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Former Curie Women's Hoops Star Brings Big Game to Kansas

 Kansas sophomore Caelynn Manning-Allen only started playing basketball prior to her freshman year at Curie.
Caelynn Manning-Allen
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CHICAGO — Kansas' Caelynn Manning-Allen and her longtime friend, fellow Jayhawks basketball player Cliff Alexander, have the same plan after college: playing professional hoops.

"That's always been a goal of ours, and mine especially," Manning-Allen said Tuesday. "That's why we're taking advantage of this opportunity in college, so we can pursue our dream job or open another door that we haven't thought about."

Manning-Allen, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, arrived in Lawrence a year before freshman Alexander, who stands 6-8. They met while attending Curie High School, where they were the tallest twosome. That hasn't changed at Kansas.

"We've always been like that. It's nothing new to us," said Manning-Allen, who added she didn't attempt to influence Alexander, who is sidelined while the NCAA investigates a potential eligibility issue, to join her at KU. Alexander infamously picked up an orange Illinois hat, then placed it back before putting on a Kansas cap during a signing day news conference in 2013. 

 Kansas sophomore Caelynn Manning-Allen only started playing basketball prior to her freshman year at Curie.
Kansas sophomore Caelynn Manning-Allen only started playing basketball prior to her freshman year at Curie.
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Kansas Athletics

But Manning-Allen said she never tried to influence Alexander to pick Kansas.

"I was never trying to do that," she said.

Manning-Allen has played in 24 of the Jayhawks' 30 games, starting once. She's averaging 2.4 points and 2.7 rebounds per game for Kansas (14-16), which competes in the Big 12 tournament starting Friday.

That she's seeing any time in Division I hoops might be surprising considering Manning-Allen didn't start playing basketball until the summer before her freshman year at Curie.

Originally a volleyball player, Manning-Allen switched her focus to basketball after being introduced to the sport by her brothers, Cliff and Renaul, and her first AAU coach, Eric Armstrong of Lady Mean Streets.

"Eric taught me a lot about the game and how much potential I had," said Manning-Allen, who added she gets her height and athleticism from her father, Cliff Manning, a former 6-4 player at Farragut.

Kansas' coaching staff has been pleased with Manning-Allen's progress since she arrived in Lawrence.

"Caelynn brings a tremendous amount of energy and is a fantastic teammate. Her teammates love her," Jayhawks head coach Bonnie Henrickson said. "She’s a tremendous athlete, who is long and can run. The piece of getting stronger and handling the physicality of this league and at this level has been a transition for her, which is for any post player."

Like Alexander, who said he "loved" campus life, Manning-Allen is enjoying her time at Kansas. Manning-Allen grew up in Garfield Ridge and North Lawndale and said Lawrence is "a lot safer."

"You don't have to deal with all the extra stuff, the gangs, here," she said. "Everybody's really friendly. I just don't see a lot of stuff here that I see in Chicago."

And Manning-Allen said the past six years have taught her "it's never too late to set a goal."

"You shouldn't underestimate your abilities, basically," she said.

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