In the hallways and in the locker room at Mount St. Michael, Omari Manhertz doesn’t say much.
But on the basketball court? That’s a different story.
“He doesn’t add much to a conversation in the locker room, walking through the halls, in class, in the cafeteria,” Mount coach Tom Fraher said. “He’s just that imposing figure where the kids know, hey that’s Omari, he’s a great kid, but I’m not messing with him.”
There’s three players on the Mount roster who average more points than Manhertz, who scores 8.3 points per game, but the 6-foot-4 senior forward’s contributions go beyond points and rebounds.
The undersized post is the X-factor for the Mountaineers, who play Christ the King in the CHSAA Class AA intersectional quarterfinals Sunday at Fordham’s Rose Hill Gym.
“I realize when you dunk, it changes the whole momentum of the game,” Manhertz said. “That’s what I go out there to do. It’s a game-changer and I help my team out by doing that.”
And there might not be anyone in New York City who does that better than Manhertz, who has thrown the ball down in a variety of ways – off alley-oops, putbacks and drives to the basket.
On a list that would include Leroy Fludd of Boys & Girls, Christ the King’s Omar Calhoun, Steven Gomez of Wings Academy and Nazareth’s Samson Usilo, Mount point guard Malik Gill would put Manhertz at the top.
“He’s 6-foot-4, right? He jumps high, he’s so strong and he’s so beastly,” Gill said. “I had no idea he could do this. Last year he wasn’t doing all that. The first game he did that, I said it’s going to be a long season for our opponents.”
Manhertz’s contributions on the defensive end have been equally impressive.
“When he does those monster blocks off the backboard, not only does he put fear in the other team’s heart, but usually he hits it off the backboard so hard, it starts a fast break for us and we get layups off it,” Gill said.
Those are the same attributes his older brother Chris had as a standout at Cardinal Spellman. He was only the fourth player at Spellman to score 1,000 career points and he just completed his sophomore year at Canisius College.
The biggest difference between the two? Two inches.
“I really believe if he was 6-foot-6 or 6-foot-7, we’d have many, many major Division I schools in here looking at him,” Fraher said. “But he’s not. He gets the maximum out of his ability, he’s a terrific athlete, he jumps through the roof. We wouldn’t be where we are without Omari Manhertz.”
Manhertz also brings that motor on the gridiron. As a hard-hitting linebacker, Manhertz had 44 tackles and six sacks this year, earning first team all-city defensive honors by MSG Varsity.
Mount football coach Mario Valentini encouraged Manhertz to try football three years ago – he never played the sport before high school – and then called him up to varsity as a sophomore.
“I think he has a tremendous upside,” Valentini said. “I don’t think he’s hit a quarter of his potential yet. He’s still learning the game. I think some people missed the boat on him.”
Manhertz would love to play both sports in college, but knows that opportunity is rare. He said he probably prefers basketball if he has to choose, but his favorite thing to do athletically is actually on the gridiron.
“I like sacking the quarterback better,” Manhertz said. “It’s a big play that just changes the game right there. I like sacking quarterbacks, making tackles, making big plays.”
Manhertz already played his last football game at Mount and hopes to have a few more basketball games in his high school career. Four years, he said, went by quick, but he’ll graduate with a winning pedigree to go along with some highlight-film dunks and sacks.
“What I’ve done on the football field, on the court, we won some championships in basketball and football,” Manhertz said. “That’s what I leave behind.”
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