By Chris Goldberg
TopLaxRecruits.com, Posted 10/14/13
A group of 52 invited high school boys’ lacrosse players from around the country and Canada competed Saturday through Monday in the Paul Rabil-Mark Millon Project 9.9 at St. Paul’s School (MD).
The players – most of who have committed to major Division I – were treated to elite status and received coaching from the likes of Rabil and Millon (event directors) as well as Patrick McCabe, Buddy Hoffman, Scott Rodgers, Ben Rubeor, Stephen Berger and Greg Bice and strength and conditioning coach Jay Dyer (Johns Hopkins).
The event was launched in 2012 as a way to improve player development by some of the world’s top players and coaches. This year’s event focused more on committed players in hopes of getting them prepared for the college game while providing intense skill-building to take back to their high school and club programs.
“One of the things they said is that every player wants to be great,” said Haverford School (PA) 2015 Grant Ament, a Penn State commit who was named by coaches as the No. 2-ranked attackman in the event. “They said the reason we were there is because they wanted to make a bridge to get us to that place.
“They said, ‘You can take the drills however you want. But if you want to get better, you better use them. This is the stuff we used to get where we are today.’
“I truly believe I did get better from playing against better guys and being criticized by top players in the world. It’s much easier to get criticized by top players in the world than any other coaches. You have to know they know what they are talking about.”
Landon School (MD) 2015 attackman Colton Rupp was named MVP of the Showcase Game on Monday. “I think I was taught little things that will really help me out going into the 2013/2014 season,” he said. “I also learned a lot about the mental part of the game and how I can practice the things they taught us all through out the year.
“The coaches stressed to us throughout the week that the little things are important in taking your game to the next level. There was great competition in the game, everyone out there wanted to be great and were giving great effort. The players were willing to work together on offense and make space for each other. There was some great ball movement and unselfish play as well.”
St. Ignatius Prep (CA) 2014 goalie Cyrus Scott, a Colgate commit, said the coaches used film to break down each player’s game so the best instruction could be provided.
“The film was a huge part of it,” said Scott, who helped his team win the West Catholic Athletic League championship and finish ninth in the final TopLaxRecruits.com Rankings. “As a goalie they broke down even little hitches in my game.
“The amount of lacrosse we played was amazing. We didn’t get just one or two sessions a day. These were entire days of lacrosse. We got so many reps and over three days they evaluated you and told you and showed you what you needed to work on.
“This definitely helps me a lot. Usually you don’t get that many tips and that type of criticism going into your senior year of high school.”
Scott, one of four from California, said instruction from former Notre Dame standout Rodgers was demanding.
“Coach Rodgers’ warmup drills were very helpful and they put the goalies through so many good competitions,” Scott said. “They made it fun to compete against each other.
“Coach Rodgers was intense. You could see he really loves the game and definitely cares about what you are doing. He pushes you to give the maximum effort.”
Salesianum School 2014 Freddy Freibott (Ohio State commit) was named the top-ranked defenseman. He said the intense scrutiny by the coaches can only help.
“It was a great experience; the coaches were so knowledgeable and they helped me with so many little parts of the game I hadn’t noticed before,” Freibott said. “They had video on you and in individual meetings showed you in slow motion the little things to improve your game.
“Then we got to play such great competition with top players from 16 states and Canada. I learned so much. It was probably the best weekend of lacrosse I ever experienced.”
Other top-ranked players included 2014 goalie Tyler Blaisdell of Thayer Academy (MA, committed to Princeton); 2014 midfielder Sam Bonafede of Chaminade (N.Y., Princeton) and 2014 attackman Kieran Byrnes of Garden City (N.Y., Villanova).
The schedule was packed – but the players loved it.
On Saturday they arrived and had individual drills and instruction by position before some 1-on-1s.
“It was high intensity,” said Ament, who attended the event last year. “Everyone was trying to make their mark. The defense was physical and the offense was so speedy. It was fun to watch; the competition was really amazing, you could feel it.
“The majority of the kids were committed and there were no college coaches. Paul (Rabil) said the event was made to help the players make their move into college a little bit smoother. It was a 3-day weekend of what life is going to be like.
“We did everything they (college players) do – from strength and conditioning to 1-on-1s, stick drills and different things.”
On Sunday the players got their first rankings by position. Ament said the coaches based the rankings on their adaptability and coachability.
“They wanted us to show we can change our game,” Ament said. “For example, you could tighten up your dodge and show you could adapt to the information while incorporating it in your game. They also wanted to see how you’d compete; that’s what matters at the next level.”
The players spent nearly 12 hours doing drills and receiving instruction on Sunday. For one stretch the coaches switched and attackmen coaches went to defense and defensive coaches taught the attack.
“That was probably my favorite part,” said Ament. “Obviously, the best way to beat your opponent is to know their weakness. This gave us all the tools; but it was also harder for us because the defense knew what we’d throw at them.
“It made the competition even higher and harder. It raised the intensity.”
Ament said the players spent 90 minutes doing shooting drills. He marveled at how Rabil never missed.
“It’s obvious the coaches did these drills,” Ament said. “Rabil and Millon don’t miss! They ping the corners, left and right.”
After a long period of strength and conditioning and 6-on-6 drills at Loyola, the players went back to the hotel for meetings with their coaches where their play was broken down inch-by-inch through videotape.
“They did video with IPads and showed us how we looked in slow motion,” Ament said. “They split the screen and showed how Mark Millon looked vs. how we looked.
“They compared us and broke down things and showed us what we can take out. It was really cool to see yourself in slow motion.
“You think you look good in the fast break. But when they slow it down, you can see all the flaws in your game. It’s tough to see that about yourself, but it’s great.”
Freibott said the experience and skills he gained will last.
“I am taking away from this a taste of what it will be like to play at the college level,” said Freibott,” whose team won the Delaware state title last year and finished 20th in the TopLaxRecxruits.com Rankings. “I can’t wait. Coming back to high school, I feel like it’s a totally different level. With the tips, it will make my game that much faster, that much better and that much smarter.”
“It was something I’ve never gone to before,” added Wissahickon 2014 midfielder Luke Gomez (Hofstra). “It helped me tremendously. It was the first event where it wasn’t all about a showcase; we weren’t trying to impress college coaches. We were trying to get our own game to the next level.”
Tim Hickey, a 2014 defenseman from Trinity (PA) who is committed to Holy Cross, said the event could push him to higher levels of play.
“It was definitely the best competition I’ve ever been against,” he said. “It was a pretty elite group of guys on the coaching staff and I received the best instruction I’ve ever had in my career.
“The coaches were very technical and they didn’t just tell us what to do; they showed us. They were very positive and upbeat and made it competitive and yet at everyone’s learning level. This prepares you for what the college experience is like. It was really intense.
“It was a really great experience and playing the best made me better; I hope I made them better.”