The statistics just jump off a scorebook into the newspaper and then into what are supposed to be the conscious mind.
Marist High School senior do-everything Manny Suarez has been compiling some of the most impressive statistics ever recorded, some that are even too unbelievable for words.
“When he had 14 blocked shots, even my brother called me to say, ‘C’mon, 14?’ ” Marist boys’ head basketball coach Tony Romano said. “He couldn’t believe it.”
But it’s true. In the Royal Knights’ 88-67 victory over Arts of Newark last Friday, Suarez had 34 points, 15 rebounds and 14 blocked shots. It’s not a misprint.
It’s also not a fluke, because Suarez had 25 points, 19 rebounds and nine blocked shots in a 71-57 win over Bayonne, the Royal Knights’ first victory over their cross-town rivals in 12 years.
And to back that up, Suarez had 21 points, 15 rebounds and 12 blocks in a recent win over Lincoln.
On Tuesday, Suarez had 19 points, 15 rebounds and nine blocked shots in a convincing 57-40 win over Snyder at the Tigers’ Den.
“It’s really some crazy stuff,” Romano said. “There was one sequence in the game against Arts where he blocked four shots in a row in the same possession. He’s going out and blocking jump shots on the perimeter. It’s not just close to the basket. He’s blocking shots all over the place. It’s pretty unique. He’s putting up crazy numbers.”
Suarez said that he worked hard on the defensive side of his game over the summer, after the 6-foot-11 center gave a verbal commitment to attend Fordham University in the fall.
“I knew I had to be a better defensive player,” Suarez said. “I knew that if I became a better defender, the team would come together better. If there is no defense, we can’t win. Blocking shots like that just comes natural to me. It’s like a second instinct. It’s all about timing. If I see another player leave his feet, I can go up and knock the shot away. It’s completely natural.”
Sure, it is _ especially to do it 14 times in a game.
Suarez has been the major reason why the Royal Knights are enjoying their best season in recent memory. They are 16-2 and won seven straight after losing to Hudson County powerhouses Hudson Catholic and St. Peter’s Prep in consecutive games. Marist won their first nine, lost two, then reeled off seven more in a row, with Suarez leading the way.
Suarez is averaging 18 points, 13 rebounds and 6.3 blocked shots per game this season, but he’s certainly turned it on over the past few games.
For his efforts, Suarez has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Romano believes that a lot of it comes from the rest of the Royal Knights realizing how special of a player Suarez has become. After all, Suarez only transferred to Marist from Cliffside Park in November of 2011 and had to sit out half of last season before he became eligible to play.
“He now fits in well with the team,” Romano said. “The other kids realize he’s an excellent player and they all feed off each other. The team has great chemistry.”
It might have taken Suarez a while to get accustomed to playing Hudson County-style basketball and for him to realize that there isn’t a lot of room locally for a 6-foot-11 jump shooter.
“The way I tried to improve my game is simple,” Suarez said. “I knew I had to work on my inside game. That was my main goal over the summer, so when the regular season started, I could be more of a complete player. I could play down low and outside.”
“He’s really adapted to a lot of things,” Romano said. “He is now playing more inside, but he still has that sweet outside shot. He has an unbelievable skill set for someone his size. He can handle the ball. Every day, it seems like he comes up with something different. It’s great to watch.”
Romano knows that a lot of people can’t comprehend Suarez’s statistics.
“People see that and they don’t want to believe,” Romano said. “But they’re entirely accurate. He puts up a double-double every game.”
And lately, the “triple double,” meaning double digits in three statistical categories, is not uncommon. In fact, the “triple double” has almost become expected.
Romano knew that Suarez would have a breakout season this season.
“I think he’s right on point where I expected,” Romano said. “I expected him to do well. You could see flashes of what he could do last year. We’re asking Manny to score more inside this year and he’s doing it. When he gets on a roll and his shooting rhythm is so pretty, then he makes us very tough to beat. We can do so many things with him.”
Incredibly, Suarez doesn’t believe that he’s a special player.
“I always look at myself as an average player,” Suarez said. “No matter who I’m playing against, I just think of myself as a normal player. I don’t want to get myself intimidated.”
That is, as easily as 6-foot-11 players can get rattled by an opposing player.
Suarez was happy to get his college decision out of the way early, so he could concentrate on the Royal Knights’ fortunes this season.
“I was getting like four phone calls a day from coaches and that would be extremely stressful,” Suarez said. “It was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I sat down with my family and coaches and we all decided that Fordham was best for me.”
Suarez said that he has no idea how many blocked shots he has or how many points he has scored.
“Truthfully, I just go out there and give 100 percent and everything takes care of itself,” Suarez said. “I want us to win and that’s the most important thing.”
Romano believes that Suarez’s best days are ahead of him.
“He hasn’t reached his full potential yet,” Romano said. “His best basketball is ahead of him and that’s scary. He’s just a humble kid, a good team player. He’s sociable and down-to-earth. He has a good personality. He’s been a good kid to coach. With all the things he does, he puts us in a good position to win. Everything revolves around Manny. He’s showed a lot of calmness and poise throughout this season.”
And it’s safe to say that Suarez is happy he made the decision to transfer to Marist.
“I’m pretty happy I made the move,” Suarez said.
You can’t say the same for the players who got to taste a blocked shot Manny Suarez-style this season.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.