USF's 'Machine' Manunga: A fierce leader both on and off the court

They don't call her "Machine" Manunga for nothing. Bethy Manunga is a soft-spoken USF senior and one of the top rebounders in the American Conference who helped propel the Bulls to the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

"It felt great. I still cannot believe it, but we did it. It's an amazing feeling," said Bethy.  

Bethy has come a long way since she first picked up a basketball at 12 years old. Back then, her focus was track and field. She didn't have passion for the game and she admits she wasn't very good. But with a lot of practice and her dad's encouragement, she persevered and now she uses her quickness on the court.

"I've made too many sacrifices to just stop right now," she continued.

Bethy is not exaggerating. Born in Africa and raised in Belgium, Bethy was just 3 years old when her mom died. So she stepped up to help raise her little brother, all while keeping her commitment to the game.

"When I started to play basketball, I told my dad no matter what happens, I want to go to the U.S.," she recalled.

When the opportunity came, Bethy packed up and moved more than 4,000 miles away from her family and friends to follow her dreams. It's a decision her team and coach are grateful for.  

"Her work ethic and how she practices. She has a lot of respect from her teammates as how she approaches every day and also how hard she plays on both ends of the floor," said USF women’s basketball coach Jose Fernandez.

She gives 100% in everything she does, which her teammates and coach say makes her a good role model, teammate, and friend.  

"Bethy cares about others more than herself, which is an unbelievable quality in a human being," said Coach Fernandez.  

"I don't even force anything. If someone needs anything or I notice a change or someone is quiet, I'll just step up and try and help the girl," Bethy added.  

It makes her a fierce leader both on and off the court.