Establishing itself as one of the best winter events after last year, the National Lacrosse Federation once again held Year 2 on the unbelievable campus down at IMG Academy an hour away from Tampa. With the US team scrimmaging Notre Dame on Saturday, the schedule worked out impeccably for all in attendance. The three-day event provided value as a way to escape the winter for 80 degree temperatures, receive one final live look from recruiters on hand and get coached up by a staff absolutely loaded with former college All-Americans.
I arrived midway through Saturday (which was exclusively instruction and drills) and spent some time watching the attack breakout sessions. As the staff was introduced, you heard names like Mark Millon, John Zulberti, Liam Banks and Ryan Boyle plus top assistants from Duke and Denver. At other positions, there were iconic names like Doug Shanahan, Greg Gurenlian, Scotty Rodgers, Sal LoCascio, Ric Beardsley, Kyle Sweeney and Brian Spallina, among others.
Wrapping up recruiting event coverage until after Memorial Day coverage, below you’ll find a look at who caught my eye. After highlighting a handful of the top freshmen, you’ll notice there’s an early watchlist of sorts for the Class of 2021 – yes, 8th grade. Last year’s event was the first time I evaluated that grade so early, and there were a ton of college coaches there who would accept commitments from players mentioned here on RR in the coming months. This year I spent 90% of the event watching 2020’s but caught enough of Monday’s 2021 playoff action to mention names of just over a dozen names to watch going forward.
Drew Elder ’20, F/O, Baltimore Crabs / IMG Academy (Fla.)
It wouldn’t be farfetched to make the argument that Elder – a North Carolina native committed to Hofstra – was the most dominant recruit at the event. Though he really just had one move, Elder made it look downright easy at times while pushing the ball forward with relative ease. He’s bulked up considerably and has outstanding hand speed, making it hard for opponents to keep up with and pushing his squad to a championship.
Daniel LePino ’20, G, Team 91 / Trinity-Pawling (N.Y.)
A lefty who matriculated from Texas to Nic Bell’s Founders League program, LePino drew a lot of buzz from goalie coaches through the drilling portion before backing it up during game play as the event’s top keeper. Gobbling up shots from all release points and distances, he made clean saves with outstanding hands, then getting the ball out accurately to trigger transition. The position is one where if you’re a top college program, you probably would prefer to wait until rising sophomore summer to take a commitment, so based on his talent it wouldn’t be a shock to see LePino go off the board in the next six months.
Bradley Rider ’20, A, Eclipse / Valley Regional (Conn.)
Rider wasn’t off the charts in any one area of his game, just really solid across the board throughout the whole weekend in helping the Cannons to a camp title. The lefty had a wicked face dodge matched with a big, lanky figure that made him a prime target within eight yards of the cage. I liked how his feet were always moving and that he was proficient in the two-man game, finishing the lion’s share of his scoring opportunities.
Graham Blake ’20, A, LB3 National / Marin Catholic (Calif.)
Blake’s quick first step and change of direction were attributes that were not only used with regularity, but more than made up for his lack of size. Pairing his quicks with outstanding hands, Blake had a plethora of moves to stymie defensemen and netminders alike, making the island his office throughout the weekend. Attack was the most loaded position at the event and the recruit from NorCal was right there in the top group as one of the most consistently impressive.
Billy Spilman ’20, A, Baltimore Crabs / Gilman (Md.)
Spilman probably had the strongest reputation of the uncommitted players coming into the weekend showcase, putting together another great couple days. He stands out because of his size, shooting range and IQ, constantly moving without the ball to generate quality shots, also doing a great job drawing the slide and dishing off to teammates. Spilman rode his tail off, got to the ‘dirt’ on his dodges and played with confidence and poise when the games were right.
Henry Watson ’20, D, Cowboys / Episcopal Dallas (Tex.)
Part of a strong 2020 class in the Lone Star State, Watson jumped off the page as a rangy (6’2, 180 or so) and athletic prospect who had a fundamentally sound approach and awesome footwork. He was physical as an cover man but not overly aggressive, attacking ball carriers but also playing particularly great off-ball defense to pave the way for the event’s runner-up squad.
Christopher Bardak ’20, LSM, Team 91 / Rocky Point (N.Y.)
Bardak was a player who, despite being somewhere in the ballpark of five-feet tall, blew coaches and evaluators away with his tenacity, motor and playmaking ability. Good for at least an interception or two per game, his stick was active in the passing lanes and he was great off the ground, as his team relied on him a good bit for a defense-to-offense spark. It’s a given that Bardak will need to grow in order to get the looks he deserves, but as the cliche goes, don’t judge a book by its cover.
OTHERS WHO DESERVE A MENTION
Michael Mauricio, A, Eclipse / Brunswick (Conn.)
Jack Loftus, M, Cowboys / Episcopal Dallas (Tex.)
Noah Evans, D, NXT / Penn Charter (Pa.)
Owen Boss, A, Laxachusetts / Worcester Academy (Mass.)
Carter Rice, M, Laxachusetts / Milton Academy (Mass.)
Hugh Kelleher, M, True Blue / MacArthur (N.Y.)
Ryan Lancaster, M, Baltimore Crabs / Loyola Blakefield (Md.)
Ian Schermerhorn, LSM, Laxachusetts / La Salle Academy (R.I.)
Mac MacLean, A, CT Chargers, LI Sting / IMG Academy (Fla.)
Nicholas Caccamo, D, Team 91 / Harborfields (N.Y.)
Hudson Thomson, A, Edge / St. Michael’s (Ont.) – Marquette
2021’s To Watch
Andrew McAdorey, A/M/FO, Team 91 (N.Y.)
Leo Johnson, A, Eclipse (Conn.)
Aidan Mulholland, M, Igloo (N.Y.)
Tyler Gatz, M, Team 91 (N.Y.)
Aidan Kenley, M, Resolute (Oh.)
Tyler Guzik, G, Big 4 HHH (Pa.)
AJ Volkmann, LSM/D, Team 91 (N.Y.)
Ben Bonafede, M, LI Express (N.Y.)
Cole Glazzard, A, Laxachusetts (Mass.)
Trey Saucus, A, Patriot (N.J.)
Aidan McCaffrey, D, Team 91 (N.Y.)
AJ Hernandez, D, Baltimore Crabs (Md.)
Reed Landin, M, Texas Mustangs (Tex.)
Will Shipley, M, Team Carolina (N.C.)