Laramie, Wyo. (Feb. 2, 2017) -- Achieving a college degree is the ultimate goal for every college student. Some achieve that goal over a four or five-year time span. Others complete that goal later in their lives after starting a career and a family. Former University of Wyoming basketball student-athlete Bradley Mann is one of those individuals who was determined to finish his degree from UW even though he had been away from college for several years. In December of 2016, 16 years after he completed his college basketball career, Mann graduated from Wyoming with a bachelor’s degree in social science.
The native of Bourbonnais, Ill., has lived back in his hometown since completing his playing career at Wyoming following the 1999-2000 season. He and his wife, Lisa, have three children, 13-year old Andrew and nine-year old twins Avery and Alex. Mann is a senior buyer for a manufacturing company.
While at Wyoming as a player, he was part of a resurgence in Cowboy Basketball. His sophomore season of 1997-98, Mann was a member of a Wyoming team that went 19-9 under head coach Larry Shyatt and earned a berth in the 1998 National Invitation Tournament (NIT) hosting Gonzaga in the opening round. Mann’s junior year, under the direction of head coach Steve McClain, the Cowboys posted an 18-10 record and again played in the NIT where they defeated USC in Laramie before losing at Oregon. As a senior, Mann was part of another 19-win team as the Pokes went 19-12.
One of the great three-point shooters in Wyoming history, Mann still ranks No. 7 in career three-point percentage (36.2 percent), No. 9 in career three-point field goals made, with 136, and 10th in career three-point attempts (375). He concluded his Wyoming career, scoring 523 points.
We recently had the opportunity to speak with Mann over the phone about earning his degree and about his memories from his days as a Cowboy.
What motivated you to complete your degree and when did you make a commitment to finish your degree?
“When I came home from school, I know my parents were disappointed that I spent all that time in school at Wyoming and I came back without completing my degree,” said Mann. “I too felt that there was something missing, and when I got back here and started applying for jobs it always kind of hung over my head. Both my older brother and sister played college athletics and graduated in four years.
“In November of 2015, I went into work the Monday after Thanksgiving, and I was told that business was slow and I was going to get laid off. I drove over to my wife’s work, and she said ‘What are you doing here? Did you get fired?’ and I said yah -- pretty much. She asked what I was going to do. I went home and after a few hours of thinking what am I going to do, I decided to call somebody that I’d always respected and looked up to but hadn’t talked to a whole lot since college. That is when I called Larry Shyatt, and asked him if there was someone I could talk to about working toward finishing my degree. That way when I started looking for a new position in the future I would have a step up on some other candidates. I figured even if it took me a year to find another job, I would at least be moving in a positive direction to get that piece of paper to help me get a better job.”
Who did Coach Shyatt put you in touch with next?
“The next person I heard from was Albert (UW Assistant Athletics Director for Academic Services Albert Reiser), who called me within a day or two of my conversation with Coach Shyatt,” said Mann. “Albert called me up and asked me how quickly I wanted to get done. He took the reigns in terms of finding out how many credit hours I needed to complete my degree and started working with me on a schedule. I told him I wanted to get done within a year. By Christmas of 2016, I wanted to wrap up my diploma and hand it to my mother as a Christmas gift, and I was willing to do whatever I needed to get it done. This Christmas I was able to do that.”
Did your mother know you were working on completing your degree?
“No -- the only people who knew were my wife and my best friend and his wife,” said Mann. “My kids didn’t know I was taking classes -- none of the people at our church, none of the people at work. I didn’t want to get everybody’s hopes up and then for some reason it didn’t happen, or something came up where I might have to stop taking classes for awhile.”
What was your mom’s reaction?
“I put a note in the gift that said while the gift was also for me, I wanted to share it with her,” said Mann. “She kind of figured it out before she opened it. She was already crying before she opened it. It was really emotional. My dad, Richard, passed away from a heart attack in June of 2014, so I wasn’t able to share it with him, but it was great to share with my mom.”
Did you also want to complete your degree for your three children?
“Yes, once I got done and told them, I think it registered with them that a college degree is extremely important,” said Mann. “I think it helpled them realize that they need to strive to do whatever is necessary to get it done, without having to go back 15 or 16 years later and trying to finish it up. It was a good learning experience for both me and my children.”
Did you take your remaining classes online and how did you fit that around family activities and your work?
“I took all the remaining classes online. Many of the classes were very labor intensive,” added Mann. “With my kids not knowing I was taking classes, I would wait for them to go to bed. My wife would go to bed, and I would study and work on assignments from 9:00 at night to 1:00 in the morning and submit my assignments and take my quizzes and tests at night.
“I ended up finding a job probably two days after I enrolled for the spring semester. My new job, which is the current job I’m in, was about 35 miles away from my hometown so that cut into the time I had to study.”
What is your current position?
“I’m currently a senior buyer for a manufacturing company that works with the railroad,” said Mann. “I’ve been in that position for about a year and before that I was a buyer at a company in Bradley that built equipment that fabricated steel.”
Now that you completed your degree, do you have any other hopes for what this may do for you professionally?
“I know that there were a couple positions that I applied for in the past that I wasn’t considered for because I didn’t have my degree, even though I have 10-plus years of work experience in this field,” said Mann. “I think this will give me a better shot at those opportunities.”
Tell us a little bit about your wife and children.
“My wife, Lisa, and I have been together close to 15 years total, between dating and being married,” said Mann. “We have a 13-year old son, Andrew, and nine-year old twins, Avery and Alex. All three of my kids are totally different from me. They enjoy reading. They enjoy being at school and going to class and learning about a plethora of different things. I wanted to go to math class and that was it. That was the one subject I felt I was really good at.
“My oldest, Andrew, is a big dreamer. He thinks since I played basketball out there, he is going to the University of Wyoming, go to law school and get in the political world after he gets done playing basketball. He is currently playing in a park district league. He also runs cross country. He runs the 800 in track, and he’s a black belt in karate. He has a lot more different skills than I had.
“Our nine-year old son, Alex, is on a traveling basketball team. He’s playing park district basketball and plays baseball. Our daughter, Avery, just started playing volleyball last year. She played her first year in softball last summer, and she’s going to play basketball this winter.
“They’re all extremely involved in athletics and wanting me to help coach them. That was another difficult thing this past year, trying to help out with their teams while trying to complete my degree and going to work. This last year has been kind of a blur.”
Did you and your wife meet in Laramie or back in Illinois?
“We met when I got back here after school and started working,” said Mann. “She had been working at the same place I started at when I got back home. She was part of the union up until about six months ago when she stepped out of the union to become a supervisor, so she has started new hours and has been doing a lot of extra training.
”Lisa has sacrificed quite a bit over the last year, and I would not have been able to do this without her by my side.”
You mentioned your mother still lives in your hometown. How about your siblings?
“My mom, Sandy, and my sister still live in Bourbonnais,” said Mann. “My sister, Stacey, is an internal auditor for one of the major hospitals here, and my brother, Matt, works for AAA and lives in LeRoy, Ill.”
What are some of your great memories from Wyoming?
“Basketball-wise, it was probably when we defeated Utah in Laramie when they were ranked among the top teams in the nation (No. 5 in the national rankings),” said Mann. “The same season, we also beat New Mexico when I think they were ranked in the Top 10 or Top 15 (No. 10).
“One of my favorite summer memories was I got hooked up with the Cowboy Joe Club when they traveled to towns around the state for golf outings. I was able to go on a few of those trips and got to talk with people around the state and see how much interest in Wyoming Athletics there was. It was a great experience to meet all those Cowboy fans. Wyoming will always be a special place for me.”
Mann was a key contributor to a very successful period of time for Cowboy Basketball in the late 1990s. He helped build the foundation for a program that would go on to win two Mountain West Conference titles in the early 2000s. It is good to see the former Cowboy now enjoying success in his professional career and building a foundation for future success by attaining his degree from his alma mater, the University of Wyoming.