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Mann, Huddleston make it official

Family members of Allen Huddleston and Deja Mann kept walking through the door of the Merced High student body office.

Grandfathers, aunts and parents showed up.

Mann's little brother, Malcolm, took a break from football practice and her former coach John Bliss even made the trip from Buhach Colony.

They didn't all show up to watch Huddleston and Mann sign a piece of paper.

No, Wednesday was about two student athletes reaching goals they set for themselves 10 years ago.

Huddleston and Mann made their college choices official by signing their national letter of intent.

Huddleston accepted a basketball scholarship to the University of the Pacific and Mann a basketball scholarship to Arizona State.

That's why it was nice to see the large collection of family and friends on hand to celebrate their accomplishment.

"I'm glad it's over," Mann said. "It's set in stone now.

"I faxed in the letter this morning and nobody can take it away."

Mann will miss her senior season after tearing her ACL in her left knee for the second straight year.

"It felt strange to sign my letter with a brace on my knee," Mann said. "But they still wanted me."

A day like Wednesday was just as much about what the two Merced seniors did in the classroom during their high school careers compared to what they've done on the basketball court.

"I've always wanted to play Division I basketball," Huddleston said. "Since I was a freshman, my dad always told me if I worked hard and did well in school, good things will happen."

Huddleston spent his last two summers traveling around the country playing in basketball tournaments.

Mann's summer schedule was just as busy making trips to Oregon and Washington.

"I made a lot of sacrifices," she said. "Instead of just sitting around on a Saturday, I was lifting or shooting.

"In summer a lot of people go on vacation. I play basketball."

Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports writer. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at