Call freshman recruiting whatever you want to call it – outrageous, unnerving, terrible, premature – there are plenty of opinions out there. In reality, it’s not as insane as it sounds.
As I’ve mentioned before, watch these kids for an entire fall and you’ll begin to understand why college coaches are taking the risk by scooping up kids who have yet to play a minute of high school ball. Though often lacking much size or muscle, they’re unbelievably polished for their age and have been coached extremely well on the club side.
In the past week, five 2018’s have made verbal commitments. Here’s a look at what they bring to the table.
Brady Keneally, D, St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) has verbally committed to Johns Hopkins. He’s a standout with Mike Chanenchuk’s Long Island Express, a team that fared well in the second weekend of November at the Big 4 Champions League in Philly. JHU head coach Dave Pietramala was in attendance and clearly came away impressed with the young defenseman’s skill set. It’s a good thing that the Jays jumped on him now considering that all of the other big boys in D1 were going after Keneally.
Brady Keneally, D, St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) / @ExpressLacrosse has committed to JHU. Fundamentally sound 1-on-1 and perfect for Petro’s defense.
— Ty Xanders (@tyxanders) November 14, 2014
Knowing that he’s at one of New York’s best lacrosse programs, Brady is a player who you have to feel good about taking so early. He clearly has a strong understanding of the game and that will likely grow with a few more years of coaching and development. In terms of size, his older brothers J.P. (Army ’08), Ryan (Stony Brook ’12) and Connor (Binghamton ’17) are all between 6’2 and 6’4, so it’s likely that Brady will fill out and gain a few inches.
He plays steady, fundamental defense and stays all over his opponent’s hands, frequently putting the ball on the ground, picking it up and getting it upfield. At Big 4, his assignment couldn’t get much going yet still tried to go at him at X, becoming so frustrated that they’d eventually stop and take their business elsewhere. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing how high Keneally is able to take his game over the next few springs against the tough competition that the St. A’s Friars throw on their schedule.
Luke Summers, M, Central Catholic (Pa.) has verbally committed to Michigan. Playing club for the vaunted Duke’s LC and Big 4 HHH, the left-handed Allentown native is a bonafide force from up top, using his tall 6’2 frame, IQ and off the charts athleticism to beat defenders. His shot on the run looks to be one of the best in the class, putting a ton of snap on his shots from all points on the field. It’s clear that Summers has spent hours upon hours working on his stick, as that’s another quality that makes him the player he is.
Because of how special of an athlete he is (also a wide receiver on the varsity football team, dabbling in basketball as well), Summers is able to be a significant contributor in the middle of the field. He can play shutdown D and gobble up contested GB’s when the ball is in his stick but just as important, when he has the rock he draws the double and can dish off great looks. Everybody was on the Duke’s Big 4 product: Ohio State, Virginia, Penn, Cornell, Penn State, Syracuse, you name it. John Paul’s Michigan Wolverines are getting an awesome kid (from what I hear from his coaches) and a player with a ton of upside.
Basil Aburn, A, Boys’ Latin (Md.) has verbally committed to Syracuse. After transferring from MIAA rival McDonogh and repeating his freshman year (summer highlights can be seen here), the righty finisher has appeared to look very comfortable with the Crabs 2018’s.
Confirmed that Boys’ Latin / @CrabsLacrosse 2018 attackman Basil Aburn committed to Syracuse last night. Excellent off-ball finisher.
— Ty Xanders (@tyxanders) November 20, 2014
Aburn is sneaky and great at finding holes in the defense, taking advantage of the high lacrosse IQ that many Baltimore lacrosse players get from growing up around parents and relatives who played the sport at the college level. On Sunday at the Famous Autumn Classic out in Bel Air, he accounted for a third of the Crabs’ goals in their 12-2 championship victory over the Breakers, including an absolute beauty of a shot to open the second half that hit the crossbar and went in. He has extremely quick hands and is money within five yards of the goal, where he uses his body to follow up on rebounds while also having an impact in the riding game to turn defense into offense.
It’s still a surprise to me that Syracuse has been going early, though it’s a smart move by them to take some of the best talent before the others do. The Orange now have three players committed in the ’18 class, two from a Prime Time (N.Y.) squad that I can see Aburn working well with, Griffin Gelinas and Matthew Magnan. It’s crazy early even just to think of this, but Gelinas is a COD dodger with vision at X who will garner attention and open things up for Aburn (who will sometimes be shortied) inside while Magnan’s shooting from the midfield will also demand a longpole. So far, John Desko has three accomplished freshmen on board who could all fill up the nets in the Carrier Dome when the time comes.
Michael Clibanoff, G, La Salle (Pa.) has verbally committed to Ohio State. Identical twin brother Matthew Clibanoff, A, La Salle (Pa.) has also verbally committed to Ohio State. Playing club for Billy McKinney and Eric Gregg’s Big 4 HHH and Ebe Helm’s renowned Duke’s Lacrosse Club, the Clib brothers had to have made Buckeye head coach Nick Myers quite happy with their commitment. They were getting looks from future Big 10 rivals Maryland and Penn State (though the Nittany Lions recently took a goalie), so that’s an added bonus in the whole package deal.
Michael has insanely quick hands in cage, boosting his squad with his leadership qualities and shot-stopping ability – he’s not big by any means but has superb technique and positioning. Clibanoff’s athleticism is exceptional and that’s often on display out of the cage, where he’s a tremendous asset in the clearing game like a Brett Queener or Adam Ghitelman. Longtime Big 4 coach Billy McKinney has said that he runs the ball over the midline more than any goalie he’s ever seen. That will be welcomed with open arms in Columbus, as the Buckeyes’ like to have a goalie who plays that style, knowing how recently graduated Greg Dutton played out of the crease for four years.
Matt Clibanoff is already an accomplished playmaker in big moments, putting up two goals in the second half of the Big 4 Champions League final to help beat Leading Edge, 6-5. He’s a strong carrier who turns the corner well, with an equal propensity for dodging to score or dodging to pass. I love the range that he has on his outside shot already, doing a nice job getting open on the right wing for time-and-room. He sees the field incredibly well and threads the needle with his passes with confidence, also bumping up to midfield when asked to do so.
I’m a big fan of both of these players, who join Malvern Prep (Pa.) attackman and Duke’s/Big 4 teammate Scottie White as OSU commits. All three have the chance to be successful as freshmen in their respective high school programs, so that’ll be fun to watch going forward.