Weekend nights alone in the Hart Center, Lauren Manis honed her craft, shooting baskets. The two-hour sessions on the court, sometimes past midnight, were an escape.
"I lived for those late nights in the gym,” the Holy Cross senior told the Globe.
On March 12, the 6-foot-1 wing from Franklin saw her senior season with the Crusaders women’s basketball team end early because of the coronavirus pandemic. A month later, Manis reaped her reward for those extra workouts.
The devastation from a collegiate career that ended abruptly were replaced by tears of joy Friday night when the Bishop Feehan graduate was selected by the Las Vegas Aces with the 33rd overall pick in the WNBA Draft.
"I think the moment that I realized it was actually happening, I just felt so proud, so excited, that it was a dream come true,” Manis said. "It was such an exciting moment, and I keep reliving it in my head.”
The first Holy Cross player, male or female, to secure 2,000 points and 1,000 career rebounds, Manis knew her basketball career wasn’t finished once her final season ended prematurely when the Patriot League cancelled its postseason tournament.
On Friday night, Manis and her parents, Gregg and Allison, were flipping between the Food Network and the WNBA draft when she received a call from former Holy Cross coach Ann McInerney.
"I was actually watching the draft and I saw her name come up, I was watching with a bunch of my coaching colleagues,” said McInerney, who as interim head coach, guided the Crusaders to a 19-11 finish this season. “We all screamed. I called Lauren, she wasn’t even watching, then I could hear her family all scream in the background. It was pretty exciting.”
Overcome with emotion, Manis said she collapsed into her father’s arms, and wept.
Aces general manager Dan Padover told reporters that Vegas is seeking players with a “unique skill set.” He acknowledged Manis’s scoring and rebounding prowess, but it was her improved 3-point shooting that sold the team. After shooting around 30 percent from 3-point rangeover her first three seasons, Manis improved her range as a senior, shooting 46.3 percent from beyond the arc.
"She’s got a really quick release,” Padover told reporters. "There’s players on certain teams that can be specialists. We can always use another three-baller.”
A four-time All-Patriot Leaguer and three-time conference first-team selection, Manis is the second player drafted from the Patriot League, and the first since Bucknell’s Molly Creamer, who was selected in the first round (10th overall) by the New York Liberty in 2003.
McInerney said she had heard from international scouts during the season, but none from the WNBA. Manis said she had an inkling of a potential WNBA shot when her agent, Eric Wiesel, texted her the day before the draft, saying there was "a slight chance.”
"It was a combination of Lauren’s passion and my passion for Lauren is what did it,” Wiesel said. “I took a lot of time talking to people in the WNBA to help them understand Lauren’s capabilities. It took one GM seeing something about Lauren’s game that felt was important for his team.”
Manis knows a roster spot with the Aces is not guaranteed. No one knows when training camp will begin. Nonetheless, her selection is an historic moment for her, Holy Cross, the Patriot League and women’s basketball in Massachusetts.
"I knew playing professionally would be a little bit more difficult because Holy Cross is a mid-major, not a Power 5,” Manis said, "but I think you can achieve your dreams wherever you go.”