games and school work, he found time to enrich his own life and lives of others.

“When I got to campus, there were a lot of people doing a lot of things,” Mann said. “As a freshman, you get to meet a lot of people and see what they’re doing. I saw people on the team like the seniors and guys that I looked up to doing stuff. I’m sitting on the couch and they’re doing stuff, so I had to step my game up.”

Mann stepped his game up in a big way. The 6-foot-6 guard/forward became active in the Nashville community and has donated much of his time to several outreach projects. His commitment to service hasn’t gone unnoticed as Mann was named to the inaugural Allstate NABC Good Works Team, the National Association of Basketball Coaches and Allstate Insurance Company recently announced.

The award recognizes college basketball student-athletes for their accomplishments on the court and for their achievements and community contributions outside of basketball.

Joining Mann on the Allstate NABC Good Works Team for Division I men’s basketball are Langston Galloway of St. Joseph’s University, Jakob Gollon of Mercer, Louisville’s Peyton Silva and Duke’s Tyler Thornton.

“It’s the inaugural year for the award and it’s an absolute honor to be on the team with these guys,” Mann said. “I never thought I’d make a team like this, so it’s very humbling.”

Mann’s community service work includes volunteering for the Best Buddies Program of Nashville where he visits and mentors a special needs child. He’s also a tutor and activities leader at local schools and serves meals to the homeless at the Nashville Rescue Mission. He led the basketball team in collecting money and buying gifts for needy children prior to the holidays. Mann was also a member of Belmont’s 2011 Sports Evangelism Mission Trip to Naples, Italy.

On campus, Mann is the men’s basketball representative on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, and he’s the executive vice president of Belmont Ambassadors. He’s the team leader of Belmont’s division of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and he’s a member of Enactus, which is a non-profit organization committed to using the power of entrepreneurial action to improve the quality of life and standard of living for people in need.

“Assistant Athletic Director Betty Wiseman is very involved in community service activities and she opened doors for me,” Mann said. “I reached out to her to get involved in stuff and when things opened up, I was the guy that she thought of.

“I didn’t have the heart then for community service in high school, but as a grown man I’ve humbled myself and realized how much good I can do and how much I can help.

“It’s been awesome, and I’ve enjoyed every second of it. Basketball is still my first priority and it keeps me busy, but I still find the time to reach out and do things. I get so much out of it, I wish I had started sooner.”

On the court, Mann has started 32 of 32 games this season for the Bruins. He averages 10.5 points and 4.7 rebounds while shooting 44 percent from the floor and 38 percent from 3-point range. He leads Belmont with 61 steals.

Mann will likely take a break from his community service work this week. Belmont, champions of the Ohio Valley Conference, earned a No. 11 seed in the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball tournament and will take on No. 6 Arizona in Salt Lake City, Utah in the second round of the tournament on Thursday.

“It’s the highest seed for Belmont in school history,” Mann said. “This is my third go-around in the tournament with these guys, so we have lots of experience. I think we have a good chance to go out and compete and win the game. We have the tools to be a part of Belmont’s first winning team in the NCAA tournament. We just have to go out and play hard.”
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