Lakota East graduate battled serious injury, end of dream tournament run before finishing prep career

Lakota East’s Alex Mangold puts up a shot Wednesday, March 11, 2020 in their Division I Regional boys basketball semifinal against La Salle at Xavier University’s Cintas Center. In an effort to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus (COVID-19), players were allowed to designate 4 family members to purchase tickets for the game and coaching staff was allowed 2 family members each. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
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Lakota East’s Alex Mangold puts up a shot Wednesday, March 11, 2020 in their Division I Regional boys basketball semifinal against La Salle at Xavier University’s Cintas Center. In an effort to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus (COVID-19), players were allowed to designate 4 family members to purchase tickets for the game and coaching staff was allowed 2 family members each. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Alex Mangold knew he had a choice to make when his junior season with the Lakota East High School boys basketball team came to an abrupt end one minute into a game last January.

The East forward broke the two main bones in his left leg and underwent surgery to insert a permanent rod, but as frustrating as the situation was, Mangold decided not to let it get him down. He used the opportunity to grow as a leader and learn the game from a coach’s perspective on the sidelines.

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Mangold bounced back this season and helped lead the Thunderhawks to a second straight Greater Miami Conference title and Elite 8 appearance that never got played because of COVID-19. The 6-foot-7 graduating senior averaged 9.5 points and a team-high 6.0 rebounds per game, finished as a second-team All-GMC pick and is signed to continue his career at Nova Southeastern University.

“Missing junior year was tough,” Mangold said. “Most of my recruiting was coming then and that summer, but my attitude helped me a lot, and I used the time just to try to make a positive impact on my teammates and study the game from a new perspective. In some ways the injury helped me with my mindset and gave me a better outlook on life. I learned to just keep grinding, and don’t take anything for granted.”

The school athletic trainers had to reset Mangold’s leg on the court – with assistance from a healthcare worker in the crowd — to move the bones back into place. An ambulance arrived and EMTs put him in a temporary cast and then onto a stretcher to be transported to the hospital. East basketball coach Clint Adkins remembers just worrying if he would ever walk again.

Mangold’s surgery was a success, though. He missed about two weeks of school while recovering.

“My first day on crutches was the worst,” said, Mangold, who made high honor roll every year. “I came to school and by the time I got to first period, I had sweat dripping down my face because it was so hard getting around with a backpack on crutches. I always sat in the front and left class a little early. It was just a different experience.”

While Mangold couldn’t help his teammates on the court, he attended a few leadership conferences to collaborate with others from the GMC. He was on the Student Athlete Leadership Team (SALT) at East, as well, and participated in Future Health Professionals Club (HOSA) to learn more about sports medicine.

After about eight weeks in a cast, Mangold’s leg looked thin and weak. He wore a boot on his foot for a while and then slowly began rehabbing back to basketball, spending as much time as possible at places like CrossFit to build his strength and fitness.

“It changed his approach to working and his daily approach to the game of basketball,” Adkins said. “As a teenager you almost feel invincible and nothing can stop you, and then you have a serious leg injury and now you’re not even thinking about basketball. … The game slowed down for him a little bit watching from the sidelines. He worked hard to get back. His work ethic was good before but it got even better. It just gave him a different mindset.”

Mangold was cleared for full activities by the first day of practice Nov. 1, but after finishing with 15 points and 11 rebounds in the season opener against Taft on Nov. 29, he went the next eight games without reaching double figures in either category. Mangold said he felt pressure because he wasn’t perforning his best, but by January his leg was feeling stronger and that helped his confidence.

Over the last 18 games, Mangold averaged 11.7 points, and he came through with two game-winning free throws with 1.6 seconds left in the district final to lift the Thunderhawks to a 33-32 win over Beavercreek. East then went on to advance to its first ever Elite 8 but the Ohio High School Athletic Association halted the tournament because of COVID-19 concerns and it never resumed.

After not getting to play most of his junior year, Mangold especially was disappointed not to get a chance to finish what they started and perhaps make it to the school’s first Final Four, but months later, he views it much like the time he lost on the basketball court junior year.

“That’s kind of been the story of my high school career,” Mangold said. “You never know when something could happen. You could break your leg or have your senior year end abruptly. It all goes back to learning you just can’t take anything for granted. It was a fun season while it lasted and it’s something we’ll always remember. You just have to make the most of everything.”

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