Aces select Lauren Manis with lone 2020 draft pick

Aces add Manis at No. 33

Lauren Manis had a feeling that her name might flash across the screen on draft night. The Holy Cross standout monitored the 2020 WNBA Draft with her parents from their home in Franklin, Massachusetts. They flipped channels as the end of the third round neared.

Then the phone rang. Her dream had just come true.

“We were switching back between ESPN and the Food Network,” Manis told High Post Hoops. “We flipped it back for some reason and they left the room for maybe two minutes. I got a call from my college coach and she said, ‘You are on my TV right now.’ I said, ‘Coach, what are you talking about?’ I started screaming to my parents, ‘Put ESPN on!’ I immediately collapsed into my father’s arms and started crying.

“I went into it knowing that there was a very slim chance of me getting drafted. I wanted to watch just in case my name was called. I didn’t want to make it seem like my name would be called because I didn’t want to upset myself. But I think in the back of my head, I had an idea that it might happen. It was such an exciting moment to heave my dream come true and to hear the Aces wanted me.”

Aces general manager Dan Padover saw a very specific skill set that he wanted to add to the team’s training camp roster. The four-time All-Patriot League selection is the only player in Holy Cross history—men’s or women’s—with 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. She earned All-Defense honors for the first time this past season and set career highs in both 3-point makes (44) and attempts (95).

It’s no secret that Aces finished dead-last in total 3-point makes and attempts this past season. Manis earned All-Defense honors for the first time set career highs in both 3-point makes (44) and attempts (95) in her senior campaign. Padover has already added two bigs and a point guard to compete for some of their final roster spots. The path, for now, is less crowded for a wing-type to turn some heads.

“Lauren has always been a good rebounder, a good scorer,” he said. “But her three-ball level got really good this past year. She has a really quick release. There are players on certain teams that can be specialists. Seattle has Sami Whitcomb; she was able to pull a quick trigger. Minnesota once had Tricia Liston…We can always use help with another three-baller. That was really what we saw in her.”

Manis began working with a sports psychologist last year to take the next step with her 3-point shooting. Momentum started to build. She found her confidence in a skill that will open doors as she embarks on a professional playing career.

A rare date with a Power 5 opponent led to another breakthrough as the outline of her basketball future began to crystalize. “I think the main game for me was my junior year at [Boston College],” she said. “I had a breakout game. I was just on. I was feeling it against an ACC team. I think I needed to prove to myself, that I really could do it. That was the game that motivated me and gave me the assurance that this is something that I can definitely do.”

Ann McInerney made the call to Manis as the pick flashed across the screen. McInerney, who joined the Holy Cross coaching staff in 2008 and served as the interim head coach this past season, credits Manis’ work ethic and her ability to expand her game each season.

“Getting calls or talking to different people through the year and knowing she was kind of on the radar of the WNBA scouts, it was exciting to know that she would be on their radar,” McInerney said. “Obviously Vegas had some openings. It’s a great opportunity to at least be able to show her skill set to them. And she has a really good shot to make their roster. She’s athletic, she’s versatile, she steps away from the basket…she’s always over-achieved.”

Skylar Diggins-Smith and Elena Delle Donne were two favorites of Manis in high school. She admires Delle Donne’s mastery of guard and post skills and hopes to compete against the reigning league MVP in the not-too-distant future.

The 2019-20 Holy Cross season came to an abrupt halt when McInerney received a phone call after a team shootaround leading up to their Patriot League semifinal matchup with Bucknell. Manis has been focused on getting workouts in, going for runs and relying on band work and the weights that she has at home. Her father rebounds for her as she gets shots up on the outdoor hoop in their cul-de-sac.

Manis was unable to spend draft night with her sister, a healthcare professional who recently moved to nearby Dorchester. “She’s in the front lines right now risking her life,” Manis said. “She’s my best friend. I wish she could be here but she has more important things to do.”

The 6’1″ forward has envisioned a playing career overseas since her freshman year of high school. She is aware of the steep climb ahead, both in the WNBA and adjusting to the year-round grind.  She’s also excited to travel abroad, and to Las Vegas, for the first time.

The Aces have seven returners under contract along with the restricted rights of All-WNBA center Liz Cambage. They added unrestricted free agents Angel McCoughtry and Danielle Robinson back in February. Point guard Lindsay Allen re-signed with the club after undergoing knee surgery and missing the 2019 season. Raisa Musina and Avery Warley-Talbert will look to compete for a spot in the frontcourt after signing training camp contracts.

“I know nothing’s given, nothings guaranteed,” Manis said. “I am beyond excited to be able to step on the court and compete with these athletes. They are the people that I have looked up to for so many years. Being able to share a court with them is unbelievable. When I get the shot, I will rise to the occasion.”

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