Over the summer months, there was a huge sense of excitement and anticipation surrounding the Snyder High School boys’ basketball team.
After all, the Tigers were coming off a successful 2017-18 campaign, one that saw the team win 17 games and advance all the way to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group III semifinals, only to fall to eventual state champion Chatham on a 3-point heave at the buzzer.
And for all intents and purposes, the Tigers were set to return many of the key pieces from that championship-caliber squad.
But then, as fate would have it, disaster struck – long before the basketball itself was ever introduced for the coming season.
Two key players, DaeShawn Emanuel and Rockquan Richburg, were declared academically ineligible for the new season. Both Emanuel and Richburg were Hudson Reporter All-Area Third Team selections last year. The losses of those two players were crushing blows to the Tigers’ hopes and aspirations.
It left returning standout junior Corey Manning-Floyd to stand alone. Manning-Floyd was a Hudson Reporter All-Area Second Team honoree last season, averaging 17 points per game. With Emanuel, Richburg and Manning-Floyd all slated to return, the Tigers looked unbeatable. Now, they were going to be a one-man band.
“I was a little nervous, not knowing what to expect,” Manning-Floyd said. “We didn’t have DaeShawn and Rock. It was tough. I couldn’t let it bother me. I just said to myself, ‘Hey, it’s go time.’ I had to do it. I had to pick up my game and lead this team.”
Veteran Snyder head coach Shelton Gibbs had faith in the 6-foot-5 junior.
“I didn’t want to put too much pressure on him,” Gibbs said. “He’s still young and still learning the game. I just told him that he had to let the game come to him. He tends to rush things a little bit. He had to slow down, let the game come to him. If he did that, he could be a much better player.”
Before the season, Gibbs had a little heart-to-heart chat with Manning-Floyd.
“He told me that he thought I was going to have a good season,” Manning-Floyd said of his talk with his coach. “He told me that I had to trust the process.”
Manning-Floyd also had a discussion about basketball with his father, Corey Manning, a former standout player during his high school days.
“After every game, my father always told me that I needed to get more rebounds,” Manning-Floyd said. “If I get more rebounds, I’ll help the team win. Those talks changed my life around and opened my eyes. I knew that I had the ability to do much more.”
Since the season began last month, Manning-Floyd has been a man on a mission. He’s among the state’s leading scorers and has been contributing in many ways, helping the surprising Tigers get out to a 5-1 record in the early going.
Manning-Floyd is averaging 25.6 points and 9.2 rebounds per game after six games. He is also contributing defensively, averaging better than two blocked shots per contest.
Manning-Floyd had 29 points in a win over University Charter, had 27 points and 11 rebounds in a win over Columbia of South Orange/Maplewood, had 26 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots in a win over Hoboken and had 21 points, four rebounds and three blocked shots in a loss against state-ranked Trenton in the Skyline Classic Tournament held at Marist High School during the Christmas holidays.
For his efforts, Manning-Floyd has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Manning-Floyd said that the solid early start has given him a major shot in the arm.
“It really has given me a lot of confidence,” Manning-Floyd said. “It’s really helped me a lot, knowing that I can do all of this, that I can rebound, defend and score.”
Manning-Floyd said that he spent a lot of the summer playing top level AAU basketball, as well as playing with his Snyder teammates in assorted summer leagues.
“I play basketball all the time,” Manning-Floyd said. “I’m always at Audubon [Park, a courtyard within blocks of Snyder]. I knew that if I was going to be a better player, then I had to be there every night, keep working, keep grinding.”
Gibbs knew that he was going to have to rely on Manning-Floyd more this season.
“He’s playing good basketball for us,” Gibbs said. “He’s really the only experienced player we have on our roster. He just needs to make some minor adjustments and he’ll be fine. At this point, he has to do a lot for us and we’re asking a lot from him. But he’s trying to do what’s best for the team. So far, it’s working. We also need him to be more of a leader.”
Manning-Floyd decided to take the hyphenated name to honor both his father, Corey Manning and his mother Nicole Floyd.
“Ever since I was young, I’ve always been Corey Manning-Floyd,” Manning-Floyd said. “No one is going to forget that name.”
Hudson County fans have already remembered Manning-Floyd for being the player who hit the clutch shot to defeat Hudson Catholic two seasons ago. Now, with the performance this season, he’s making even more of a name for himself.
Manning-Floyd is also a solid candidate to play college basketball, as he maintains a 3.3 grade point average. He will take his Scholastic Aptitude Tests later this year.
“I want to play at the college level,” Manning-Floyd said. “Ever since fifth grade, I’ve dreamed about it. I want to be able to get a scholarship for my parents, my community and for Snyder.”
Manning-Floyd’s style of play is very similar to another former Snyder great, namely Roy “Pooh” Hairston, a key player on the Snyder team that won the overall NJSIAA Group III championship in 1990, the first Jersey City public school team to ever win a state championship. Hairston later played college basketball at Purdue University.
“It’s pretty close,” Gibbs said of the comparison between Manning-Floyd and Hairston. “Roy was something special. It’s pretty uncanny.”
“I’ve never met him, but I like that comparison,” Manning-Floyd said. “I take a lot of pride in it. I’m being humble. I don’t want to brag at all, but I like when people think I can be one of the better players in the county. I didn’t think we’d have the record we have right now. I think we’re all doing our job. I just have to live up to the reputation.” – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com