WEST FARGO — When Maggie Manson heads to the gym for a Sunday morning shootaround with members of her family, she isn’t planning for a relaxing day.
It’s not that the outings aren’t fun - the sport of basketball has always brought boundless amounts of joy to Maggie and her extended family. But playing to unwind before the start of the week is not the way the Mansons are wired.
Maggie, a senior on the West Fargo Sheyenne girls team that will be playing in the North Dakota Class A state tournament that begins Thursday in Bismarck, does her best to impress other family members along with brother Ben and cousin Alivia. But in an audience that often includes two state-championship winning coaches, a former North Dakota Mr. Basketball and one of the most prolific shooters in the history of North Dakota State men’s basketball, compliments are only given when they’ve been earned.
It’s been this way for as long as Maggie can remember.
The daughter of two former college basketball players, Maggie expressed interest in following in the footsteps of her parents at a young age. Knowing what it took to get to that level, Ross and Rochelle Manson implemented a difficult, shortcut-free workout regimen that occasionally pushed young Maggie’s love of the game to the brink.
“Every day I had to do 30 minutes of ball-handling and make 500 shots before I could hang out with my friends,” Maggie says. “I would get frustrated a bit.”
Though Ross understood that frustration, he knew exactly what he was doing, having gone through a similar process with his father Gene, one of the most decorated high school coaches in North Dakota history.
“I had the privilege of going to the gym with my dad when he was coaching at Minot at a very young age,” Ross said. “It’d be ‘Make 100 shots going to your left with two dribbles’ or different drills like that. Do this drill from a ball-handling perspective. We loved to be in the gym to do those things.”
Soon, Maggie did as well.
“It just became routine,” she said. “I’d wake up and be excited to get going right away in the morning. It became something I ended up loving.”
Soon, like several family members before her, that love was taken on the road.
For Ross and brothers Bart and Brian, summer vacation plans always centered around basketball. Not content to merely participate in local events, the family went all over the country, participating in camps.
“It’s been what we’ve done since we’ve been little kids,” said Bart, now the head coach of a Fargo Davies boys basketball team that will play in the Class A state tournament this week in Bismarck. “That’s what my mom and dad did. They planned their vacations around us going to camps.”
Since seventh grade, Maggie has also spent a good portion of her summers competing in out-of-state events, travelling for tournaments in Illinois, Nevada, Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin among other places.
While the road has brought them immense pleasure, Maggie and the rest of the family have found plenty of joy with the game while staying close to home.
Though not ready to give up the profession altogether, Gene Manson knew it was time to move on from the head coaching ranks. Following 27 years and four state championships, including a 1990 title won with Ross and Bart on the roster, he decided to step down as the head coach of Minot High School in 2008.
After spending a year as an official, Gene got a call from Bart, who had been hired as the head coach of a new varsity boys program at Davies. Gene has been helping his son ever since.
While celebrating their success, family members say they’ve found equal enjoyment in watching the father-son duo attempt to coexist in the heat of competition, where their similar mannerisms sometimes overlap.
This happens so often, Maggie is even able to mimic the in-game posture of her uncle and grandfather: Right leg crossed over left, hands grasped over the right knee while nervously rocking back and forth.
“It’s so funny to watch them do the same thing,” she says. “(Sometimes) they’ll both be standing and yelling the same thing. It’s just fun to watch.”
The family’s history with college athletics dates back nearly 80 years, when Ross’ grandfather Ed Boe competed in football, basketball and track at North Dakota State from 1939-41.
It has spread significantly since. Gene played two years of baseball and basketball at Mayville State, and all three of his sons played college basketball.
A 1,000-point scorer at NDSU from 1990-94, Ross is fifth in school history with 213 made 3-pointers. After two years at NDSU, Bart transferred to Minot State in 1993. In his two seasons with the Beavers, he scored 590 and 607 points, the two most prolific scoring seasons in program history at the time.
Following his 1994 graduation from Minot, Brian followed Bart to Minot State.
Maggie’s athletic genes don’t come exclusively from her paternal side. Mother Rochelle played basketball for three years at Minnesota State Moorhead before transferring to NDSU her senior year, where she met her future husband.
And now, with high school nearing its end, Maggie will not only carry on the family’s collegiate tradition playing at the University of North Dakota.
While there was some thought that she might follow her dad’s path to NDSU, one member of the family believes she’ll benefit greatly from carving out her own niche.
“With her dad playing there and Bart playing there, it’s maybe good for her to get out of town,” Gene said. “Maybe that’s good she decided (UND) was the place for her.”
Maggie knows she has a great chance to add to what has already been an exciting new chapter in the family’s athletic history.
“It’s really cool to think I come from such a basketball family and that I get to be a part of that,” she said. “It’s something we all have in common when my cousins and my brother and I (get together). We all know the game and love the game. It’s just really exciting to be a part of that.”