It took some time for Chris Manning to become comfortable with who he is, but basketball played a huge role in helping him figure it out.

After growing up in Jacksonville, Texas, Manning played a year of junior college basketball before transferring to Texas A&M University, where only a few people and none of his teammates knew he was gay.

Manning later played for pro-am team Twin City Heat, took a year off and then played in the National Gay Basketball Association with the Dallas ThunderCats, where he became used to being himself in a league that accepted him. It was that mindset of acceptance and camaraderie that helped him form the Wilton Manors Warriors team with a few friends and acquaintances in the area.

“I was trying to bring something new, something fun,” Manning said. “It’s a major opportunity to play in the OutGames, a lot of people don’t even get the opportunity to compete, but it’s in our backyard. I kind of wanted to make it a safe place for people to play the game they love at a competitive [level] or get back into the game while meeting people just like you.”

Above all, Manning places importance in his family, including his mother Anita Hall and sister Amber Whitmill. With his father in and out of jail, Manning confided in both to help him through life as he grew up.

“My mother and my sister are my rocks,” he said. “Those are the ladies in my life, along with my late grandmother [Carrie]. My mom raised my sister and I off two jobs, barely surviving and I can say at age 28 and my sister at 26, she’s raised two successful kids.”

After his grandfather D.W. Hall recently passed away in January, Manning says that he will dedicate his performance in the tournament to his memory and hopes that how he plays will make him proud.