I hope you get one, they are very fun pets.
I have had a couple my self and done some reading. Most of the time they grow fast and eat you out of house and home. Most species only live about a year. You can tell the male and female apart by abdomen segments, females have only 6 while the male can have 7 or 8. I have never been bitten by any of my mantids, but I did see a guy trying to buy one at a store get bit. Handleability? It's a must, I have never held a cooler pet, and they are very gentle after they get to know ya.
Mantids are very cool, but the downside is short life span. Most species live less than a year total, live fast, die young. Many are easy to breed, but then you're faced with the task of feeding the tiny nymphs, usually meaning fruit flies.
I'd reccomend keeping native species first before investing in expensive exotics. The genus Stagmomantis live throught most of the US and is east to keep. The introduced Chinese mantid (Tenodera aridifolia siniensis) is also widespred and common, not to mention big, but a little trickier than Stagmonmantis to rear.
Sphrodromantis sp. are pretty hardy for an exotic and are often available.
Deroplatys isn't difficult to keep, but have a reputation for beeing difficult to breed.
You probably have a number of interesting species in your area. This time of year, your best bet is probably to look for egg cases (oothecae) on bushes. The oothecae of Stagmomantis (you probably have S. carolina) is about 1" long and adhered lengthwise to a twig. It has a point on one end, is hard, and yellowish brown in color. T. aridifolia has a big round ootheca, like a misshapen ping pong ball, but you may not have that species that far south.
On interesting species you might come accross is Brunneria borealis. This mantid is long, about four inches, but thin like a stick insect. They also have these thick, fleshy antennae and a pinkish stripe down the middle of the body. Nifty bug. Ootheca looks more or less the same as Stagmomantis.
If you find an ootheca, try to colect part of the stick it's on as well, it'll help keep the egg case elevated. Set it up in a container with a fine mesh...hatchilings are very small! Some will hatch regardless of conditions, but periodic misting is probably a good idea. Most will hatch within 30 days at room temperature. Some may have hundreds of babies (especially T. aridofolia), so it's a good idea to figure out how you're going to house so many tiny cannibals! I've found that mantid nymphs are much more sensitive to air quality than tarantula babies, they're more delicate in general.
Does it have wings? If so, it's mature and approaching the end of it's lifespan, but it might have a few more weeks. Im not sure about the life cycles of mantids in warmer areas, so they may be seen year around. Where I live, it would be a freakish occurance to find one this time of year!
I usually try to set them up in a cage that's at least twice as tall as the mantid is long. This is to allow room for molting (if it's not already an adult) because they molt while hanging upside down and need plenty of clearance. It's best if at least one side or the top of the cage is well ventilated, like screen or mesh. Sticks or artificial plants make good perches, but most of the ones I've kept end up hanging from the top all the time. I mist once daily to give them a chance to drink. Substrate is optional. I feed them crickets, moths or flies. They aren't picky, but many species will not go after insects on the bottom and will wait for them to come to the top, so burrowing insects like mealworms and many cockroaches may not work as well.
If you collected an adult female, she may have already mated and therefore may lay fertile ootheca. It might be better to put these outside unless you want to rear hundreds of tiny babies!
Anyway, there's a few decent caresheets ot there, check out petbugs.com and Peter Clausen's bugsincyberspace.com (I think that's the address) for more. Also, Check out the book Praying Mantids: Keeping Aliens by A. Lasebny and Orin McMonigal for good husbandry info.