For Smithtown Christian’s Josh Mangum, it’s all about the journey.
The 5-9 senior point guard ended his high school career third in Suffolk in scoring at 24.2 points per game (up from 17.4 as a junior). He also averaged 5.6 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.5 steals for the Knights (3-4) this year.
But that doesn’t tell his whole story.
"When I was younger, I gave up a lot," Newsday’s Athlete of the Week said. "Even though I was usually "the best" at many things, I was also the best at giving up — not running and not working out."
However, the past couple of offseasons — and especially the COVID-19 pandemic — taught the 17-year-old some valuable lessons.
"I’ve learned a lot about myself," said Mangum, who added 15 pounds of muscle since his junior season. "There’s more inside of me, and every chance I have, I want to keep pushing my body and mind further and further. I want to be the best possible version of me."
Not only for himself, but his teammates.
When Long Island basketball programs weren’t sure if there would be a season, and coaches couldn’t actively lead their teams, the Knights had a secret weapon — Mangum — part motivator, part instructor, part coach.
Smithtown Christian followed COVID-19 protocols and allowed an open gym before school from 7 to 8 a.m. starting in mid-November with Mangum as the ringleader, said coach Dan Skaritka.
"Of course he was the one who called [his teammates] to make sure everyone showed up," said Skaritka, who watched many of the sessions from the bleachers. "He led the workouts, the drills, scrimmages, everything."
Everything would be a good word to describe the different defenses that Mangum (who had games of 47 and 32 points this season) faced — double teams (both with and without the ball), box-and-one, triangle-and-two, even the occasional triple team.
"I’ve only had two kids go on to play college ball," said the 12th-year varsity coach. "He’s arguably the best player I’ve ever coached."
Mangum recently competed in two scrimmages this week, which unceremoniously put an end to his high school basketball career. So, what is he thinking about now?
"What’s next," said Mangum, who transferred to Smithtown Christian School in the middle of fifth grade. "I always felt high school basketball was a stepping stone for whatever God has in mind for me."
The Coram resident has been contacted by a few local schools about basketball at the next level, but he's open to playing anywhere he's given an opportunity.
"I’m willing to go wherever I’m welcomed," he said, "and wherever I’m going to get better."
As always, enjoying the journey.