It is impossible to pin Tiana Mangakahia’s impact on the Syracuse Orange and the greater basketball world to just numbers on a stat sheet.
Each time the Australian senior takes the floor in any game, it is itself an accomplishment worthy of a banner and parade. You know the story by now: On June 18, 2019, Tiana was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer at the age of 24. Eight rounds of chemotherapy and a double mastectomy later, she was declared cancer free on November 6 of the same year. Over a year later, on November 29, 2020, she returned to the floor, making all her previous accomplishments pale in comparison. Those accomplishments included twice being named first team All-ACC, leading the nation in assists and setting the ACC single season record in 2018, setting the program assists record, and leading the Orange to two NCAA tournament berths.
This year, despite by her own admission not playing at 100% physical capacity, Mangakahia leads the nation in assists for what would be the second time in four years and is on track to play in the NCAA tournament again. As she prepares to enter the Dome for what will likely be the final two home games of her career, it is only fitting to look at some of the numbers that make up her illustrious career on the court, while recognizing that, especially in this #Play4Kay week of all weeks, no number could possibly encapsulate her career and her life thus far.
That is the number of assists Tiana currently trails the ACC’s all-time record by. It belongs to Notre Dame’s Lindsey Allen, who racked up 841 assists in four years from 2013-2017, aided of course by four deep postseason runs including two NCAA championship game appearances. Mangakahia has 714 in just three seasons, including this abbreviated pandemic season where she has admitted to not playing at 100%. Had this been a normal year in terms of number of games, Tiana would be right in the hunt for the record despite playing just three years.
That is the number of Syracuse women’s basketball players to be named All-Big East or All-ACC three times in their careers: Felisha Legette, Julie McBride, Kayla Alexander, and Alexis Peterson. If Tiana were to be named to the team this year, she would become the fifth. No Orange player has ever been named to the first team three times.
That is the average number of shot attempts Mangakahia has put up this season, down from 13 two seasons ago. She has attempted 2.8 free throws per game, down from 4.2 in 2019. And she averages 11.3 points per game, down from 16.9 two years ago. She has picked her spots this season and knows when exactly her team needs her to score, just as she did with three 3s in a 3:16 span in the third quarter Sunday against Virginia Tech. Her physical condition may play a role in this, but another reason is simply that she is no longer the team’s top scoring option, which has led to….
This is the number of times Tiana has dished it off to Kamilla Cardoso for a basket, 23 more than the next most common assist recipient on the team (Emily Engstler with 20). The 6’7 Brazilian has been every point guard’s dream to play with this season, often running the floor after an opponent’s make and being rewarded on the other end by a precision pass from the Aussie. Cardoso is the presumptive ACC rookie of the year and is already seen as a future ACC and national player of the year candidate, but one could only imagine the dominance that would have ensued if she and Tiana had more time on the floor together.
That was the number of days between games for Tiana Mangakahia from her loss in the 2019 NCAA tournament to her season debut at Stony Brook this season.
In that year and eight months span she lived many lifetimes over, but through her will and with Orange Nation behind her she not only has come back, but has cemented her legacy as one of the greatest to ever wear an Orange uniform. Now, with her team on the brink of an 8th NCAA tournament appearance in nine seasons, she will suit up for what (according to her prior to the season) will likely be the final two home games of her career, including a season finale unlike any other in the #Play4Kay game against #4 NC State on Sunday. Emotions will surely run high, and the task will be tall, but for Tiana Mangakahia, it’s nothing she hasn’t conquered before.