Photo courtesy of Creighton University Athletics.
By David Cordova
These days, there is one problem that plagues the college basketball scene and that is the transfer rate. At the end of every season, there are always one or more players on a team that are unhappy about their minimal playing time or are not content with being on a team for one reason or another.
There are plenty of things that contribute to the attrition rate in college basketball in the present day. When a player transfers to another school, there is a 50-50 chance that either he will see less playing time than they did at their previous school or they will they gain more playing time and establish themselves as a key player on that team.
Although many will have to sit out a year due to NCAA rules, unless they were to get a waiver for special circumstances, there are good things about transferring. The benefits include development physically and in terms of skills and also the opportunity of being a regular student and focusing on academics, and last but not least, graduating with their bachelor’s and using their final year of eligibility to attend graduate school.
The latter of those happened to one player, who is now reaping the benefits of studying for a master’s degree and playing college basketball in one of the most storied conferences out there.
The player in question is none other than Manny Suarez, a 6-foot-10 center, who is now at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. His journey through the college basketball scene is one that many don’t plan to go through, but for him it was a road well-traveled.
When asked what motivates him to be successful in the game of basketball, he replied, “Honestly, just the love for the sport. I come out here every day, it’s very hard-working, especially with a great group of guys, it’s just amazing to be out here.”
When he was young, Suarez, a native of Cliffside Park, New Jersey, had played soccer, but then he hit a massive growth spurt as a teenager, and started to play basketball as an eighth-grader.
He comes from a state where the talent is top-notch. When asked about his thoughts on basketball in New Jersey, Suarez said, “It’s low-key not that great, but I live right next to New York. I’ve played the majority of my life in New York [at] Dyckman, Rucker Park, growing up in those areas, playing with a great group of different guys, great talents, it’s just great out there.”
In the summer of 2016, Suarez played in the College/Pro Division at the famed Dyckman Tournament in the Inwood section of Manhattan, where he played outstanding and earned the nickname of “Brad Miller,” which was a homage to the former NBA veteran. The name was given to him by none other than famed emcee, David “Cha Ching” Teele.
When asked about that experience on that hallowed ground in New York City, he replied, “Oh, it was just a great environment, it’s just fun. You know, you get to see different players from different divisions, like different conferences, and you go out there and have fun. All of it is just fun. And the Brad Miller nickname, I mean, it’s just funny, it is what it is, but it’s just whatever they wanna call me.”
In his high school days, he played at Marist High School in Bayonne, New Jersey, where he put up great numbers. As a junior, he averaged 16 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks per game and then as a senior, he averaged 18.4 points, 13.2 rebounds and six blocks per game and made the First Team for the Hudson County Interscholastic League.
From there, he went on to accept a scholarship to Fordham University, where he redshirted the 2013-14 season. When he was finally ready to play in the 2014-15 season, he played only 7.5 minutes per game, averaging 1.8 points and 2.1 rebounds in 19 games. Adding bad to worse, the Rams finished 10-21 that season and head coach Tom Pecora was fired after five years at the helm.
When looking back at the Fordham experience, he replied, “It was a great experience, I redshirted my freshman year and then my sophomore year, which was very hard getting time, but besides that, towards the end, everything was fitting in and then the coaching staff got fired and then everything just went upside down from there.”
Needing a change, Suarez transferred down to Adelphi University in Garden City, New York, which was a Division II program. He made a move that many players on the Division I level probably would never have made, but that ended up helping him in many ways.
In his first year with the Panthers, he averaged 13.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in 28 games and was then named to the Northeast-10 All-Conference Honorable Mention team. As a junior in 2016-17, he stepped up his performance by averaging 16.9 points and leading the team in rebounds with 9.4 per game and then earned the Northeast-10 All-Second Team honors.
When asked what it was like moving down to the Division II level and dominating there, he replied, “Well, the head coach of Adelphi right now, who I played for [Dave Duke], is the one who recruited me to Fordham, he knew my game since the beginning, he watched me since the start of it. He helped me a lot to develop my game, you know, the strength coach there helped me to develop my body mass and just going there helped me to get where I am now.”
Due to the redshirt year, Suarez was able to graduate from Adelphi with his bachelor’s degree, but he had one year of eligibility remaining. So he chose to go back to Division I, only this time, he would be playing for a program in a major conference in Creighton, which plays in the Big East Conference.
Prior to Suarez’s arrival, the Blue Jays were a nationally-ranked program in the 2016-17 season, going 25-10 overall and making an appearance in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. On that team, the Blue Jays had none other than Justin Patton, who is now playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves of the NBA.
This year’s Blue Jays are doing phenomenal, with a 17-5 record with wins over three-nationally ranked opponents in Northwestern, UCLA and Seton Hall.
When asked what made him choose Creighton as a choice for his final year of collegiate eligibility, he replied, “Honestly, the coaching staff, the environment, because over here, a lot of people say it, it’s all true, you know they really care about the people, they really care about the players. Winning is always great, winning is like everything. But when it comes to this group, it’s all family, everybody cares for each other, from the head coach [Greg McDermott] to the last person on the bench. It’s just everyone cares for each other and we all spend as much time with each other.”
On playing in the Big East Conference, “Oh, man, it’s great, it’s the Big East, it’s every person’s dream, it’s a top division, it’s hard, it’s very hard, but I love it, I enjoy it, I go out every day and try to play.”
As one can see, transferring has allowed Suarez to see different experiences, from the Atlantic-10 to the Northeast-10 to the Big East. But then again, when asked what he’d say to players coming into the college basketball scene in regards to transferring, he replied, “Go with your gut, always believe in yourself, always work hard. Because if you don’t believe in yourself and you don’t work hard, it’s very difficult to succeed and even though my minutes are minimal, I still believe in myself and I still work hard and one day, all that hard work is going to pay off for me no matter what.”
Right now, Suarez is averaging 3.4 points and 2.8 rebounds in 8.4 minutes in 18 games played this season at Creighton. Although, he isn’t getting as many minutes on the court, when he gets out there, he makes the most of the opportunity that is given to him.
Most of the time, in the era of instant gratification, players will want to leave a situation instead of competing and working hard. But when you persevere through hard times and keep the faith, there’s no telling where your positive frame of mind can take you. Just ask Manny Suarez. He’ll tell you the same thing.
Highlights of Manny Suarez:
Courtesy of Reporte Menor.
Courtesy of Big Ten Network.