This past week the East Coast Lacrosse Camp, a recruiting camp, was being held on the campus of Dartmouth Collegein beautiful Hanover, New Hampshire. Two hours north of Boston, Dartmouth hosts two four-day sessions of about 150 kids each. Divided randomly into eight teams, players get in about 10 games, a couple of clinics and an All-Star game, all in front of the full Dartmouth coaching staff. They’re looking to round out their 2012 commits as well as get a look at the up and comers for 2013.
Other coaches from academic schools flock here as well, knowing that they’re fishing for castoffs in a pond stocked with 3.9’s and 2100 SATs. Tufts, Middlebury, Swarthmore, Haverford, Williams, Amherst, and Holy Cross are just a few of the big-time NCAA lax names walking around with clipboards.
Games take place on fields with all kinds of playing surfaces – grass, Astroturf and Field Turf, offering the full range of bounce shot experiences. Plus you get to schlep three sets of shoes to the fields every morning! The stately dorms, dating back to 1770, are a long hike from the fields but the walk limbers up the tired muscles each morning so the campers have no excuses for a slow start.
Game play the first day is characteristically ragged as no one knows each other well enough to trust a pass or a slide. Each team quickly organizes itself into the “haves” and “have-nots” skill-wise. The “haves” dominate first day play as teamwork is scarce. But the heat and humidity move in for the afternoon session and suddenly passing becomes en vogue and coast to coast dodging becomes passé.
Players attend ECLC from all points of the lacrosse compass. There are helmets from familiar high school and club teams. New England is obviously heavily represented but I ran into Long island, Syracuse and Philly area boys as well. The Left Coast had a little lighter representation, but there were a few Northwest players and a couple of California boys at the camp as well.
While Coach Andy Towers and his staff have the Dartmouth program on the upswing, it is still the Ivy League. Plus they lack the history of success that Cornell or Princeton brings to the lacrosse table. So it’s probably fair to say that the prospects at this camp are a notch or two below what Hopkins or Maryland attract to their camps. But the talent is solid, and there are plenty of athletes just begging to be turned into the next Kyle Harrison.
The most common question point in the stands was how the talent here stacks up against what we see in the West. It looks to me that the top 10-15 players in any of the Western states would have no problem stacking up with the top 10-15 players at this camp. But no one out West could field 150 players with this much skill, talent, or lacrosse knowledge from top to bottom.
In the obligatory name-dropping vein, there were a few kids that caught the eye. Mark BoyIan, a long stick from Long Island, played some nice LSM with good hands and nice field presence. Xander Buttress, a sneaky attackman (Brooks School, NH), always seemed to deliver the extra pass that created a simple shot for a teammate. From the West Coast, Austin Boyd (Bellevue, WA) and Zach Goodman (The Chadwick School, L.A.) were as good in the cage as anyone in camp. TJ Blackburn, (Mercer Island,WA) is a ripped defenseman who is drawing some attention despite playing with some much weaker teammates. And attackman Andrew Dalk, from Oregon state champ Lincoln High, was finding his way to the net just fine.
Later in the camp, the heat and humidity REALLY roll in and the trainers cancel the afternoon games, waiting for the temperature to break for the evening session. Kids sit around, laughing, mugging and posing. Suddenly you are struck by the memory that even though lacrosse recruiting has turned into a meat market environment, these kids play this game because it is fun and they love it. Hopefully, down the road, some of them will even be loving it at Dartmouth!