Express & Star

Wolverhampton's Lee Manning is a ‘novice’ for Games debut

Lee Manning goes into the Commonwealth Games in a unique position as he admits he is a 'relative novice' in the sport he is competing in.


Manning, who has adopted Wolverhampton as his home having met his wife in the city, is a well-established wheelchair basketball star.

He plays professionally for Spanish side Amiab Albacete, boasts European and World Championship gold with Team GB and won Paralympic bronze at Rio 2016.

All of that, though, has come in the five-on-five format. Birmingham 2022, meanwhile, will play host to the fast-paced and newly-emerging three-on-three game.

So, Manning, you could say, is entering the unknown.

"I'm really excited as it's the first time wheelchair basketball has been involved in the Games – and the first time 3x3 is involved," he said.

"We normally do 5x5, so for me it's a unique opportunity to play for England, which I'm deeply honoured to do so, and try a different sport, so to speak.

"I can't wait to get out there and play in front of my home nation as I've never had that opportunity on a grand scale.

"I narrowly missed out on London 2012 but got to watch it there and see how special that was, so it's going to be an amazing, unique experience with all my family there.

"This is the first time 3x3 is in from a wheelchair basketball perspective, and even from an able-bodied perspective, it's an emerging sport. It hasn't been around long.

"I'll be completely honest. I've watched 3x3 before, but the first time I played it was at the start of the summer.

"It's a very different dynamic to be going into something where you're not necessarily an expert in the field.

"The 5x5 game, I consider the teams I play in to really know the game.

"Now, I'm a relative novice and it feels like being a rookie again.

"But having said that, it rings true for all the teams as 3x3 hasn't been around for very long full stop.

"All teams are on a level playing field and forget talent, it'll be who's prepared best and who can get their heads around this new sport.

"There might be some results which, on paper, you wouldn't expect. It's going to be very competitive."

Manning is the senior figure in Team England's wheelchair basketball 3x3 squad and will assume some coaching responsibilities as teams do not have a designated boss.

Being played at Smithfield, the games will only be 10 minutes long and promise to set pulses racing.

Manning splits his time between Spain and Wolverhampton and will have his family, including wife Sally and two children Tommy and Ivy, proudly watching on.

"I'm a Peterborough boy, but growing up I played for a team in Wolverhampton," explained Manning.

"That's where I met my lovely wife, Sally. She's a Wolvo girl.

"In between competing, we live there with her parents. We have done for the last eight or nine years now, although my accent isn't quite there.

"My whole wife's side of the family are Wolvo through and through.

"They're all from there and none of them have moved away from the area, so it'll be nice to get them all over.

"My kids, Tommy and Ivy, are Wolvo and have the accent as well, so it'll be nice to get them over for a local Games."

Manning, as far as the 5x5 game goes, boasts a mightily impressive CV as Spain is considered the strongest league in the world of wheelchair basketball.

His club, Albacete won the Champions League and the domestic title last season, and he has been with them for eight years.

He has lots of GB experience to draw upon as well and take into this new venture.

"I've been fortunate enough to represent GB since 2014," said Manning

"I'm the current GB captain, and it gives me a wealth of experience to draw back on for these Games, from a different perspective.

"A lot of the athletes with me for these Games are quite young athletes.

"Maybe I can use my experience as a 32-year-old old man in this support to mentor them and show them the ropes.

"Even the crowd, the 3x3 offers something different. It's outside firstly and on a half court, with the stands right on top of the court.

"That can be daunting as an athlete, so I hope I can calm them down a bit. I can use that experience to try to bring home success."

Manning believes wheelchair basketball 3x3 will prove to be a popular event among Games-goers and hopes to inspire some youngsters to take up the spot.

He added: "It's going to be a real eye-opener as it's never been seen before at the Commonwealths.

"The bigger thing is able-bodied and wheelchair athletes are competing together in the same session.

"If you get a session ticket, you'll get England men, women, the women wheelchair team and ourselves.

"In the men's wheelchair basketball, you might see us trying to outpower teams, while the women have more finesse.

"There's a lot of different variants all in one session and I guarantee if people watch, they're going to love it."