Big Four Fall Champions League 2015: Sunday Takeaways
The Big Four Fall Champions League was held this past weekend on the campus of The Hill School, just on the northwest side of Philadelphia, Pa., where many of the top club programs assembled and played for two days in what was for the most part good fall weather conditions.
Just like we did on Saturday, we watched as much lacrosse as possible on Sunday, and tried to take as many notes as possible on what we were seeing. So this included looking at new players, some players who’ve already shined on the summer or fall circuit and anyone we happened to catch as we watched game after game. Below is a look at just a few of the 2017s and 2018s who stood out as we made our way around The Hill School Sunday afternoon.
Chase Scanlon, Midfield, SweetLax, 2018
Scanlon had an excellent showing Sunday as he continues to emerge on the recruiting scene. We’ve seen him in the past and his performance was similar to this one. He is a lean, athletic and skilled right-handed offensive player who has incredible stick skills that help him operate with deception, excellent stick protection and high-level shooting. In the one game we watched him register an easy hat trick, his first goal came as he ran onto the field, got the ball and, after sensing that he had enough room to do it, basically just mosied into the box and accelerated into a hard running bounce shot that skipped high into the net with velocity. It looked really easy. The next time he got the ball, he worked his way inside and very deliberately skipped a sidewinding shot, but it was turned away with a good stop; still, you had to like the shot choice again. Then he got the ball, backed into his defender about 12 yards out, and a strange scenario ensued, as Scanlon dangled the stick around, toyed with the defender, leading the player to bang into him. Scanlon wouldn’t be backed down, showing more strength than his thin frame suggests. He faked a flip pass, kept it, this went on for a stretch and then finally the defender slapped on him until the head detached from the handle. So as the long pole ran off the field, Scanlon took a few steps in and wound up for a shot that beat the goalie off the hip. Then he scored a couple minutes later on a flash down the middle, catching and shooting all in one motion on the run to show off his good speed. He is a talented, intriguing prospect who could become a well known name among the young up-and-coming Iroquois players. He was the lone player we saw at the event wearing a box helmet. He would go on to show well the next weekend at the Iroquois Nationals U-19 tryout in Western New York.
Jacob Drennan, Geneva (N.Y.)/SweetLax, 2018
Drennan had one of the best single-game performances we saw this fall, making a whole bunch of terrific, highlight-reel worthy saves against the Edge program on the second day of the Big Four event. Drennan has really likable size, standing a sturdy 5-11 and taking up a good amount of space. He made splits, made saves low, saves high, saves on bounce shots and saves on shots in close following fakes. It might have been one of the better performances I’ve seen out of a goalie on the recruiting trail. He really turned away a bunch of good shots and quickly regained his composure and positioning after each one, not getting caught up in the moment at all. One of the more memorable saves saw him split to get his stick out to his right to meet a shot destined for just inside the post – he was literally sprawled wide out. He can move from one side of the net to the other. Another save saw him barely budge as a player got free in front and threw fakes before shooting high – Drennan just saw it the whole way, snatched it and cleared the ball out. He made upward of ten to twelve saves in the game and there were others that had people applauding his efforts. He also came out on more than one occasion to go after a loose ball and get possession for his team. Drennan also showed some really smooth releases on passes up the field, putting some of the longer balls on the money. He looked like a really polished goaltender and there were several college coaches in attendance who were talking about how strong he looked in the cage. As a freshman starting in the goal for Geneva last season, Drennan made more saves than any other ninth grade keeper in the Rochester/Finger Lakes region(126).
Brendan Curry, Attack, Calvert Hall (Md.)/FCA, 2017 – Penn
Curry is a player who appears to have developed quite a bit over the last year. With a year of good varsity experience under his belt now, Curry looked more like a confident and multi-dimensional quarterback style attackman. He can keep his head up and really sling the ball when he moves it. He made some good passes, including a feed across in transition for a fast layup opportunity. You can see that other players around him want to get open for him and are looking to him to move the ball. Some of the best playmakers to come out of Calvert Hall in recent seasons all play at a high speed both with and without the ball, and in that offense, they have blossomed thanks to the constant movement and fast-paced ball movement. Curry is clearly a product of that now as a creator who plays fast and never stands still, always keeping his stick up and never holding it for more than a couple seconds. A player who is also maturing physically, he just looks faster and stronger than a year ago. Curry tore it up throughout the day before we set eyes on. We saw him add a goal on a hard shot from near the island that went right over the goalie’s shoulder.
Matt Moore, Midfield, Garnet Valley (Pa.)/Big Four HHH, 2017 – Virginia
Moore just continues to impress with his ability to dodge from the top of the box and to challenge the entire defense by demanding an immediate slide and then the skill to make a play off of it. He seems faster and stronger each time we see him and it makes him that much better. Each time he possessed the ball in the couple halves of Big Four action we caught it was a hard-driving, legging-chopping dodge down the hashmarks and he can pull back to move the ball or he can put a good shot on cage from mid-range and a little bit further out. He causes so much of a challenge for defenses that it creates the chance for teammates to step up around him but they need to see that’s going to happen each time he touches the ball. There are a lot of good players on the field when you’re watching the Big Four 2017 squad, and Matt Moore is clearly performing as good of any of them more often than not. His best play we witnessed must have been his no-look rope of a pass to set up one of his teammates for an easy goal on the EMO, where he always shines with his passes that he whips down to the posts.
Jackson McElheney, LSM/Defense, Birmingham (Mich.)/3d Michigan, 2017
McElheney had a bit of a breakout day at the Big Four event, showing himself to be a strong, athletic longstick who can move fast to stay all over the ball carrier and is powerful but controlled with his checks. More intriguing is that he was uncommitted as of the weekend we saw him. But matched against one of the most highly regarded midfielders at the event, McElheney got all over him, slapping the stick and knocking the ball to the turf before picking it up himself to clear the ball with heads-up pass to set his team up on offense. We watched him take it up a notch and play hard-nosed in his efforts to get groundballs in scrums or perilous situations along the sideline. He was everywhere, he was low to the ground and he was hard to budge when someone went at him. His endurance was evident, as he was hustling to get the ball off the wing and sprinting at full speed late in games, and later in the day. He exudes a blue collar feeling and could be the right prospect for recruiters looking for a well-rounded longstick.
Ian Genord, Defense, Notre Dame Prep (Mich.)/3d Michigan, 2017
Gernod emerged as perhaps one of the more exciting defensive players on the day, an uncommitted defender who is velvet smooth with the long pole and can handle the ball as well as any I’ve seen at the scholastic level. And given his 5-foot-11, quick, nimble presence on the field, his overall combination of skills and attributes paints him as a Division I prospect. You have to watch the way he chokes up most often on the stick, carrying it down in the fingers and showing excellent control, accurate passes and the ability to dip his stick down and “walk the dog” almost effortlessly to get by any sort of riding attackman or middie, and he looks graceful doing it. He would use a fake to set it up, chucking the head of the stick but, because he’s choking up on it, he can handle it like shortie and very quickly gets up the field without worrying about the ball. He handles it with total confidence. His passes are accurate and he can make them on the run. Gernod is an example of how much a defender can elevate his game just through an excellent stick. It lets him do a lot. And he has good feet – you see it not just when he snakes up field but when he approaches the ball. He’s under control and very balanced and fluid. He looks like a kid who’s played other sports and excels in those – he is just very solid athletically. Genord is one of the slickest poles we’ve seen (and he actually went on to shine the next weekend as well at FLG in 3d).
Colby Smith, Midfield, Hempfield (Pa.)/NXT, 2017 – Ohio State
Smith is a beast in the midfield — a big, skilled player who’s calm with the ball and very casually makes plays from the top of the box. He can really bring the heat with his shots, as we saw out at Nike’s The Ride in Oregon over the summer. While watching NXT for a half on Sunday, we watched Smith operating the point up top, moving the ball along back and forth, before stepping down to unload for a sidearm shot that found the top left corner. He’s just such a smooth, talented player who brings size to the field with his 5-foot-11, 180 pound frame. Smith handles the ball with confidence and plays an unselfish game, but certainly has the skill to create scoring opportunities for himself from high up in the box.
Jacob Kelly, Attack, Calvert Hall (Md.)/FCA, 2018 – North Carolina
Kelly was absolutely on point when we watched him playing on Sunday in a game in the middle of the schedule. Operating from that low wing spot and from just behind GLE near the cage, Kelly is incredibly troublesome for defenders because he can just do so much – he can redirect the ball with accuracy and has a good sense of where that next pass should go before he’s even been fully slid to; he can lose you off ball, and he can beat you if you overplay him to either hand. And he is clearly able to make quick decisions while checking off his options and working his way to the cage with his head up. He has gotten a little bit bigger, which also helps him. That doesn’t even necessarily matter because he plays hard and doesn’t hesitate to cut through the middle from the wing or looks for a defender with his head turned inside. One of his goals saw him cut to space and easily take a pass and score through the goalie’s legs before the keeper could even get settled. On another one of his goals, he caught the ball coming across into the middle, made contact with his man, hitched to go further to his left and a bit close to the cage and put himself just a few yards away to score. While it’s clear his physical abilities and athleticism are bound to improve, his skill and IQ somehow appear to continue developing as well. Kelly is on my short list of players in the 2018 committed players who truly made an impact on their varsity teams as freshman.
Brendan Kammish, Midfield, Detroit Catholic Central (Mich.)/3d Michigan, 2017
Kammish proved himself to be one of the better midfielders we saw all weekend – a gritty, hard-working player in the middle of the field who showed a motor once he had the ball and the skills to make some terrific plays with a bit of a high-intensity feel to them. He really just goes hard and several of his best moments saw him bring the ball all the way up the field and get through traffic and look confident in getting the stick out to one hand and getting to safety. He seemed to have an extra gear that allowed him, after making plays to get the ball back for him team or to transition going, to attack a defense when it looked like he’d run out of steam. That’s how he pushed a break on one play and forced a defense to scramble and hit the open man for an easy goal, never slowing down the whole play. When watching him, sometimes I wondered if he was more athleticism than skill. But he would morph as he entered the box, showing that he could protect the stick and use his speed and lack of concern for checks to get himself to a shot.
Jack Pucci, Attack, St. Dominic’s (N.Y.)/SweetLax, 2018
This big man created major problems for defenses with his natural height advantage over just about both any of the defenders in this class. He stands about 6-foot-2 and is a big, dense presence that can easily shed checks as he creeps inside the defense. He can take the contact but can also evade it because he’s better on his toes than he looks at first. Despite being one of the biggest players on the field, Pucci somehow lost his defender on numerous occasions, including a cut to the crease from the wing that saw him handle a tough pass in tight space and deposit it from feet away as defenders struggled to get the sticks up on his hands. He scored another goal by helping break up a clear, ending up with the ball alone out front and rolling it in for an easy tally. Not just any old slide will work against a player of his size and with his ability to see that slide and what’s opened up behind it. His size alone creates a number of challenges in different situations. If he can develop his overall speed and athleticism he could take his game to a higher level.
Mackenzie Iacocca, Midfield, Bishop Mac Donnell High School (Ont.)/Edge Lacrosse – St. John’s
It’s easy to get awed by all the great sticks on the Edge squad. But one of the guys you have to appreciate because of his hard work and contributions on both sides of the field. Iacocca is a rugged, compact, athletic midfielder who outworks many of the players on the field any time we see him. Whether its tough shortstick defense, scrapping for the loose ball, legging the ball up the field on the clear, playing, he seems to sell out and make plays. Later in the day Sunday, after being a workhorse for his team throughout the day, we saw him score a goal by using a funky stutter step to get himself into the center of the field for a hard shot. Once he gets his stocky frame moving, whether on a clear turned fastbreak or on a dodge from up top, he is hard to stop and shows a knack for finishing in hectic scenarios as he crashes through a defense. His shots have speed and show that he’s had the stick in his hands a lot. But his athleticism shows he’s put as much work into his body.
Zach Green, Attack/Midfield, Calvert Hall (Md.)/FCA, 2018 – Maryland
Green is such an opportunistic and deceptively talented player, packed into a small attackman who has a year of meaningful varsity experience already. He’s also one of the more fearless and hardest-dodging players on the offensive end as well. One of his best goals came as a result of pure effort. Off the inbound behind the cage, Green sprinted hard to his right, got past GLE and just as he did jumped to heave a shot as score as he was falling away in the air. His smaller size has become something that helps him, as he’s somehow able to protect his stick and uses his good quickness and sometimes acrobatic dodging to get underneath or topside on his defender. He goes right at defenders whether he’s dodging from behind or from out in front, where you really see how good of a time and room shooter he is. He can be explosive and his willingness to work for his shots and opportunities makes him a factor in most games we’ve seen him. That was the case on the second day at the Big Four Fall Champions League.
Tanner Hay, Defense, Victor (N.Y.)/SweetLax, 2018
Hay has grown on me as a slender, but very active and smart defender with good range and height to make himself a factor on and off the ball. He’s slowly emerged as one of the better defenders on this stacked SweetLax team, and you can see it in the way he’s got a balanced game that includes good footwork and position defense, an active stick, communication and decent speed coming up the field. In a great game Sunday between SweetLax and the Canadian Edge squad, Hay was everywhere the ball was on the defensive end of the field, making a number of plays and very quickly turning a groundball or caused turnover into transition by hustling up the field. Hay plays hard and has proven he deserves as much of a look at as some of the already-committed guys around him. He could help Victor stay at the top of the Section V ranks as they move into Class A next season. If he gains strength, his frame will look more and more like that of a Division I prospect. He has a lot of the other tangibles already to go with good skill and a sense for making plays.
Brady McDermott, Attack, Brighton (N.Y.)/SweetLax, 2018
McDermott continues to make a case for himself as an attackman who showcases high-level lacrosse IQ, skill and the toughness to challenge some of the defenders in his class despite being smaller. He displays some strength withing that small frame, but even more, a competitive attitude. He plays like he wants a piece of every defender and gets right into them with his body. He has excellent hands and can protect the stick while working with his head up. Sometimes his plays are slower to develop as he’s not yet able to overpower defenders quickly, but recruiters should see how smart he is in showing patience but not letting the play close up – he’s seeing the field and looking for an opening while trying to make incremental progress on his defender when working from X. If he gets above GLE with a step on his man, he can sneak inside before the slide comes and he is unselfish in that he’s looking for that open step-down assist. In one game, we watched him score three times, including on dodges to the cage and via operating off the ball. He will still want to improve his speed and develop his dodges to enhance his carrying, but McDermott shows flashes of excellence and Division I coaches are noticing.
Kobe Brown, Midfield, Poway (Calif.)/3d Pacific, 2018
Brown is a tough and athletic middie who can play both ends of the field. Defensively, he’s pretty fast out in front and can leg the ball through the ride on a clear to make it up the field. And on offense, he is even capable of carrying from X and creating. He seems to be able to fight off some checks and then redodge at the defense and force a slide due to his resilience through checks and athleticism. In some situations, you can see Brown is still a little bit raw in terms of lacrosse skill, but that’s something that he overcomes right now with extremely quick dodges to set himself up for simple, effective overhand shots. Numerous times we’ve seen him use a split or nasty stutter step to get himself a couple yards of space and then pump hard overhand snaps, oftentimes choosing to bounce it. He will use deception and hesitations to keep his defenders on their heels, which also helps him get a step or separation when dodging. Brown will go to his left, and even though it’s clearly still not a strength, he’s athletic enough to put himself in position to score easy with the off hand when he’s just feet from the cage. He showed a lot of these traits when we watched him at FLG in 3d. He normally plays for 3d San Diego.