Hersey’s Annika Manthy was the fourth-leading scorer on a veteran-led team last season, so she wasn’t the center of attention.
She sure is that this season.
Manthy, a 6-foot-3 senior center who has committed to Richmond, often finds herself literally surrounded by opponents.
“Teams have been double- and triple-teaming her, sometimes quadruple-teaming her,” Hersey coach Courtney Ludois said. “Lake Zurich had all five on her at one point.
“She’s been doing a good job of either ‘I score quick’ or ‘I’ve got to get it out and trust my teammates.’”
That’s been a big adjustment for Manthy and the Huskies (20-8, 9-1), who have a new coach after Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Mary Fendley retired, a new system and a new starting lineup. Manthy is the lone returning starter after Hersey went 28-10, won the Mid-Suburban East title and finished fourth in Class 4A last season.
“It’s a completely different dynamic,” Manthy said. “But I think that when I was younger, I had a lot of mentors to look up to and a lot of great athletes too.
“That’s why, since this is a rebuilding year and we’re learning how things work with our coach, I’m giving as much as I can to the other players, especially Sadie Marks. She’s a freshman, and I really believe in her. So being that person for other people this year is a way I can push myself, and I’m leading by example in practice.”
During her first two varsity seasons, Manthy took a back seat to players like Katy Eidle, Meghan Mrowicki, Natalie Alesia and Kelsey Neary. Manthy is getting the chance to be the go-to scorer and unquestioned team leader.
“She’s always known, ever since preseason meetings, that she had to take on that bigger role,” Ludois said. “It’s hard as a senior to have everything changed because we’re completely new. We’re not doing anything the same. That’s a big change, and I think she’s taken that on really well. She’s doing everything that we need her to do.”
The Huskies were a guard-heavy team in recent years under Fendley. But Ludois, who played at Marquette, has changed the offense to feature Manthy, no matter where she might be on the floor.
“A lot of our stuff runs through Annika, and we’re trying to give her the ball. We’re trying to make sure she has every opportunity to score,” Ludois said. “Annika is a 6-3 post, but she’s got some guard skills, and she can shoot it a little bit.
“Her midrange jumper is money. She’s really worked hard at that and really honed that. She can take you off the dribble, and she’s going to have to do that next year because Richmond plays a five-out offense.”
Indeed, Manthy’s new role and the way Ludois has incorporated her into the new system will not only benefit the Huskies but also prepare Manthy for the college game.
“It’s a lot of pressure, and it’s definitely something that I’m not used to because all of the attention was on the guards last year,” Manthy said. “But it challenges me to create more for me and make me more college-ready. That’s when you have to rely on your teammates too.”
Manthy has done that. Through Feb. 2, she was leading Hersey in scoring with 13.5 points per game and was also averaging 7.0 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 1.1 assists.
“We actually won the Lake Zurich game by having my teammates score,” she noted. “Since all five were on me, I was kicking it out and having those assists for my teammates.”
Not all of Manthy’s teammates are new, but all are playing big roles on varsity for the first time.
“We have a lot of kids that were on the team last year but didn’t play big minutes,” Ludois said. “Annika and KiKi (Craft) a little bit are the only ones that played major minutes.
“So it’s been good to have at least an anchor, somebody who’s been there, been in the big moments, played in big games. She’s helping everybody else learn how to do that, so that’s been good to see.”
The Huskies have more than held their own, winning nine straight games through Feb. 3 and clinching the Mid-Suburban East title again.
Manthy can hold her own, too, in part because she has played AAU for the Wolverinas, and she might run into two of those teammates in the Atlantic 10. Barrington’s Molly O’Riordan is committed to Dayton, and St. Viator’s Mia Bergstrom is headed to Saint Louis.
“It’s going to be fun to play against them,” Manthy said. “I didn’t really get good until I started grinding in the gym every day, and joining my AAU team really pushed me.
“Being comfortable being uncomfortable was like the biggest thing for me, and playing with those really advanced athletes is making me have to get good really quickly and learn the skills.”
Matt Le Cren is a freelance reporter.