By Dan Arkans (@danarkans)
(Ed. Note: This article is part of our 2023-24 season coverage, which will run for the six weeks preceding the first official games of the year on Nov. 6. To access all of our high school and college preview content for this season click here.)
Gwynedd Mercy University senior captain Manny Clark didn’t have the smoothest transition to college ball.
The playground style he used against Pioneer Athletic Conference competition at Pottsgrove wasn't an immediate fit. He didn't hop on the court immediately and make the Atlantic East Conference First team.
That’s just what happened over time.
“In high school it was Manny’s world,” Clark said. “I was normally creating my own shots. We were very successful in high school, but the ball was in my hands. You get to college and some of the guys on your team did the same thing. Having to adjust to play with better players was a challenge. I didn’t have a smooth transition. It’s going from playing with Kyrie (Irving) to playing with (Steph) Curry, it’s two different styles.”
Gwynedd Mercy senior Manny Clark was a first team all-conference player last season. (Photo: Hunter Martin Photography/Gwynedd Mercy Athletics)
In fact, it was a pretty rough transition after only averaging 10 minutes per game in his freshman season and even when he did play 21 against Wesleyan, he shot 4-of-12 from the floor.
“It was mentally draining, it was physically draining,” Clark said. “There was one point I didn’t even want to play anymore. Regardless of the situation I learned I will be able to adapt. When I came in as a freshman I wasn’t thinking about rebounds or steals. I had to think about what would keep me on the court. Offensively, I had a hard time scoring. I didn’t have the freedom to come down and cross someone up. From a flow standpoint you are not dribbling too much, three maybe four dribbles, that was the biggest adjustment, learning to come off screens. These were all flows that weren’t my style. It was an adjustment learning to score within the offense. I was in a mental battle.”
Clark benefited from a Covid year in 2020 and came back for his sophomore year with a new lease on life and a new position at shooting guard after struggling at the point.
He averaged 10.6 points per game, 4.6 rebounds, 45 assists, four blocks and 38 steals. The Pottsgrove grad was named the AEC Defensive Player of the Week and broke through with 25 points in a win over Cabrini.
“I honestly feel like I picked up a life tree, having to adapt and change in ways inside coach’s system,” Clark said. “Now, I understand how to maneuver, it helped me for life. You are always going to face some obstacle you have to overcome. I came from a school where I was dropping 30-balls, the style is now completely different. You have to find your game within coach’s game.”
Fast forward to his junior year, and it was Manny’s world once again as he started all 27 games. He was even named the AEC Offensive Player of the Week back on Jan. 17 after a 38-point outing against Marywood that was reminiscent of some of his explosive Pottsgrove outings, like a 43-point performance against Pottstown during his senior year.
Clark led the team in minutes (858), field goals (159), 3-pointers (59), free throws (68), rebounds (148) and of course points (445). He ended up averaging 16.5 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game and was a first team All-AEC player at season's end.
“I wasn’t used to being a scorer without dribbling,” Clark said. “Now I understand I can do both. My dad reminds me how much of a better player I have become. It’s something I didn’t understand before.”
Clark will be the first to admit though that the individual goals are nice, but he wants the team to take another step after a 14-13 campaign. Although leadership may not be something that comes natural to him, his energy will jumpstart the team or so he’s told.
“I have been told by numerous people that I am exciting to watch,” Clark said. “I have an energy about me that lifts the team. If I am up and going, the team is up and going. I am a player that is all over the place whether it’s rebounds, steals, whatever. A lot of times I run this way or that way. My mom used to compare me to Allen Iverson. I am that type of player.”
After a trip to Costa Rica where the team gelled nicely, Clark isn’t about to boast some lofty expectations on Gwynedd. While his game continues to grow, especially on the defensive side of the ball, the team’s mindset is a game-by-game approach.
“I’m definitely a game-by-game player,” Clark said. “Sometimes I won’t even know who we play. I try to focus on the game ahead. Alvernia is a big one I have circled. We need our revenge against them. I have buddies on Alvernia. We play Cabrini. One of my little bros plays on them. I have some friends on these teams, I’m excited watching them play. I wanna see what they do.”
Clark talks about a life tree he was given at Gwynedd Mercy and that doesn’t just include on the basketball court. He will graduate with a masters in business administration this spring. While he is already being offered jobs in accounting, there’s also this sport with the orange ball that won’t let go of him.
“I do have aspirations to play overseas,” Clark said. “With some of the connections I have, I am trying to get information. Everyone takes a different path. I am hoping to enter that conversation very soon. Playing over the water would be a blessing.”