He might not have taken the traditional path but Karim Mané is an NBA player now.
Nine days after not hearing his name called on draft night, the Orlando Magic announced that they would be signing the Canadian to a two-way deal. Born in Dakar, Senegal, Mané and his family moved to Montreal, Québec, when he was seven years old and he now adds to an ever-growing list of Canadians in the league.
Mané joins the NBA after spending the past three seasons honing his skills at Vanier College in Montreal, where he earned the distinction of being a consensus five-star recruit.
MORE: Mané signs with Magic
Five-star ratings aren't just handed out, either. Mané can play. He's lengthy, athletic, explosive and shifty off the dribble.
After fielding scholarship offers from a number of top NCAA programs, Mané ultimately decided to turn pro and through a unique process has found a home in Orlando, where he is set to begin his NBA career.
At 6-foot-5 with a 7-foot wingspan, Mané has the measurables of a prototypical combo guard with a solid frame to build on. But how does he fit with the Magic?
Including Mané, Orlando's training camp roster features six guards capable of leading an offence, most notably former No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz and this year's No. 15 pick in Cole Anthony. Though it might seem counterintuitive, this crowded backcourt should spell opportunity for Mané.
Opportunity to grow, opportunity to learn, opportunity to develop and, ultimately, an opportunity to play.
In a typical year, Mané's two-way contract would mean he split his time with the Orlando Magic and their G League affiliate, the Lakeland Magic, located in nearby Lakeland, FL. With current uncertainty surrounding the NBA G League season, it is unclear if - or when - that season would begin.
For now, Mané will spend 100% of his time with Orlando, where he is set to engage in a number of battles with the other guards on the roster. As his two-way deal is guaranteed for the entirety of the upcoming season, there isn't the underlying pressure of battling for a roster spot with the threat of being cut, which should be beneficial for the confidence of a young player.
In a season where depth is more important than ever, Mané plays the most important position for a team that is led by a coach in Steve Clifford, who has shown that he isn't afraid to rely on a two-way player.
One of Orlando's most impressive wins last season came on Jan. 15, when it earned a one-point win over LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center. In that game, Clifford called upon two-way wing B.J. Johnson, who finished with nine points in just under 23 minutes of action.
It's early, but Mané enters training camp with an opportunity to show and prove just why he can be trusted in similar situations this upcoming season.
The Magic are in an interesting position. They've qualified for the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, earning the No. 7 seed in 2019 and the No. 8 seed in 2020, but got eliminated in five games each appearance. As Orlando's roster features a blend of youth and veterans, its ability to move up a tier in the Eastern Conference is dependent on the development of its young players.
At age 20, Mané stands to be a part of the movement for the future.
While the Magic will continue to play through 30-year-old Nikola Vucevic and 28-year-old Evan Fournier, who will be a free agent following the 2020-21 season, the team's training camp roster features 13 players aged 25 or younger. Among them are four former lottery picks in Fultz, Mo Bamba, Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac, along with four rookies in Anthony, Mané, Devin Cannady and Chuma Okeke.
Under the tutelage of established veterans in Fournier, Vucevic, Al-Farouq Aminu, Terrence Ross and former Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, coupled with the development of Orlando's coaching staff, this young group has a chance to take the Magic to the next level.
For Mané there are a few specific veterans that he can learn under in Carter-Williams, who has similar measurables, and Khem Birch, who, like Mané, calls Montreal home. Orlando now joins the Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors as teams with a duo of Canadians on their roster.
Of the above teams, both the Thunder and Raptors feature Montreal natives in Luguentz Dort and Chris Boucher, who, after going undrafted, worked their ways into multiyear deals. Sound familiar?
History often repeats itself, and Karim Mané stands to become the next example.
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