La Salle Academy senior attack Joe Manown wasn’t born with a lacrosse stick in his cradle. But a case could be made that he was.
His father, Dr. Tim Manown, played the sport in high school on Long Island (a lacrosse hotbed). Older brother, John, was a National Lacrosse Association High School All-American defender who’s in his freshman season at Hartford. Younger brother and teammate Matt last season was a First Team All-State midfielder who’s already drawn attention from college coaches.
“My dad had me growing up playing all the time as a little guy,” said Manown. “Being around my brothers, he put sticks in our hands and we just started playing in the front yard. That’s where it all began.”
What “began” when Manown was a youngster morphed into the following:
He’s been voted a two-time NLA High School All-American.
He’s a two-time First Team All-State selection.
Top Gun Lacrosse rates him as the 17th-best player in the nation.
Through games of April 15, he’s scored 139 goals and assisted on 120 even though he only played five games as a freshman due to injury.
He’s signed a national letter of intent with two-time defending national champion Duke.
“He’s the ultimate competitor,” said coach Steve O’Donnell, who’s guided La Salle to three consecutive Division I state championships. “He wants to win. Sometimes that can be a negative for some athletes but most of the time it’s a positive. He has this natural ability to win.
“This year his teammates picked him as one of the captains but I have veto power. They made the right decision and he’s stepping into that role.”
A role, O’Donnell admitted, isn’t always easy for a player as talented as Manown.
“I don’t think he was comfortable,” said O’Donnell. “Sometimes you’re naturally relied on to be a leader because you’re the best player. That’s not always in everybody’s DNA. But when the kids tell you they want you to lead, he knows that. He’s been a leader.
“He’s one of the hardest workers in practice which is good. We do sprints and he’s always in front. He’s trying to work on things that will make him better not only this year but in the future.”
When Joe Manown and his brothers “worked on things” in the family’s front yard, suffice to say if an official was present he might have worn out his whistle.
“Whenever we we’re playing in the back yard it got a little too competitive,” said Manown with a grin. “Every time we played in the front yard growing up in middle school, one of us always would run inside because he (felt that he) got cheap-shotted. But I think that showed our competitive nature.
“Playing against my brothers, that’s how I got all my stuff down because they go so hard.”
O’Donnell discovered Manown when he was playing lacrosse in the eighth grade which was when he realized he might have that proverbial special player he could coach.
“Somebody pointed him out to me and said, ‘That kid’s going to La Salle next year,’ and I never had seen him play before,” said O’Donnell. “There were three of them, including his older brother John, which is how I met their father.
“As soon as you saw him you knew he was a pretty special player. The only person who can stop Joe Manown is Joe Manown. He knows that. He has a good shake-and-bake. He’s got a really good first step and can stop better than most people. That’s really advantageous for his position.”
Because Manown is so adept at dodging, that’s one reason why he’s recorded mind-boggling totals for goals and assists. But he’s working on another facet of lacrosse to make himself more potent when he suits up for Duke.
“I’m more of a strong lefty, so this year I don’t even go left,” he said. “I try to keep to my right. If I was scouting me, I would force me to my right and make me a feeder. I’ve been working more on my feeding this year more than ever because teams are sliding quickly. I’m getting more into the offense and dodging from up top because teams really don’t expect that.
“If you can go from up top to down low from both sides,” continued Manown, “it makes you harder to cover.”
At the risk of stating the obvious, Manown credits his father and O’Donnell for the bulk of his success. But what also factors into the equation is that he’s a student of the game.
“My dad has to be up there because he put the stick in my hand and taught me everything from when I was younger,” said Manown. “Coach has been a huge influence throughout my high school career and in middle school.
“Just watching people all through college while growing up, I’ve tried to learn from these incredible players. I try to learn whatever I can from watching them on TV and going to the Final Four every year with my dad. It’s been a matter of learning from whoever you can.”
One matter O’Donnell hasn’t been concerned with is having Manown measured for a larger helmet given all the accolades he’s received in his career.
“When you get success when you’re younger, it’s really difficult for anybody to handle,” said O’Donnell. “But he’s got a good, solid foundation. He’s got an older brother, a younger brother and parents (Dr. Tim and Kelly Manown) that care about him.
“By his teammates telling him ‘You’re the best player and we want you to lead us,’ he’s become a better player and an obvious leader.
“As a freshman playing with seniors you can get in the way because he got injured,” continued O’Donnell. “But in his sophomore year, he fit right in (Manown posted 54-41-95 totals that season) with that group of kids. He’s never had that problem (i.e. success going to his head). Obviously, he’s our best player.”
Which, obviously, also was recognized by Duke.