Now that recruiting has accelerated to the point that rising freshmen are making college decisions, it has become increasingly important for teaching to become a prevalent at the middle school level. With that said, the first ever National Lacrosse Federation Futures Showcase was a massive success, put on by Sean Morris and the Laxachusetts organization at the sprawling turf facilities in Taunton, Mass.
Participants in the classes of 2022 and 2019 were put through a gauntlet last week, receiving coaching from assistants in the ACC, Big 10 and Patriot League, club owners, current college players and all-time defensive greats like Ric Beardsley and Jack Reid. Coaches passionately led drills and instruction leading up to scrimmage play, which culminated in an All-Star Game and a playoff format to wrap things up.
The NLF was formed back in April, comprised of the Baltimore Crabs, Laxachusetts, Big 4, Long Island Express, Team 91 and Leading Edge – six of the most dominant club teams in existence. Going forward, the clubs plan to support each other’s events and run their own small boutique-style tournaments. For more info, check out their press release as well as the NLF’s website.
I honed in on the 2019 portion of last week’s event – here are the standouts:
From the beginning of drills, Cam Aksu (NXT LC, Pa.) and Christian Cechini (Leading Edge, N.J.) jumped off the page from the start, eventually working with each other impeccably in tandem to carry the scoring load for their team. Aksu scored four goals to kick off game play, demonstrating great comfort and finishing ability around the cage, often putting himself in the right spots to be successful and dodging with confidence. Cechini, a lefty who was strong with either hand, is an excellent playmaker with nice vision. Will Schiffenhaus (Building Blocks, N.J.) went off in the All-Star Game with a hat trick, using his big body to get within five yards for a shot opportunity or using deceptive quickness on a rollback and phenomenal quickness on his shot release. In terms of potential, Jak Wood (Laxachusetts, Mass.) seems to have a lot of it and is capable of becoming one of the best 2019 attackmen if he works on his overall consistency. He looks the part with an awesome shot on the run, a shifty and crafty dodging style at X as well as strong off-ball and riding play. Chris Kirschner (Leading Edge, N.J.) also impressed with his foot speed, shot accuracy and general lacrosse IQ.
MIDFIELD & FACE-OFF
Two of the most impressive midfielders I saw came from Billy McKinney’s Philly-based Big 4 program. Probably receiving as much recruiting attention as anybody in the camp, James Cipolla (Big 4 HHH, Pa.) is a blossoming young midfield prospect with lights out speed. His change of direction from up top is spectacular, allowing him to lose his man and get his hands free, hiding his stick behind his ear to give goalies fits trying to read his shots. Armed with a nasty split dodge, Cam Magalotti (Big 4 HHH, Pa.) is another polished outside shooter, often placing shots right over keepers’ shoulders. Both players consistently made the right plays and perhaps more impressively, played extremely unselfish lacrosse by deferring to their teammates whenever they could. Elsewhere, James Prendergist (Leading Edge, N.J.) turned in a really strong week as a fluid alley dodger that’s just starting to realize how good he is. He’s a smart player, knowing when to pull the ball out or when to push transition and go to the rack. He loved the hitch move to free up space for his shot. Henry Rentz (Laxachusetts) looks to have considerable upside, showing off more than adequate size and athleticism at this early stage and superb two-way play. He looked great in the All-Star Game, sweeping across the middle and unleashing a sizzling shot on the run. All week, he consistently scored, sometimes after acting as a one-man clear. Matt Heuston (NXT, Pa.) racked up goals at the event, proving that he’s bigger, faster and stronger than most of the kids in attendance. Really nice athlete that looks to be very well-coached based on his IQ.
The crop of face-off men at the camp was terrific, giving each guy a ton of challenging reps throughout the week. Conor Calderone (Laxachusetts, Mass.), who will apparently be transferring to Long Island’s Smithtown West, won the ball forward with regularity and was nowhere close to being a liability with it in his stick, making strong decisions or going to the rack himself. Coming from Garden State power Mountain Lakes, Matt Palazzi (STEPS, N.J.) often gave him trouble with super-quick hand speed, grittiness and the ability to slowly wear his opponents down. Nice athlete as well. Cam Hollander (Building Blocks, N.J.), a talented technician, was also excellent and demonstrated the ability to win face-offs three or four in a row (all right in front of him) to give his team the ball. The other two face-off guys – Angelo Petrakis (Team 91, N.Y.) and John Giuliani (Big 4 HHH, Pa.) were also highly successful, making for a really competitive week in the middle of the field.
LSM, DEFENSE & GOALIE
College recruiters will be flocking to Laxachusetts 2019 games over the next few years to check out LSMs Will Frisoli and Dylan Gardner, who attend St. Sebastian’s and Xaverian Brothers, respectively. Gardner looks the part already, standing somewhere around 5’11 and roaming the field with a relentless motor, a ton of athleticism, heavy checks and offensive skills in transition. On top of that, he’s the son of a coach (his father is XB’s head coach, Tim Gardner), which adds value in itself. Frisoli is another familiar name, as he’s the younger brother of Harvard midfield commit Jack, ranked No. 22 in the 2017 class. Perhaps the best athlete in the camp, this rising freshman has all sorts of upside and was all over the place creating turnovers and getting the ball upfield. On the goalie side, fellow St. Seb’s product Mac Fotiades (Laxachusetts, Mass.) was by far the best netminder at the event, ending his week by stopping an unofficial seven shots in the first half of the All-Star Game. He’s bigger than most kids his age, does an awesome job communicating to his D guys and doesn’t drop his hands like many young keepers tend to do. Loved his play out of the cage, as Fotiades was constantly running out shots or doing the clearing all by himself.
Moving down to close defense, this was a position that seemed to need the most coaching and also a group that could look entirely different a year from now. Cam Keough (Laxachusetts, Mass.) seemed remarkably polished already, staying with and annoying his man at all times while looking fundamentally sound from a footwork and stick skills perspective. Though more on the raw side, Ricky Amorim (Big 4 HHH, Pa.) was a groundball vacuum, getting noticeably better and more physical as the week went on. If he works on his off-ball D and grows into his body over the next few seasons, I’d expect him to be getting a lot of recruiting attention when the time comes. Cole Biggins (Laxachusetts, Mass.) stood out from the get go with his assertiveness and execution of defensive fundamentals in drills. In game play, he was a phenomenal general, communicating to his teammates and keeping his head on a swivel at all times when covering his man 1-on-1.