2019 Standouts From The Inaugural NLF Futures Event AT IMG Academy

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Former Syracuse great John Zulberti (LB3) leads a lesson on wallball

The first ever National Lacrosse Federation Futures event took place this weekend at the beautiful campus of IMG Academy in Bradenton (Fla.), attracting the best 2019’s, 2020’s and 2021’s for a camp focused on the developmental side of things. While the NLF consists of six top clubs (Baltimore Crabs, Big 4 HHH, Laxachusetts, Leading Edge, LI Express and Team 91), there were tons of representatives from clubs all over the country. The lion’s share of the three days consisted of drills and instruction with the kids learning from an unbelievable list of current/former pro players, Division I assistants and club coaches. For year one, there was an outstanding talent level, attendance and smoothness to the NLF Futures event, making me think that this will be an event might be a high priority for top young talent to get better and get seen. 

Big names like Ryan Boyle, Kyle Hartzell, Adam Ghitelman, Scott Ratliff and Brian Spallina highlighted a loaded staff. In addition, coaches from UNC, Virginia, Syracuse Maryland, Hopkins, Georgetown, Harvard, Princeton, Cornell, Syracuse, Michigan, Loyola, Marquette, High Point, Hofstra, Binghamton, Boston University, High Point and St. Joseph’s  were on hand. Though a handful of hours were available for scrimmage play, college staffers were on hand to boost the instructional aspect, as I didn’t see a college coach take a single note all weekend.

For me, it was a phenomenal opportunity for me to get a look at how coachable players are through the drill and instructional portions. With that said, you could see the slight improvement with several players as they engaged in scrimmages on Sunday and Monday to complete the event. Below you’ll find a list of the players who impressed me most throughout the weekend. As always with any recruiting event, keep in mind that a name or two could be off due to a roster mixup.

Cade MacLeod, A/M, Roswell (Ga.) / Thunder
There’s been a noticeable emergence in talent from the Peach State. After seeing MacLeod more extensively this weekend, I’d consider MacLeod one of the next in line to get a ton of attention. An excellent head-up dodger, he was confident when heading to the cage, also throwing beautiful cross-crease passes and turning the corner for finishes with fearlessness.

Conor Zachar, M, Phillips Andover (Mass.) / Laxachusetts
Perhaps overshadowed in the fall by some of his committed teammates, Zachar thrived tremendously in an individual showcase setting and did so as much as any middie I saw at the event. Big (6’2, 180) and two-handed, his split dodge was particularly difficult for his smaller peers to stop, as he was able to get his hands free and send home goals from long range. In one game I caught, Zachar had a hat trick in the first half and finished with five goals.

Sean Donnelly, A/M, IMG Academy (Fla.) / CT Chargers, Patriot
Donnelly impressed me in a number of ways this weekend. To start, he possesses great size and is deceptively quick, both end-to-end and out of his dodge. Donnelly plays with a swagger and is able to make impressive and intelligent plays in a variety of ways: coming out of the box on occasion, off a rollback or with face and split dodges. Donnelly verballed to the Syracuse Orange between the event and this event’s release.

Sam Lutfi, A, Massapequa (N.Y.) / Team 91 
With a huge performance in the championship game, Lutfi raised his stock in a major way throughout the weekend with soft hands and superb play without the ball. The lefty was money within eight yards and played with a chip on his shoulder due to his lack of size, scrapping in the ride and putting his nose in the dirt going for GB’s. I feel like whatever school gets him will be getting a hard-working sleeper with a high IQ, quick release and great finishing ability.

Will Hurley, D, Manheim Township (Pa.) / Big 4 HHH
Injuries hampered his ability to be on the fall recruiting circuit, however the recent Michigan commit looks like one of the better players I’ve seen thus far. Armed with a great handle and a sturdy frame, Hurley was lights out when playing 1-on-1 defense but was also man conscious off-ball and a vocal leader for his team’s backline. His footwork and position play were on point, as Hurley didn’t try to throw too many checks. Looking forward to seeing where his game goes.

Kenny Brower, D, Kellenberg Memorial (N.Y.) / Team 91
It’s no surprise to hear that the lefty is getting heavy interest from several Top 20 schools. He uses both his stick and body impeccably, really getting into his man to constantly annoy them and hinder them from scoring chances. Brower is mean (he also plays football) but not overaggressive like so many defensemen his age. With the ball in his stick, he’s able to use his strength and athleticism in the clearing game. Will be a coup for whoever receives his commitment in the future.

Mason Fitzgerald, G, Cohasset (Mass.) / Laxachusetts
Fitzgerald was arguably the most impressive goalie that I saw this weekend. He possesses remarkably quick hands and saw shots well from a variety of planes, making a number of acrobatic low saves. He’s athletic out of the cage and hit on some excellent outlet passes to breaking middies. Considering the fact that his goalie coach is former UVA great Tillman Johnson, you have to imagine that he’ll only continue to get better.

Scott Bower, D, Episcopal Dallas (Tex.) / 3d, Texas Mustangs
One of the better defensemen in the class, Bower passes the eye test with impressive size, heavy checks and quick feet. What I appreciate the most about his game, however, is his ability to effectively cover attackmen of all sizes and skill sets. He doesn’t get himself into trouble by overplaying his man and throwing too many checks and then on top of that, helps tremendously in the clearing game and was also superb off-ball. Having committed to Virginia in early September, Bower is an awesome pickup for the Wahoos.

Mason Reale, A, Fairfield Prep (Conn.) / Eclipse
What stood out at first glance with Reale was how many scoring opportunities he was able to create by keeping his feet moving and cutting towards the ball. He displayed great hands and wrists in close, which helped when using fakes to beat keepers but also to get quality shots off in a hurry. Among things I liked about Reale’s game: his hitch move, overhand shot on the run and determination when trying to get the ball back.

Michael Roche, FO/M, St. John’s Prep (Mass.) / Laxachusetts
This kid is a bonafide workhorse, plain and simple. This weekend, I was able to see him get more reps at the face-off X, using his motor and toughness to get GB’s, staying on the field to play offense. He’s a force between the lines and on defense (I could see him playing SSDM for the Terps, where he committed in mid-December) and is also a middie who has the tendency to lower his shoulder and go through the defense.

Connor Devine, M, Haverford (Pa.) / Big 4 HHH
Though not overly athletic or powerful, Devine simply knew how to separate and get his hands free. Once he accomplished that feat, I was extremely impressed with his fundamentally sound shot on the run, which he displayed from both the left and right alleys. On top of that, Devine was unselfish and had particularly strong vision from up top. Having recently re-classed and transferred to one of the country’s lacrosse powerhouses, I’d expect to hear more about this kid going forward.

Christian Mule, A, Half Hollow Hills West (N.Y.) / Team 91
Mule has long established himself as one of the top attackmen in the entire Class of 2019 and showed off his blooming skill set down at IMG. What I love about his game is his body control, as he’s able to effortlessly get to the cage while also making it hard for his man to take the ball away. Beyond that, Mule is fearless as all hell when the ball is on the ground, continually coming up with extra possessions for his team. Currently deciding between schools like Duke (where his brother, Cam, is committed), Notre Dame and Michigan.

Liam Powderly, A, McDonogh (Md.) / Baltimore Crabs
I wrote up Powderly after the fall NLF event and continue to be impressed with what he brings to the table. While he doesn’t have any one quality that really wows you, he’s a confident and crafty carrier with awesome vision, tossing some pretty assists from X throughout the weekend to cutting teammates. In the championship game, he fed Lutfi to open up the scoring. Powderly also hustled in the riding game and made some nice invisible plays.

OTHERS WHO IMPRESSED
Peter Salit, M, Johns Creek (Ga.) / 3d
Michael Colpack, A, Episcopal Dallas / 3d
Cam Magalotti, M, Wilson West Lawn (Pa.) / Big 4 HHH
Chad Cannon, M, Salesianum (Del.) / Big 4 HHH
Carson Marano, G, Penn Charter (Pa.) / Big 4 HHH
Will Schiffenhaus, A, Montclair (N.J.) / Building Blocks
Cam Hollander, F/O, West Morris Central (N.J.) / Building Blocks
Will Burdette, D, St. Paul’s (Md.) / Crabs
Will Bou, F/O, Landon (Md.) / Crabs
Will Schinabeck, A, Shaker Heights (Oh.) / Force Storm
Mac Fotiades, G, St. Sebastian’s (Mass.) / Laxachusetts – MICHIGAN
Will Frisoli, LSM, St. Sebastian’s (Mass.) / Laxachusetts
Deven Varney, G, Roxbury Latin (Mass.) / Laxachusetts – PENN
Zack Pacheco, M, Marist (Ga.) / LB3
Pierce Jarck, LSM, Rumson Fair Haven (N.J.) / Leading Edge
Jack Ruddy, D, Hun School (N.J.) / Leading Edge
Will Mollihan, M, Ridgewood (N.J.) / Leading Edge
Quint Miniter, M, Collegiate (N.Y.) / LI Express
Matthew Olsen, D, Plainedge (N.Y.) / LI Express
Michael Herber, F/O, Smithtown East (N.Y.) / LI Outlaws
Brandon Gibson, LSM, St. Augustine (N.J.) / SouthShore
Justin Brown, M, Half Hollow Hills West (N.Y.) / Team 91
Angelo Petrakis, F/O, Massapequa (N.Y.) / Team 91
Gerald Filardi, LSM, Half Hollow Hills West (N.Y.) / Team 91 – PENN STATE
Cooper Higgins, M, Lovett (Ga.) / Thunder
Ryan Overbay, M, Lambert (Ga.) / Thunder
Nolan Chow, A, Loyola Academy (Ill.) / True

2020’s Can Ball…

As a journalist, it’s my job to keep up trends (rather can create them) and keep up with who the college coaches are watching. When I started my lacrosse writing career, I was following rising juniors, as those were the kids who were being highly recruited. Where we are now – you can read my December piece on the state of early recruiting here – it’s getting earlier and earlier every year, so much that it’s time to at least come up with a short list of the players that will be tearing it the recruiting circuit this summer. After all, the best 2020’s will be committing in the next six months, especially now that there’s been an 8th grade commit on the women’s side to Syracuse. Why not get an early look? As a whole, I was blown away by the skill level and IQ of the 2020’s, so here are a few to watch:

Isaac Tollino, M, Natick (Mass.) / Laxachusetts
Noah Evans, D, Penn Charter (Pa.) / Big 4 HHH
Xavier Arline, A, Shoreham-Wading River (N.Y.)
Cole Herbert, M, Boys’ Latin (Md.) / Crabs
William Spilman, A, Gilman (Md.) / Crabs
Jack Cerza, M, West Essex (N.J.) / Building Blocks
Brennan O’Neill, A, St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) / Team 91
James Ball, F/O, Garden City (N.Y.) / LI Express
Connor Cook, G, Chatham (N.J.) / Leading Edge
Murphy Mostellar, A, Lassiter (Ga.) / Thunder
Eric Malever, A, Woodward Academy (Ga.) / Thunder
Ben Hull, A, Kennesaw Mountain (Ga.) / LB3
Nicholas Cacao, D, Harborfields (N.Y.) / Team 91
Connor Farzone, G, Kellenberg Latin (N.Y.) / LI Express

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