Ezra Manjon: Anchor in the backcourt

Manjon’s basketball journey epitomizes resilience, commitment and faith.
Ezra Manjon stares down the court with pictures of him dribbling featured in the background. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)
Ezra Manjon stares down the court with pictures of him dribbling featured in the background. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)
Lexie Perez

At age four, Ezra Manjon was already playing basketball and would frequently shoot on a mini hoop.

The youngster never put a basketball down after that and found love for the game nearly eight years later when he started middle school. 

“I think Kobe [Bryant] was a real inspiration for me to be able to start taking the game seriously,” Manjon said. “My favorite player as a kid was Kobe.” 

While Manjon revered Bryant’s work ethic and play style, he also looked up to UConn legend Kemba Walker. In 2011, Manjon lived in Connecticut while Walker led the Connecticut Huskies to a National Championship victory. In the 2010-11 season, Walker averaged 23.5 points per game, good for fifth best in the NCAA that year.

Walker’s phenomenal season inspired Manjon to wear number 15. 

“Growing up, I would always pick 15 and that was for Kemba Walker,” Manjon said.

Manjon wore number 15 until he switched his number to 21 when his grandfather passed away on Jan. 21, 2015. 

“I started wearing 21 because it [his grandfather’s death] was on the 21st of January,” Manjon said. “Around when I got to high school is when I started wearing number 5. I remember my mom would always tell me that number 5 would represent God’s grace.”

Aside from Manjon playing with a number that embodies God’s grace, he believes that players look “cool” in number 5. He became infatuated with the number when Cassius Winston donned the number 5 jersey when he played for the Michigan State Spartans. 

Whether it is playing with number 15, 21 or 5, Manjon always has had a chip on his shoulder. As a 5’11” 170-pound point guard from Heritage High School in Brentwood, Calif., Manjon did not have many D1 offers coming out of high school. The point guard ultimately decided to play collegiate basketball at UC Davis.

In three seasons at UC Davis, Manjon averaged 14.2 points per game across 74 total games. He posted 15 points per game and shot 76% from the free-throw line in his junior year, leading Manjon to first-team All-Big West honors after the 2021-22 season.

With two years of eligibility remaining, Manjon wanted to take his talents to a more competitive conference in the SEC.  

Manjon officially committed to Vanderbilt on April 18, 2022. The announcement came on the same day Scotty Pippen Jr. declared for the 2022 NBA Draft. In Vanderbilt’s 2021-22 campaign, Pippen Jr. commanded Vanderbilt to a 19-17 season and led the SEC in scoring with 20.4 points per game. The two-time All-SEC First Team honoree left Vanderbilt with big shoes to fill.

“My games and Scotty’s games are different,” Manjon said. “My whole focus was just coming in here and helping the team do whatever we could to win games. Whether that is doing all the dirty work, getting on the floor, blocking the defense, scoring the ball.”

While Manjon’s arrival to Vanderbilt was often interpreted as the arrival of Pippen Jr.’s replacement, Manjon was focused on playing his game. He felt no pressure to fill shoes and was solely focused on doing whatever it took to help Vanderbilt win. 

Manjon and Pippen Jr. have a great relationship, thanks to a connection that started when they played on the AAU’s Oakland Soldiers together. 

“Me and Scotty were close. We still talk to this day. He was a big part of me coming here,” Manjon said. “[He] gave me the ins and outs of the program before I made the decision.”

Manjon helped Vanderbilt right away. In his first year at Vanderbilt, the California native averaged 10.5 points per game and 3.8 assists per game. His senior season was highlighted by a buzzer-beater against Auburn that helped Vanderbilt continue its miraculous SEC winning streak last February.

Manjon caught fire in March 2023, specifically in postseason play.

It all began in the second round of the SEC Tournament when Manjon went 7-of-12 from the field en route to an 11-point Vanderbilt victory over the LSU Tigers. In Vanderbilt’s next game, Manjon scored a career-high 25 points against the Kentucky Wildcats. Manjon’s red-hot night helped the Commodores catapult themselves over the Wildcats and earn an SEC Tournament semifinals appearance. Vanderbilt’s SEC Tournament magic evaporated in its next matchup when Texas A&M beat the Commodores.

Despite winning 18 regular season games and making it to the penultimate round of the SEC Tournament, the Commodores were snubbed out of the 2023 NCAA Tournament. Vanderbilt was awarded a spot in the NIT Tournament and won two games before having its season conclude with a loss to UAB.  

Manjon elected to come back to West End and spend his final year of college eligibility at Vanderbilt. 

Manjon used the offseason between last season and now to focus on improving his 3-point shot and getting more steals. His goal was also to build on the Commodores’ recent success and lead Vanderbilt to another postseason appearance. Vanderbilt might not have completed its goal of making it back to the postseason, but Manjon’s work in the offseason has paid off.

As of March 6, Manjon leads Vanderbilt in points per game (14.3) and is 83.1% from the charity stripe. 

This season, he improved his 3-point shooting percentage from 25.0% to 33.3%. He also averages 1.1 steals per game this season, while he averaged .9 steals per game last season.

In a season that was filled with disappointment from losing Lee Dort and Colin Smith early in the season to finishing below .500 in nonconference play, Vanderbilt was in dire need of a spark. 

Enter Manjon, who was poised to rejuvenate the Vanderbilt community.

On Feb. 13, the Commodores faced off against the Texas A&M Aggies. Vanderbilt had won just 2 of its last 13 games and sat at 7-17 with only one SEC win under its belt. 

With 1:03 remaining in the second half, the teams were tied at 69 apiece. One second later, Manjon made a 3-pointer off of an Isaiah West assist to give Vanderbilt a comfortable lead. The Aggies quickly fought back though as Tyrece Radford made four free throws in the final minute to give Texas A&M a one-point lead with 12 seconds remaining. 

Right away, Manjon received an inbound pass, quickly drove to the other hoop and fired an attempt at a season-defining jumper. Manjon’s shot was unsuccessful and blocked by a Texas A&M defender. The fifth-year senior showed resilience and fired another shot after catching the ball after it was blocked. Manjon delivered in the clutch, made a buzzer-beater shot and provided Memorial Gymnasium with a moment to remember. 

Manjon’s buzzer-beater is a microcosm of his basketball story. While there may have been moments when there was reason to have little hope, Manjon has persevered and shown resilience until the final buzzer.

“He’s an extension of what we want to get accomplished,” Jerry Stackhouse said in an interview with SEC Network. “He was a dog on the defensive side from day one…He’s an unbelievable competitor. 

Manjon will hold fondly the memories he’s made at Vanderbilt, specifically with his teammates. For the past two seasons, the point guard has shared the backcourt with Tyrin Lawrence. Lawrence and Manjon have complimented each other well on and off the court.

“He [Tyrin Lawrence] is a great guy to be around. He’s one of my best friends on the team,” Manjon said. “When [we] are playing in unison it’s some of the most fun basketball that I’ve ever played in my life.”

While Manjon’s days as a student-athlete are winding down, he is not ready to say goodbye to basketball. Whether it is in the United States or overseas, he hopes to play professional basketball next year. Basketball is Manjon’s safe haven and he has plenty of gas left in his tank. Manjon wants to continue to be a role model, on and off the court, and his basketball story embodies hard work, determination and faith.

“I hope that through me being on the court that it inspires younger kids to be confident,” Manjon said. “Seeing where I started in basketball; from me thinking I wasn’t going to get a Division III scholarship to being a starting point guard in the SEC [teaches you to] just continue to work hard and keep your faith in the lord and to continue when things are up and down.”

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About the Contributors
Andrew Wilf
Andrew Wilf, Former Sports Editor
Andrew Wilf (’24) is Sports Editor for The Vanderbilt Hustler. He is from Livingston, N.J., and is majoring in history and minoring in business. He joined the sports staff his freshman year, previously serving as a Staff Writer, Assistant Sports Editor and Deputy Sports Editor. Beyond writing for The Hustler, he is also the host of Anchor Analysis, Commodore Clash and Live From West End. In his free time, Andrew enjoys watching the NFL and playing golf. He can be reached at [email protected].
Lexie Perez
Lexie Perez, Graphics Editor
Lexie Perez (‘26) is from Northern Virginia and is majoring in climate studies and human and organizational development and minoring in business in the College of Arts and Science. She enjoys listening to 70s and 80s pop music, doing the daily Wordle and rooting for the Nashville Predators and Cincinnati Bengals. She can be reached at [email protected].
Josh Rehders
Josh Rehders, Former Photography Director
Josh Rehders ('24) is from Houston and is studying computer science in the School of Engineering. When he is not shooting for The Hustler, Vanderbilt Athletics or freelancing, he enjoys finding new music and good food. He can be reached at [email protected].
Nour Abida
Nour Abida, Staff Photographer
Nour Abida ('25) is majoring in political science and medicine, health and society with a minor in Spanish in the College of Arts and Science. She is from Tunis, Tunisia. You can reach her at [email protected].
Vince Lin
Vince Lin, Deputy Videography Editor
Vince Lin (‘27) is from Zanesville, Ohio, and is majoring in computer science. Vince also serves as a graphics and photography staffer. Outside of school, you can find him at the gym, rowing, lifting weights, playing games with friends or sleeping. You can reach him at [email protected].
Ophelia Lu
Ophelia Lu, Deputy Photography Editor
Ophelia Lu (’26) is from Los Angeles and is double majoring in biomedical and electrical engineering in the School of Engineering. She previously served as a staff photographer. When not covering events and sports games for The Hustler, you can find her listening to a lot of music, studying at Starbucks or lying on Alumni lawn. She can be reached at [email protected].
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Sonia Mañjon
2 months ago

Great article! Two corrections: his high school is in Brentwood, Ca and once he picked up the bball at 4 he never put it done. His first competitive game was in 1st grade and they immediately moved him up to the 3rd grade team.