Asking how Mikey Powell could be a better lacrosse player is kind of like asking how sliced bread could be improved, but we’ll go ahead and ask the question anyway, because it’s fun, and in the end, quite interesting. MP has played in the LXM PRO event in Philly, will play in their Vegas event this weekend, and (according to IL) he has also registered for the 2012 MLL player pool, which means we could see him back in the world’s only pro outdoor league as soon as this Summer.
From the highlight show he put on at Placid to some of the amazing plays he made in the last LXM event, it’s clear that Mike is still Mikey on a lot of levels, and that he can still do some of the ridiculous things he was known for back in college, even if he describes himself as “a little out of shape” and “rusty”. He wouldn’t have to change a single thing from where he is right now, and he could easily step right back in and play in the MLL. His name would guarantee him a spot on any roster, and his latent ability would ensure that he saw the field a lot.
But none of the Powell brothers have ever been the kind of guys who just wanted to be on the team, or get on the field. Casey and Ryan both tended to push the boundaries of the game, and their own game, at each level when they played. Both have played pro box lacrosse and been in and out of US Teams and MLL and NLL teams. Both brothers have also displayed an unbelievable longevity in their ability to stay at the top of the sport. But Mikey is different. He always was, and he always will be. We KNOW Ryan and Casey can be successful in the MLL. And that is part of what makes this topic so interesting… can Mikey get back to being Mikey within the structure of the MLL?
Ryan and Casey were, and are still today, unreal players. I’d give up a lot of things in life to be only half as good as either of them. But they also both gave the impression that if you were as dedicated as they were to being a great lacrosse player, you might actually be able to achieve that. They were workers and grinders like everyone else. They were just a lot better than most. Mikey may have tried to give off that impression, but personally, I never really bought it. Why? Because, like I said earlier, and will say time and time again, Mikey was different, and his approach to the game was different. He never seemed like a very vocal leader (whereas RP and CP were), and he never seemed like he really embraced all the attention he received with open arms. It seemed like it just sort of came to him, and for the most part he took it all in stride, and was the best player on the planet… he did it all like it was no big deal and just another day.
When MP took to the MLL though, something seemed to change. It didn’t seem like he was having as much fun anymore, and it didn’t seem like it came as naturally to him. Fitting in to the scene, whether he was in Baltimore or Boston, wasn’t the issue. He signed autographs, the fans loved him and he definitely did his part, but there was a spark missing. It wasn’t like it was back at Cuse or Carthage. I don’t know what it was, but something had changed. And somehow, Mikey was no longer Mikey. He had become just another Mike. He then proceeded to drop out of the MLL, focus on his music and art (some of which is excellent, by the way), and find a new direction in life.
And now it looks like he’s back to lax, and I really applaud him for taking that risk. It will be easy for people to say the music thing didn’t pan out, or that he’s coming back to something solely because he knows he can be popular, but I really think those are kind of cop out excuses as to why he’s returning. I think he’s just back because it seems like he has figured out how to enjoy the sport again and wants to give the pros another shot. It really could be that simple, and if it is, we could be in for something special.
Now that I’ve waxed semi-poetically about MP’s recent history with the game, I want to get in how MP can elevate his game and return to the legendary Mikey status we’d all like to see. In college, it didn’t matter who was covering him, because Mikey was going to the best fastest guy on the field. And while defensive players certainly hacked away at him, without a shot clock, MP could really operate with impunity and wait for the best chances to come his way. He could hold and carry the ball if need be, or he could go at you immediately. This element of surprise in the college game made him even more dangerous. The fact that he had TONS of talent all around him didn’t hurt either.
However, in the pro game the shot clock is a reality, so drawing a team out by lulling them into a false sense of security won’t work nearly as well. Defenders know they still have to press out but they are definitely able to do so in a more conservative manner because they simply know when a shot is coming with much more certainty. In the college game, it could be 2-5 minutes before a team took a shot. But in the Pros? You’ll see one in 60 seconds and that’s a guarantee. Teams are much better at preparing for dodge heavy offensive players, and defensive players also receive the added bonus of being able to get away with murder on the field. Add to these facts that teams barely practice together, and offensive chemistry can be hard to come by, and the MLL is very different from college.
For a player like MP, I believe this changes the game dramatically.
So how can Mikey overcome these changes and adapt to the MLL game while still enjoying himself? I actually think the answer is pretty simple, and it all pivots on Mikey rededicating to the game and more importantly, finding a great partner in crime on the field. I’m not worried about the dedication thing, because when a Powell is doing something, they’re all in. But the partner in crime? That could be a little tougher… Or could it?
Ironically enough, the first team to pick in the supplemental draft will be the Rochester Rattlers. It’s close to Mikey’s home area, which is great, but the REAL bonus opportunity is that Ned Crotty is already on the team. And Ned has proven he can carry both the ball and the offensive load in the MLL. What would this mean for Mikey? It would mean that off of Crotty’s dodge or carry, things could get back to the way they were for MP in college a little bit more. Defensive players will still be drawn to Crotty like glue (at least if they’re smart) and he can pass with the best of them, which means MP would get the ball in semi-unsettled situations A LOT. And this is where he can really thrive… when you just don’t know what he’s going to do.
In Baltimore and Boston, MP was supposed to be the guy who dodged hard with speed. Sure, he was surrounded by great players like Gait and Maracheck and Woodson, but each time, he was THE guy who had to go to the cage, draw and them dump. He became more predictable. And with a shot clock, and the other team paying super close attention to you, that wasn’t always realistic. Basically, on each of those teams it seems like he was set up for failure to a certain extent, and that might be a good explanation of why he didn’t seem like he was enjoying himself nearly as much. I remember thinking that he couldn’t just “be Mikey” for the first time in his career, and I’m willing to bet that was frustrating for him.
Some of you out there may say the exact same thing is going to happen during this go around, but I think you’re wrong, at least if he’s paired with Crotty. Gait and Maracheck were getting older when MP was playing for the Bayhawks and were no longer able to dodge nearly as well, and MP was definitely seen as the initiating threat. In Boston, Woodson could definitely initiate, but he wasn’t the passer that MP needed to be playing alongside to see real success, and that’s why I think pairing him with Crotty could be the best possible option. The Rattlers would have TWO guys who could dodge, shoot, score, pass, carry and run the show at attack as opposed to just one… Not only would it allow MP to thrive, but the confusion and danger on O would also help Rochester (and Crotty) win a lot more games.
In college you can be “the man”, but I’ve yet to see a guy in the MLL truly take on this moniker consistently. Paul Rabil comes close at times, but in the years where Boston has been most successful, he has been surrounded by a TON of talent. The closest thing I’ve seen so far was Casey Powell on last year’s Nationals team, but even he had a lot of help from WELL-ROUNDED players who were able to share the load, like Walters and Boltus.
Basically, my theory boils down to this: In the past, people thought Mikey could just be Mikey and that the MLL would pose no serious challenge to him. What we found out was that it is MUCH harder to be “the guy” in the MLL, and that successful teams really need at least TWO guys who can share the load. The rule changes and lack of practice times are to blame for this. While Mikey certainly had some very talented teammates, they simply might not have been the rightones. If he gets picked up by Rochester, and decides to really play, I think we could see a return to the MP of old.
Some people will credit his return to him growing up, while others will say he’s coming back because the music thing didn’t pan out, but I think it was just about shaking off the frustration from the last go ’round, and not putting all the weight of expectation on his shoulders. He basically has a pretty clean start now.
MP was most successful at Cuse because even though he was “the guy”, other teams had to respect the rest of the squad, and this opened things up for him. If he can find a similar set up in the MLL, and Rochester may be that spot, then we may all be in for the second coming of Mikey, and wouldn’t that just be a treat?????
The other top option is that he plays with Casey and the Nationals, as Casey has all the tools that Crotty has and Hamilton has room for another offensive stud, but I just can’t see Rochester passing on MP with their top pick. Now we just have to wait and see what happens!