Mansell An Unassuming Star for Panthers

By B.J. Stuetz, Student Intern (Cheltenham High School)

At some point down the road it will hit him.
 
The success Robert Mansell has achieved at Cheltenham High School will likely not catch up to him until years after graduating. Looking back on his remarkable career, the senior standout will realize how highly he ranks among the Cheltenham greats, scoring over 1000 points in his four-year career.
 
But not now. It hasn’t hit him yet.
          
By the fourth year of his varsity career, Mansell had become one of the most dominant scorers in the American Conference. Averaging 20.1 points per game his senior year, he reached the 1,000-point plateau at Norristown on Jan. 19.
 
The game was stopped to honor his achievement, but it didn’t mean all that much to him at the time. Nor does it mean much to him now, even though his season ended after a first round loss in the District One AAAA Tournament to West Chester Rustin (53-41).
 
“I’m sure later on it’ll hit me, but right now it doesn’t mean that much,” says Mansell in regard to scoring 1,000 points, one of only seven Cheltenham Panthers to reach the mark.
 
But even now, he doesn’t want to dwell his successful career. He either reminisces about what could have been or plans for the future where he intends on playing at the collegiate level.
 
 The most telling remark Rob Mansell made in regard to scoring 1,000 points deals with his thinking that it may have finalized his career in a way. This makes sense not only because 1000 is such an outstanding number, but also because his brothers, Harris and Patrick Mansell, reached that mark at Cheltenham as well.
 
Graduating in 2005 and 2006, respectively, each of his older siblings had fantastic high school careers and both went on to play for Rider University. So even being in the same discussion as his brothers speaks to Robert’s talent level.

 “They taught me all the little angles of the game, little things that can help your team win,” he says in regard to his brothers.
 
Mansell cites all the years they spent playing around in the backyard as when he started to “develop the right tools to be successful.” But, his varsity career started years earlier, as an emergent freshman.
    
 Although Mansell’s coach, Brian Johnson, was impressed with Mansell when he first arrived as a freshman, he explains that Mansell was merely asked to come in and fulfill a role.
 
“The team wasn’t centered around him,” Johnson said.  “We never ran any plays for him.”
 
Mansell agrees.
 
“As a freshman, I was pretty much a role player and I wasn’t asked to do too much,” he said.
   
But Johnson acknowledged that with more talent came more responsibilities.
 
 “After I gained more experience, there were more responsibilities on me to make sure everyone was ready to play for every game,” Mansell said.
 
And with this in mind, expectations began to rise, not only in terms of scoring, but also in terms of being a leader for the Panthers.
 
Mansell credits his coach for helping him grow as a player, not only talent-wise, but also as a leader.
 
“He made it a point to me to be more vocal and be more of a leader,” Mansell said. “Soon I started to gain the respect of the younger guys.”
 
But more importantly, coach Johnson complimented Mansell’s ability to step up at times when his team needed him the most.
 
“It’s easy to be a leader when things are going well, but much more difficult to do so when things are going poorly,” the Panthers’ coach said. “Part of being a leader is having a voice and knowing when to use it.”   
           
Mansell is considering a short list of Division I colleges, including St. Bonaventure, Quinnipiac, Monmouth, Central Connecticut, and Rider.
 
Although it’s not his number one choice, he’s not counting Rider out because he has already developed a good relationship with the coaching staff due to his brothers playing there. Regardless of where he goes, he will all but certainly be following in his brothers’ footsteps in that he will be playing Division I basketball.
 
When asked how he feels Mansell’s game will translate to the collegiate level, Johnson has nothing but good things to say about him.
 
“He’s a scorer, he gets to the free throw line, and he doesn’t get rattled,” the Panthers’ coach said. “He’s (also) a solid defender and a really hard worker.”
 
Johnson pointed to his team’s first game of the season against Upper Dublin as a game that truly exemplified Mansell’s capabilities. After a shaky start and only nine points in the first half, Mansell came back in the second half with 21 points. He led his team to victory against a highly touted Cardinals squad and did so with the game on the line.
 
“He was patient, vocal, defended and rebounded well. He was a point guard, and we even posted him up a few times. Basically, he did everything,” praises Johnson. 
 
All in all, Mansell achieved many appraisable feats in his four-year career at Cheltenham.
 
Not only did he reach the 1,000-point mark, but he also averaged 7.3 rebounds per game his senior year. He broke the Cheltenham record for made free throws in a season and attained first team all-league honors twice. He was even invited to the All-Star Labor Classic, set to take place this spring, where the top ten suburban players will take on the top ten city players.
 
But even with all these achievements floating above his head, Robert Mansell never let them get into it. He asserts that even though the season is over, his success at Cheltenham High School hasn’t truly hit him yet. It probably won’t catch up to him for several years.
 
Nonetheless, from the outside looking in, it seems as though Mansell is easily one of the best players to ever graduate from Cheltenham. However, to him, his success was never a personal issue.      
 
“I never focused on being close to the top,” he said. “I just wanted to do what I could to make Cheltenham a better basketball team.”