Carter McDaniels’ experience with his future home had been somewhat limited.
The Kentwood (Wash.) and Seattle Starz 2018 defenseman had already committed to play at the University of Utah, the newest member of the Division I family. He’d fallen in love with the campus on his visit, but he didn’t have much of an opportunity to check out the surrounding Salt Lake City area.
Last week’s Legends Western Invitational gave him the chance to do just that.
“Just seeing it for the first time, getting to drive around here is sick,” McDaniels said. “It’s beautiful. You’ve got all the mountains and so many things to do. I’m really excited.”
There’s a lot to be excited about the newest Western-most program in Division I lacrosse. A star-studded coaching staff leads the way with the likes of Brian Holman and 2017 MLL All-Stars in Adam Ghitelman, Marcus Holman and Will Manny serving as headliners. Salt Lake City lends itself well to outdoorsy types, and there’s a sense of intrigue and excitement with what a school with Utah’s resources can do on college lacrosse’s biggest stage.
“Being from the Northwest, I know it’s hard to get over to the East Coast to get a lot of looks to play at a high level, so being able to start something at Utah is exciting,” McDaniels said. “Having kids like me that are from the West Coast that can still ball out and play hard is something I’m excited for.”
McDaniels’ Starz team made it to the championship game before falling to Vegas Starz Elite by a goal, but he did have a chance to play in front of one of his future coaches as Utes assistant Tim McDermott was one of the college coaches on site. McDaniels, a 6-4, 190-pounder, has plenty for Utah to be excited about. He’s a tall, rangy pole who moves well and can throw some big checks, something that will undoubtedly endear him to Utah’s coaches and his teammates.
“I am a bigger guy, so one thing I have to work on is staying low,” McDaniels explained. “It was hard for me, but I attribute it to playing a lot of basketball and football. You’re doing a lot of movements – a lot of off-season footwork – and that helps.”
He’s excited to be part of a history-making group at Utah, too.
“I’ve seen a lot of the recruits, I’ve played with some of them,” McDaniels said. “I can guarantee that the coaching staff is going to want nothing less than a team that’s going to be able to compete at a really high level.”
Players Who Impressed at the Western Freak Show & Western Invitational
Lake Baker ’21, F/O, Bishop Gorman (Nev.) / Vegas Starz Elite
I said this last week when I wrote Baker up at the New Jersey Freak Show: I don’t want to be writing about 2021s this summer. That being said, this kid is not normal. He was dusting nearly everyone that he faced while playing against 2018s. The only thing that slowed him down a little was having to battle against bigger poles, but if that’s the only way to stop a kid three years younger, you’re doing alright. Baker’s got plenty of moves in his arsenal and does a great job of using his wings. According to one of his coaches, he’s sprouted four inches since the fall, and he looks older than your average 2021. He’s going to be one of the most highly-recruited face-off guys in the ’21 class.
Isaiah Blomgren ’18, M, Petaluma (Calif.) / 101 Lacrosse
Blomgren stood out immediately with his quick first step and shake that helped him separate from defenders. He can also face off, but the Mount St. Mary’s commit made his bones as a utility midfielder who excelled between the lines.
Will Carson ’18, D, Skyline (Wash.) / Seattle Starz
Carson looks the part of a Division I defenseman with excellent size and a terrific stick in traffic. He took a ton of face-offs for the Starz and was more than capable at the X, but he’s really fun to watch with the ball in his stick. He’s undaunted by pressure and caught the eye of a couple college coaches with his ability to vacuum up any ground ball.
Cole Daninger ’18, M, O’Dea (Wash.) / Seattle Starz
The Rutgers commit was hands down the most dominant player at the event. He did whatever he wanted and usually blew past guys with his explosive first step. He showed that he could score with either hand. Scratch that – he showed that he could score from almost anywhere in almost any way. Shots on the run, step downs, quick sticks, handling in tight. You name it, Daninger did it. He’s got athleticism in spades, plus he doesn’t back down from anyone. The Scarlet Knights got a good one.
Samuel Dracobly ’19, M, O’Dea (Wash.) / Seattle Starz
Between Daninger and Dracobly, defending O’Dea’s midfield in the spring has to be an absolute nightmare for their opponents. The Air Force commit played with both the ‘18s and ‘19s, and when he played with the older group, he was their second-best offensive player after Daninger. Equally comfortable dodging from up top and the wings, Dracobly was impossible for defenders to stick with, thanks to his agility and quickness. He even inverted a couple times and proved that it wasn’t a problem whatsoever, obliterating his defenders for goals. The future Falcon was absolutely dominant.
Ronan Gallagher ’19, M, Loyola (Calif.) / LA Heat
Gallagher isn’t the most explosive midfielder around, but once he gets going downhill, he does a phenomenal job of converting speed to power and isn’t a guy you want to be guarding. He can separate well enough with his speed once he does get going, but he’s at his best when he can just crank shots. Gallagher has a heavy shot that he places well and he’s got good range to go with it.
Paul Johnson ’18, A, Bellevue (Wash.) / Seattle Starz
If you went out to defend Johnson behind the cage, you did so fully understanding that there was a better chance than not of you leaving your ankles back there. The Army verbal was roasting defenders at X all tournament, and when he dodges, he keeps his head up and finds teammates for scoring opportunities. He’s also no slouch in the riding game, continuously making opponents work to clear the ball.
Will Kupiec ’19, LSM/D, Loyola (Calif.) / LA Heat
Kupiec stands out immediately with his good feet and ability to move, but you’ve also got to love his ability to battle for and come away with tough ground balls, particularly in front of the net. On ball, he’ll guard guys out to the parking lot by getting on their hands early and often and not allowing them to get comfortable.
Liam Montgomery ’18, M, Grant (Ore.) / MadLax Oregon
Montgomery also faces off, but he stood out during the Freak Show for his offensive game out of the midfield. He had an impressive snipe that went off the far pipe and in, and he’s also got some impressive shooting range. Montgomery is tough, athletic and fluid with little wasted motion. He also showed that he’s not afraid to dodge left to his off-hand to make plays.
Joey Quinn ’20, G, Palos Verdes (Calif.) / LA Heat
Quinn really stood out during the individual event, where he was nearly impossible to solve on low shots. He showed an ability to move well laterally to deny those low shots, and he made smart decisions and good passes with the ball in his stick.
Michael Shakerin ’19, M, Lake Oswego (Ore.) / Rhino
If you watched Rhino for more than two minutes, you noticed Shakerin. He’s impossible to miss, because he’s the guy making plays all over the field. He brings a strong work ethic to the table, and he’s also good off the ground. He had a pair of impressive goals not far apart from each other, one a high bouncer – they will go, kids – and a rollback where he pinged the far side pipe. His quickness and ability to keep his head on a swivel made him a strong feeding option, too.
Jonathan Stell ’18, M/FO, Seton Catholic (Wash.) / MadLax Oregon
Stell was extremely impressive at Monday’s Freak Show, then followed it up with a strong tournament for MadLax Oregon. He was one of the better face-off guys at both events, but he stood out because of the way that he runs. He’s a legitimate do-it-all midfielder who’s also good at face-offs. On one play, Stell made a sweet skip pass to the point man for an easy assist. A few sequences later, he caused a turnover on defense and led the play the other way. It was a good three-day stretch for him.
Bodi Sutherland ’20, LSM, Corner Canyon (Utah) / Utah LC
Sutherland is at his finest when he’s in transition. When he gets going, he covers a ton of ground in a hurry and he makes smart decisions with the ball. He made good feeds in transition on multiple occasions and also treated himself to a long-range snipe. He’s got the ability to turn his hips and run with just about anyone.
Connor Torrez ’18, M, Palo Verde (Nev.) / Vegas Starz Elite
Sometimes, you have moments where you see a play and immediately ask, “Who is that?!?!?” – Torrez had a clear in the championship game where he showed off a gear that nobody on the field could only dream about. He just absolutely roasted everyone that was trying to chase him and made them look like they were running in quicksand. He also showed that he’s got some offensive upside with a good shot on the run and some quick feet when dodging.
Lucas Wathen ’20, A, Seattle Prep (Wash.) / CitySide
Wathen flashed a great first step that he used to deftly create separation from defenders, but he also showed that he can handle the rock with aplomb in tight. On one play, he dodged hard to his left before almost running out of room, so he tucked in a quick righty shot five-hole for a goal. Wathen is adept at protecting his stick in small spaces, which helped him stand out at the event and also enabled him to be one of the top five scorers in the Washington private school league.
Easton Albert ’18, A, Brighton (Utah) / Utah LC
Colbey Alsop ’20, D, MadLax Oregon / Tualatin (Ore.)
Benjamin Bisquera ’19, M, Seton Catholic (Wash.) / Seattle Starz
Logan Bloedel ’18, F/O, MN Chill / Prior Lake (Minn.)
Avery Buote-Porter ’20, M, Bainbridge Island (Wash.) / Seattle Starz
Matthew Caldwell ’19, M/A, Chaos / Plano East (Texas)
Shane Dennin ’21, A, Groton School (Mass.) / Utah LC
Cole Flores ’18, M, 101 Lacrosse / McQueen (Calif.)
Dylan Gilliland ’18, A, Palo Verde (Nev.) / Vegas Starz Elite
Connor Hollison ’19, G, Park City (Utah) / 212
Trae Ika ’21, A, Loomis Chaffee (Conn.) / Utah LC
Luke Longley ’20, M, Palo Verde (Nev.) / Vegas Starz HS
Tristan McDonald ’18, M/FO, Rhino
Alexander Oximana ’20, G, CitySide / Bishop Blanchet (Wash.)
Tyler Ruch ’19, M, Seattle Starz / Sumner (Wash.)
Logan Soelberg ’19, M, LA Heat / Crespi Carmelite (Calif.) – Maryland
Grey Sunderland ’20, M/FO, Bellevue (Wash.) / Seattle Starz
Kyle Tarshis ’20, M, MadLax Oregon / Clackamas (Ore.)
Editor’s note: For more on Legends’ venture, check out Matt Chandik’s article from earlier this month. In addition, check out their website at LegendsLax.com.