2004-12-10 / Sports

McManus Shows Her Toughness at Fairfield

By Elio Velez

Belle Harbor’s Janelle McManus has wom many awards for her individual achievements on the court in the past. Just this month, Fairfield University honored her for scoring her 1,000th points and the Met Basketball Writers Association named her as Player of the Week.

“You look back at the awards and it kind of feels good but I don’t look back at it too much. I look at the present,” McManus says.

Fairfield was chosen as the second best team in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference for the 2004-2005 year. Finishing below .500 in her first two campaigns, McManus is determined to help her team improve and win the MAAC (Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) championship.

“We’re trying to make an effort to play better basketball. I hope we can switch things up and win the MAAC,” McManus said.

Her determination was first forged on the courts of St. Francis de Sales, where Janelle and best friend Clare Droesch would play together.

They would go up against boys who wouldn’t take the pair seriously on the court. It was motivation for them to show that they weren’t just the best girls on the court but also the best players.

“The boys in town knew that we could play. They laugh at us but we laughed at them when we beat them on the court,” McManus said.

After winning on the playground, her talent would lead her to attend Bishop Kearney High School. McManus led the Tigers to three New York State Catholic Titles and a N.Y State Federation championship from 1996-2000.

It’s no an easy task to score in a tough CHSAA division which featured great teams such as Christ the King and Bishop Loughlin. McManus at times made it look easy. She scored 40 points five times and scored 30 points eleven times.

Scoring 2274 points in her four seasons, McManus is still the top all-time leading scorer in the Catholic High School Sports Association. She broke the record of 2118 points held by former Christ the King star Chamique Holdsclaw, now a pro standout.

“She’s the kind of player that doesn’t come around too often because of her level of play,” Bishop Kearney head varsity coach Cathy Crockett said. “She has the ability to make her team better.”

“She improved her whole game in four years. She improved in rebounding and is an excellent penetrator,” Crockett, a Breezy Point resident said. “She can create off the dribble and she makes things happen on the court.”

“I always thought coaching her that we always had a chance to win”.

McManus chose Boston College and in the 2000-2001 season won Big East Rookie of the Week Honors twice. She scored 20 points in three games against Georgetown, Rutgers and Connecticut.

McManus was comfortable on the floor with her team but not at the school. She realized that a change was needed and made it at the end of the school year.

“It (BC) wasn’t a good fit for me. It was the distance, not the team and I didn’t feel the chemistry at the school,” McManus said.

“Fairfield is a good fit for me because it is a smaller school and it was closer to home. It was a pretty quick adjustment for me. The team and coaching staff are like a family to me.”

She lost a year of eligibility in transferring but it didn’t take to long to show her flair for the dramatic at Fairfield. In her first game on January 6, 2003, McManus sent her team into overtime by hitting a last second tying three pointer against Loyola. Her 23 points in 38 minutes gave the Stags a 71-67 overtime win.

Adjusting to the college game has been a big step for McManus. One instance in which she acknowledges is her improvement on defense.

“I always knew that I’m a good player but college showed me the little things to become a better player,” McManus said. “My defense has gotten better because I know defense wins championships.”

McManus hopes her team is fighting for the top spot when Fairfield travels to Manhattan College on February 10 in a MAAC conference matchup. Janelle will be greeted by many well wishers and most will be her family. “I have more than 70 family members who live in Rockaway. I have a lot of family!!!,” Mc Manus laughingly said .

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