Billy O’Neill isn’t flashy.
The Class of 2022 attackman out of Dalton, Massachusetts, isn’t focused on the latest and greatest lacrosse gear hitting the market. He’s happy as long as he knows his equipment.
“I like to be comfortable and consistent,” he said.
This isn’t revolutionary in lacrosse. Plenty of players, young and old, don’t agonize over their look. But most of them aren’t the son of The Stringer’s Shack.
Billy’s father is the director of operations and marketing at The Stringer’s Shack, a longstanding mesh and stringing provider in the sport. Billy has access to a wide range of mesh options, and yet he doesn’t complicate things.
“I think people are a little surprised when it comes to the mesh aspect because of my dad’s business,” the player explained. “I keep it simple – just the same plain white mesh. My friends, they’ll go and get the newest heads and stuff, and I’m still using a normal STX Stallion or a Nike Lakota.”
Similarly, Billy O’Neill isn’t emphasizing hype or aesthetics in his college recruiting journey either. In a lacrosse program, he said he’s looking for somewhere with a “blue-collar, hardworking” style.
“He’s a show up and work hard kid,” said Bryan Brazill, O’Neill’s club lacrosse coach at HGR Lacrosse. “Physicality is probably going to play into his perception of the program, how much they lay the body. But more than anything, he wants teammates who want to put in the work, and coaches who are going to make them on days they don’t want to.”
Physical play is at the core of his game, O’Neill said, which is part of why box lacrosse has been such a large part of his development. He likes to play field, but box is his first love, and his ideal college program would be a field team in name only.
“Box lacrosse is really physical, and that’s how I’ve grown up learning how to play,” he said. “I’d like a school that runs a really good two-man game. I enjoy pick and rolls, having a game inside of a game.”
Box lacrosse has forced O’Neill to learn how to think in instants as the game restricts space, and therefore time, to react to events. For years when he was a kid, the player said, his family would take him on five-plus hour driving trips to Native American reservations for box lacrosse tournaments.
Those countless weekends helped hone his skills, and it makes a difference when he steps onto grass, he said.
“I gained the IQ aspect. I keep on talking about box and IQ, but they go hand-in-hand,” O’Neill said. “When you’re playing box, you really have to think throughout the entire game. It’s very fast paced, going up and down the field.”
Brazill noted how physicality plays a role in his player’s game. He also described O’Neill as capable of the spectacular.
“He plays a really simple and efficient game,” he explained. “But when things happen that are unexpected, he’s an excellent read-and-react player. You couple that with an absurd fundamentally strong skill set, and it makes for some great highlight reel plays. He can play within the chaos and succeed, because he’s so fundamentally strong.”
It’s not just about lacrosse when it comes to a college decision, though. O’Neill said he thinks he has his sights set on a specific field, and that will play a role in where he chooses to attend.
“I am looking for a college that excels academically and that is highly selective,” O’Neill said. “I intend to major in a subject that will support my hopeful health care career.”
O’Neill’s mother is a nurse, and it has inspired him to pursue a career in medicine.
“I was thinking something in a hospital, maybe a nurse,” he said. “My mom has brought me into the hospital before, and it’s really interesting. They see different things every day. You have to really use your mind to solve the problem and help people out.”
When Billy O’Neill is deciding on his four-year destination, where he can best help others in lacrosse and in life will be an important factor, he said.
“I care for others on and off the field,” he explained. “Being a good person, or being a good teammate, starts with being a good person. I like to see everyone else around me do well.”