By Caroline Ahearn
Special to GoHolyCross.com
Freshman Lauren Manis is no stranger to earning titles for her accomplishments. The forward on the women's basketball team was named Patriot League Rookie of the Year for her impressive performance in the 2016-2017 season, as voted on by the conference's head coaches. For Manis, dedicating her time and effort to achieving a goal has been a lifelong activity.
Before she was shooting three-pointers at the Hart Center at the Luth Athletic Complex, the Franklin, Mass. native got her start with a miniature basketball hoop in her driveway. “I remember when I was really little I would stay outside shooting and shooting until I got the ball in,” said Manis, whose persistence and drive originated at a young age. She started playing organized basketball on a team around the age of nine, and the rest was history. “I just fell in love with it,” she said.
Manis fell in love with playing basketball at a young age.
Manis used that same determination to reach her dream of playing Division I basketball. As a junior at Bishop Feehan High School in Attleboro, Mass., she was the one to first reach out to Holy Cross and start the recruitment process. With a verbal commitment to Holy Cross by the end of her junior year, Manis finished out her high school career by leading the Shamrocks to their first MIAA Division I State Championship in program history her senior year. She was also named ESPN Boston's 2016 Miss Basketball, a title given to the top female basketball player in the state. “It was a really great feeling,” Manis said of her team's achievements. “One I want to experience here!”
Manis won the MIAA Division I State Championship in 2016 with Bishop Feehan High School.
Manis knows the value of hard work and dedication to a sport, and what it can lead to. These values have been passed down to her from numerous family members. Her father played baseball at Ithaca College, her older sister was a multisport athlete in high school, many of her extended family played basketball at different levels and her mother, Allison Mahan Manis, also played Division I college basketball when she was a student-athlete at the University of Vermont. Manis' mom ranks seventh in program history for most career rebounds and 14th in most career blocks at Vermont, and was captain and the recipient of the Russell O. Sunderland Memorial Trophy her senior year. Coincidentally, Manis' mother even played against the Crusaders at the Hart Center against Holy Cross head coach Bill Gibbons.
Her support system is visible at nearly every home game, as her family members cheer her on in the stands. “Coming from a big basketball family where everyone is supporting me has been really helpful,” Manis said of the people who have had positive influences in her life. “And I really look up to my mom a lot, she's a great role model for me on and off the court.”
Manis and her mother, who played basketball at UVM.
Like any college freshman would be, Manis admits she was nervous for her first days on campus. She knew she would have to put in a lot of effort to keep up with a D1 team, but by the time her first practice finished up, her nerves had disappeared and she felt excited and energetic about the start of the season. With the help of coach Gibbons she has learned the importance of staying positive, and she has been inspired by her teammates' work ethic.
“It's hard to come into a D1 program and get used to all the early morning lifts and workouts,” said Manis. “But my teammates are really supportive and encouraging, and they helped me mentally in the beginning to keep working hard and focus on the ultimate goal, which is to win a championship."
Although this goal of Manis and her teammates was not accomplished this year, she has a pretty good track record for achieving her goals: from scoring in her mini hoop as a kid, to winning a high school championship and getting recruited by Holy Cross, to being named Patriot League Rookie of the Year.
Through her whole first season, Manis was one of the Crusaders' top scorers, ranking second on the team and seventh in the Patriot League with 13.3 points per game. She also led Holy Cross with an average of 7.6 rebounds per game, placing her fourth overall in the Patriot League. She scored in double digits 24 times this season and posted 20 or more points on four occasions. Manis also posted double-digit rebounds 10 times on the season, and registered eight double-doubles.
Manis achieved her dream of playing Division I college basketball.
This season, she led the Crusaders in scoring 11 times, while leading in rebounds 15 times and steals 10 times. She posted career-highs of 25 points against Navy, and 14 rebounds at American. But Manis' favorite moment of the season was not an individual accomplishment, instead it was when her team earned a 63-51 victory over Patriot League regular season and tournament champion Bucknell.
In addition to her Rookie of the Year title, Manis also earned second-team All-Patriot League recognition and a place on the Patriot League's All-Rookie team. She is the first player to be named Patriot League Rookie of the Year in 10 years, since Bethany O'Dell received the honor in 2007, and she is the fourth in program history.
With her strong work ethic, impressive track record, and the title of Patriot League Rookie of the Year, there is no doubt she will continue to thrive throughout the rest of her time as a Crusader.
"Lauren came in with high expectations this year, and she certainly delivered,” said coach Gibbons. “She earned the Rookie of the Year honor by rebounding, scoring and having a consistent impact throughout the season. I believe her work ethic will help her continue to improve her skills this summer and preseason, and make her one of the top players in the Northeast. Lauren is certainly the cornerstone that we are building around as we strive to rise and get back to the top of the Patriot League!”