NEW CASTLE —
It was love at first sight for Mark Manifrang.
The former Union High and Westminster College standout was hooked on basketball the first time he watched it in person as a sixth grader.
“When I first went to Union, I had never been to a basketball game,” he said. “They took a bunch of elementary kids up to play at halftime of a varsity game. That was the first time I’d been to a basketball game. Once I got into the gym and played in the game, that was it for me.”
ENTERING THE HALL
Manifrang’s love affair with basketball propelled the 1968 Union High graduate into the Lawrence County Historical Society Sports Hall of Fame. He will join 11 other inductees on May 4 when they enter the hall of fame during a ceremony at the New Englander.
“I was humbled by the fact that a lot of people that I’m friends with are in there,” said the 63-year-old Manifrang, who will celebrate his 40th wedding anniversary this summer with his wife, Nancy. “I felt honored, too. To be in the same company as them was humbling to me. I never looked at anything I did as being that great. It was just something I did.”
HOOK, LINE AND SINKER
Manifrang was a baseball junkie until that fateful night in sixth grade.
“I was all baseball up to that point,” he said. “I played little league. At that time, I was a big Yankees fan. After that night, I was sold. I couldn’t wait to play basketball for Union.”
The sport wasn’t overly kind to him at first.
Leon Calabrese, then the seventh-grade basketball coach, cut a skinny Manifrang from the team.
It never happened again.
“I took that and turned that into a positive,” Manifrang said. “I loved the game so much that I wasn’t going to let that stop me, so I just worked harder. I wanted to play so bad. I didn’t let it deter me from what I had to do.”
As a senior, Manifrang led the Scotties in scoring at 17.8 points a game and to an appearance in the WPIAL semifinals. He was an unanimous selection to the all-Section 20 team and was named its Most Valuable Player. He was named to the small school all-state third team.
“He was a great player,” former Union boys basketball coach Gary Trimble said. “I remember watching him play while I was a student in high school. I admired how he played. He played hard and played smart.”