Jan. 21, 1998
Manner Ready for Life after College
By Christina Tecson
Five years ago when senior forward Derek Manner received a phone call from a Notre Dame assistant basketball coach to see if he was interested in playing for the Irish, Manner didn't even know where Notre Dame was.
Like many high school students, Manner had not yet thought about where he would attend college. He didn't have time to think about the future and where it would lead him. He enjoys the moment, appreciates the people and things that are in his life at the present.
As a senior at Clear Brook High School in Friendswood, Texas, Manner earned all-state honors from Texas Basketball and Texas Association of Basketball Coaches, and led his team to a 25-6 record and district championship. In his junior and senior years, Manner was averaging more than twenty points per game.
After hearing about the opportunities Notre Dame offered, Manner quickly checked a map, and started thinking about his future. The first in his class to verbally commit to Notre Dame, Manner made the decision early in his senior year after a weekend visit.
"I had to go up here and see it before I really knew," says Manner, "But once they started contacting me and I looked into what Notre Dame was all about and what they had to offer, they were definitely strong on the list.
"Notre Dame had an overall package. It had good academics and good athletics and it just seemed like the right place. Both of those were very attractive and both of them are strong here. I thought it would be a good opportunity. Once I came here with my parents and we looked around, and were up here for the weekend, I pretty much knew that this was the place I should be."
Manner knew, even then, that the Notre Dame experience would impact his life.
"You see a lot of people come in their freshman year and they've either been a good athlete or a good scholar," says Manner. "It helps make people more down-to-earth and become more rounded at Notre Dame because they meet people that are just like them and they help you become a better person."
But even Manner didn't know then, who he would meet or how that would change his life when his days at Notre Dame were over.
"I think that it's even gone beyond my expectations as far as what I've gotten out of this place and the opportunities it's given me," says Manner.
As he looks back on his college years, Manner's good times far outweigh the bad.
"I didn't really have a hard time up here when I got here," Manner says. "The most difficult thing was my freshman year here with basketball, just learning a different style of play, learning how to mentally and physically prepare and get used to playing at the collegiate level and competing against the teams we've competed against. That was probably one of the tougher things for me to adjust to."
His mental toughness and play have only improved since. Last year, as a junior, Manner was one of three Irish players to start all 30 games and was the fourth-leading scorer on the team at 7.0 points per game and 5.1 rebounds per contest.
This season he remains consistent with his numbers, averaging 7.1 points and is the third leading rebounder on the team averaging 6.1 boards per contest. However, Manner's biggest asset to the team this year has been his leadership and maturity, serving as co-captain along with Pat Garrity.
But ask Manner about his most memorable experiences at Notre Dame and he won't talk about basketball. He won't mention last week's win over West Virginia, where he scored a career-high 15 points and 10 rebounds against a nationally-ranked team. He hesitates to select his double-digit performance against Kentucky in 1995, as one of his personal best games because the team lost.
The experience that makes Manner smile the most is meeting his fiancee, Carrie Eglinton, who graduated from Notre Dame in 1996.
"Meeting Carrie is probably the most memorable thing and something I'll remember the rest of my life," says Manner.
The couple met on Super Bowl Sunday two years ago. Manner was at a friend's apartment to watch the football game when the two struck up a conversation.
"We knew each other previously, just by running into each other and knowing the same people, but we never really talked or anything until Super Bowl weekend," Manner recalls. "We were both in there with everybody else, but we just sat there and talked. I don't think I watched the entire second half of the football game. We talked for six or eight hours that evening and that just kind of started it off. That's when we really felt like we were good for each other."
Eglinton, who now lives in Connecticut, agrees. She believes the same qualities that make Manner a good basketball player, are what makes their relationship successful.
"He does such a good job with basketball, but he does such a good job with everything he does," says Eglinton. "He is so dedicated to everything.
"Sometimes it's hard being apart now, but Derek makes it a lot easier because he is so dedicated. He gives everything a full commitment and puts in every effort. It makes our relationship so easy."
One year after they first met, just before returning for the second half of his junior year, Manner proposed.
"The reason that I thought we were ready and that this was a good time is that I never in my entire life wanted to do everything I could to make someone happy," says Manner. "With her, if there's anything out there, I want to make sure she's happy, almost at any cost. That's when I realized this is somebody who is real special to me, and to make me want to get married."
The couple will marry in mid-June.
For now, Manner will concentrate on the season.
"My goal for the team is to go to the NCAA tournament," says Manner. "That's the goal for the season. I don't have any individual goals that I feel I want to do as far as basketball goes. The only goal for me is to do as much as I can to help the team get to the tournament."
Enjoying his last year at Notre Dame, Manner shares an apartment with teammate Pat Garrity. He delights in his final days as a bachelor when he can cook his favorite dish, pork chops and green beans, whenever he wants.
Manner admits that the engagement has already affected his lifestyle and attitude.
"There's a little more responsibility," says Manner. "You have a job and you're going to have a life so you have to start thinking about the future more. I can't joke around here and say, 'Oh, I'll figure out what happens after I graduate' when I'm getting married and have a responsibility to somebody."
Unlike his transition from high school to college, Manner knows exactly what to expect when he graduates this May. An accounting major in the College of Business Administration, Manner already has a job lined up with an accounting firm in Stamford, Conn., 15 minutes from Eglinton.
Leaving Notre Dame, Manner will miss his friends and teammates that he's grown close to. He still takes one day at a time and enjoys life as it happens. But graduating from Notre Dame, Manner doesn't mind thinking about his future.
"I'm ready to be done with classes and homework and that kind of stuff and go out, get married and have a job, have more of a real life type of responsibility," says Manner. "That's exciting to me. I look forward to all the challenges ahead."