As Emmanuel Calton prepared for the final home basketball game of his career, he posted a message on Twitter.
“I remember just turning 18 and walking into [the University of Dallas],” the post read. “I hated it and everyone here. [Three] years later this has truly become my home and I’m asking God for more time with this place and the people here.”
Four years later, Calton is leaving the UD with difficulty, mainly due to his love for the game he’s been playing his entire life.
Coming from a family that loves and plays basketball, Calton naturally gravitated to the sport. He has been playing every year since he was four years old, playing for YMCA teams and school teams. However, the journey hasn’t always been easy. Calton suffered a knee injury his senior year of high school that left him with a torn meniscus and dislocated kneecap.
The Timber Creek High School graduate remembers rumors of him quitting spreading across Fort Worth.
“Rival school coaches were calling me and telling me not to quit,” Calton said.
Those gestures and his passion for the sport ultimately kept him from quitting. However, the injury kept getting worse.
Playing for UD his freshman year, Calton recalls it being physically painful, despite having his knee taped in place. By the time his sophomore year rolled around, he had developed arthritis. Sitting out of practices and some games became a necessity.
“I was a 19 year old with the knees of a 55 or 65 year old man. It was unbelievable, but even with the pain and risk, I persevered and asked God to help me.”
Before entering his junior year, Calton met with his orthopedic doctor and was given a six inch needle shot that inserted a liquid into his knee to act as a cushion and help keep it in place.
“Ever since that shot, I’ve felt really good,” Calton said.
This completely changed his game and eliminated the pain with which Calton had been playing during the first two years of his career at UD. However, despite the injury having been taken care of, Head Coach Jarred Samples was cautious with Calton.
“Coach [Samples] did an amazing job managing my health junior year and it’s paying off tremendously,” Calton said.
This season Calton hasn’t had to sit out for a single practice or game.
Today, Calton leads the team and has worked to improve its game on the court as well as the team dynamic.
“As captain, I made it a point that it was my last year and I wanted it to be like my freshman year was or better,” Calton said. “I wanted everyone to be a family and close. So every freshman that committed, I would reach out to them right away.”
Calton helped the freshmen settle in on move-in day and created a group chat for the whole team early on.
“I want everyone to be the same family, if not closer, when I’m gone. I’ve always been that glue guy that tries to keep everyone together,” Calton said. “I want the leadership to be there and keep the team first and be a shepherd to these guys. As long as they have someone to guide them these guys are going to be successful.”
Coach Samples attributes the unity of the team to Calton.
“Manny has been the glue guy for our team this year,” Samples said. “He holds everything together. His leadership has been invaluable. He has definitely left his mark on the UD Men’s Basketball program.”
On Sunday Feb. 11, Calton played his last game in Maher Center. He led his team to victory against Schreiner University, the number one team in the conference.
As he checked out of the game for the final time at the Maher Center, all that could be heard were the fans chanting “Manny.”