When I first started Recruiting Rundown in the fall of 2014, it was my goal to bring a level of recruiting coverage that was only seen in sports like football and basketball. In particular, there was always something that stood out about analysts naming five-star prospects. Numerical rankings are awesome, but how much of a difference is there between the No. 23 and No. 24 recruit? That’s where the ‘star’ system comes into play, something we’ve been doing for three years. Being named a five-star prospect means that you’re the cream of the crop, a player that has been consistently dominant during the past three years and that will likely translate well to the next level.
Though there’s considerable depth in this Class of 2018, especially on the offensive end, the 20 players detailed below clearly stand out above the rest. Over a dozen stalwarts not listed were considered for a fifth star, but I felt like it was better to let the year play out as they head to college a year from now. There’s a ton of strength in 21-50, which you’ll be able to check early next week as part of the Recruiting Rundown Top 100.
RR’s No. 1 Recruit
Joey Epstein, A, Landon (Md.) | Madlax | Johns Hopkins
To say that Epstein has lived up to the hype since committing to the Blue Jays weeks before he began high school would be a massive understatement. This year, all that he did was lead the Bears to a consensus No. 1 ranking with 75 goals and 48 assists, breaking the all-time program record for points set by eventual Tewaaraton winner Matt Ward. A physical dodger with a deceptive first step and outstanding vision, the Landon staff raves about his feel for the moment and work ethic, making him a tough cover with a killer instinct on game day. With former No. 1 attack recruit Shack Stanwick graduating after this spring, there’s little doubt that Epstein will be called on early to run the show at Homewood Field for years to come.
THE BEST OF THE REST
Will Bowen, D, Boston College (Mass.) | Laxachusetts | UNC
It wouldn’t be totally farfetched to say that Bowen — who stands 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds — is the most impressive defensive recruit in nearly a decade. Imposing and incredibly athletic considering his size (he’s received Division I football interest), Bowen covers attackmen to the point that they won’t go anywhere near him after the first quarter. Due to his thick frame and elite footwork, he’s able to shut down the small, shifty attackmen or the big guys, and he’s excellent with the ball in his stick. Bowen will serve as the crown jewel of Joe Breschi’s off-the-charts 2018 recruiting class.
Matt Brandau, A, Boys’ Latin (Md.) | Baltimore Crabs | Yale
Brandau’s ability to consistently make the right play sets him apart rather than his athleticism, taking a major step forward with 31 goals and 34 assists as an All-Metro first teamer. When it comes to Class of 2018 scorers this summer, he may have been the most consistent, averaging over four points a game at Inside Lacrosse’s Committed Academy. Smooth and intelligent, Brandau simply knows how to create offense against high-level talent, and Yale’s staff is expected to get the very most out of him.
Patrick Burkinshaw, G, Brunswick (Conn.) | Eclipse | UVA
The rangy netminder was a huge reason why the Bruins finished an incredibly daunting schedule with a 15-1 record, robbing opposing shooters left and right. He’s an outstanding stopper and is likely the best clearing goalie in several years, which will be essential in Lars Tiffany’s fast-paced system. His technique may need to be cleaned up a bit before he joins a highly competitive goalie competition in Charlottesville.
Quentin Buchman, M, Santa Margarita Catholic (Calif.) | West Coast Starz | Notre Dame
Arguably the most improved prospect this summer, Buchman turned in an 11-goal weekend (good for All-Tournament recognition) while repping the West at the Under Armour Underclass Games. The stocky 5’10, 185-pound midfielder explodes out of his dodge and absolutely brings it with his hands free, scoring eye-popping goals in a variety of ways throughout the course of June and July. Buchman, an Orange County native, put up 68 goals and 17 assists in the spring.
Brian Cameron, A, Bishop Guertin (N.H.) | NH Tomahawks | UNC
A 6-4, 200-pound lefty scorer, Cameron racked up an impressive 65 goals and 75 assists a year ago, following that up by leading the Under Armour event with 14 goals. Impressing with a strong Tomahawks 2018 squad over the years, the imposing dodger seldom has trouble turning the corner and putting the ball in the back of the net. He’s undoubtedly a volume shooter, so will need to tweak that before he enrolls at UNC, but projects well with some tweaks to his game.
Owen Caputo, M, Middle Creek (N.C.) | Team 91 | Duke
Caputo is everything that you’d expect from a coach’s son (his father is longtime Duke assistant Ron Caputo), leading the Mustangs to an undefeated state title run while mostly playing attack. He projects as a two-way middie in college though, where he’s expected to show off his high IQ, between the lines play and dodging prowess up top. College evaluators adore his smarts and complete game, as he’s almost the type of player that you have to watch for several games to realize just how much he does.
Jeff Conner, M, Strath Haven (Pa.) | Mesa Fresh | Virginia
Another player who blew up completely, Conner turned heads by registering 69 goals and 62 assists, switching his commitment from St. Joseph’s in late May. He boasts excellent vision and a savvy shooting repertoire, showing off his offensive game and between the lines play with a strong campaign to help Philly to a title at Under Armour. Coaches rave about his first step and high IQ, so he’ll certainly bolster a great midfield class for UVA.
Isaiah Dawson, M, Bishop’s (Calif.) | Nation United, West Coast Starz, RC | Harvard
Although he wasn’t as dominant this year as he was in past summers, it’s hard to ignore the athleticism and overall upside that Dawson possesses. In fact, he’s really just scratching the surface as a lacrosse player, to the point that he’ll likely be a better college player than in high school, where he put up 33 goals and 11 assists this past spring. Dawson is super smooth as a midfield dodger, but will need to tighten up his consistency and motor before diving head first into the Ivy League.
Evan Egan, D, Torrey Pines (Calif.) | West Coast Starz | UNC
Standing 6’2 and 200 pounds, Egan made waves by earning All-Tournament honors the last two years at UA Underclass, which essentially tells you everything that you need to know. He’s effectively blanketed some of the best scorers out there, improving his off-ball work exponentially and clearing the ball a ton to create offense for his team. There’s such a presence and versatility to him, so it’s easy to feel that he’ll turn into a force in the ACC with more coaching.
BJ Farrare, M/LSM/D, McDonogh (Md.) | Baltimore Crabs | Loyola
Look no further for the “X-factor” recruit in the Class of 2018. Though he may lack ideal size, he’s blazing fast, incredibly versatile and relentless, constantly going back and forth between using a shortstick and longpole depending on the situation. A top football player in the MIAA in addition to being a premier cover man and playmaker in lacrosse, Farrare is a rather polished cover man who likely projects as either a SSDM or LSM at the next level.
Jacob Kelly, A, Calvert Hall (Md.) | FCA Maryland | UNC
It was a banner year for Kelly, who led the Cardinals to the coveted MIAA title and picked up All-Metro Player of the Year honors with 47 goals and 44 assists. An incredibly savvy lefty who has all of the qualities that you’d want in a quarterback, Kelly’s able to see plays before they happen and outsmart opposing defenses with regularity. He’ll need to commit himself to the weight room to prepare for the athlete-heavy ACC, but he’s such a smart system player that it may not matter much.
Kyle Long, A/M, Springfield-Delco (Pa.) | Duke’s LC | Maryland
A feed-first player, Long has totaled 318 points in three seasons (with two state titles), tallying 109 assists to go with 27 goals this past year. He presents a mismatch with his vision up top, and probably projects at the midfield for the Terps, but flourished this summer at attack. Long was named MVP at Under Armour, breaking people down as Philly’s field general.
Brett Makar, LSM/D, Yorktown (N.Y.) | Yorktown Ballers | Maryland
Different from the others in that he doesn’t play club ball, Makar dazzled for the Huskers in the spring, finishing with a whopping 52 caused turnovers despite missing five games to injury. Reminiscent of newly minted Terps assistant coach Jesse Bernhardt, the senior is a tenacious and highly athletic pest with a strong football background, able to dominate from either spot on defense. He’s from one of the country’s most lacrosse-crazy towns, so he’s received exceptional coaching and plays tough competition day in and day out.
Ricky Miezan, M, Episcopal (Va.) | Madlax | UNC
Spending much of the summer on the football camp circuit, there was some uncertainty surrounding Miezan’s future as he received offers from Power 5 programs like Michigan State and Wisconsin back in the spring. However, Carolina is expected to lock him down to play both sports at the moment. When he’s on the lacrosse field, there are a million buzz words to describe his freakish athleticism and size. As you can imagine, he’s hard to stop, picking up 2nd team All-Met honors in the spring and making a select few stops on the summer trail.
Cade Saustad, LSM/D, Highland Park (Tex.) | Texas Mustangs | UVA
Somewhere around 6’5 and 190 pounds, the rangy Dallas product is rather difficult to get around, on top of being particularly polished as a cover man for a non-hotbed recruit. An All-American this past year, he also made an impact in the Scots’ run to a coveted Texas state championship in football as a wide receiver. On the lacrosse field, he presses out and makes plays, demonstrating superb stick work that will allow him to flourish in the Wahoos’ transition game when the time comes.
Jack Simmons, M, McDonogh (Md.) | Baltimore Crabs | UVA
Switching from Georgetown to Virginia over the summer, Simmons might be the best pure shooter in the entire class. In his second year as a starter, the high IQ lefty totaled 38 goals and 10 assists for the Eagles, rolling over that momentum into the summer with a number of impressive performances. He’s turned into a force coming down the alleys and has continued to work on his off-hand, and will be even better with another spring against MIAA competition.
Wilson Stephenson, LSM/D, Brunswick (Conn.) | Prime Time | Duke
The type of defenseman that takes your arms off, Stephenson showcases a hockey background that is more than apparent, effortlessly scooping tough groundballs and showing off an unmatched mean streak. He’s a brute around GLE and has won some big time matchups against the top attackmen in New England, even putting the ball in the back of the net from time to time.
Griffin Westlin, A/M, Seton Hall Prep (N.J.) | Leading Edge | Notre Dame
A crafty player who plays with a ton of confidence, Westlin can make offense happen in a number of ways, whether he’s thriving in a pairs offense, tossing a no-look pass to the crease or hammering a shot into the top corner from long range. He played a ridiculous amount of lacrosse, so he tended to disappear every now and then, though few players have a more impressive body of work. Put up 55 goals and 47 assists for the Pirates.
Evan Zinn, M, Staples (Conn.) | Express North | Johns Hopkins
It was a breakout summer for Zinn, a lethal shooter who nearly looks Big 10 ready with his 6’3, 190-pound frame. Though he struggled at Under Armour, he lit it up just about everywhere else, demanding attention from opposing longpoles because of his range and prowess at the top of the box. Zinn glides down the alley without much flash and has a cannon of an overhand shot, putting up 40 goals and 35 assists during the high school season. With another season of development under his belt, he’s expected to bolster the Blue Jays’ midfield, especially if he’s able to put on 10 to 20 more pounds.