NDP Dick's Tournament of Champions 2014 Standouts
An annual destination for some of the best club programs from the U.S. and Canada each winter, NDP Lacrosseís 2014 Dick's Tournament of Champions was held last week in Wesley Chapel, Fla., just north of Tampa.
3d Rising was there for the duration of the event, which culminated on New Year's Eve with the championships across the various high school and youth divisions.
With so many players shining in the warm Florida sun, it's worth a separate look at the names - some committed, some uncommitted - who we saw perform well over the three days in subtropical weather.
See the links below for all of 3d Rising's coverage, including recaps of the Elite, Rising Stars and U15 title matchups, as well as our first- and second-day reports from the event:
Players standing out:
Aaron Forster, Midfield, Everest Academy (Ont.), 2015 PG - NJIT
Other than recognizing his name, I knew little about Forster when I looked at the roster for Everest Academy, a private school out of Ontario competing in the Elite division. He would go on to have one of the best showings of any player at the event. A stocky, strong and well-balanced midfielder, Forster was difficult to keep off the score sheet for all opposing defenses. He's got the Canadian stick skills, but brings athleticism and grit to his game. He is tough to knock off his angle and he's got awesome hands on his finishes. He had a tremendous performance against the Alexandria Travel White team out of Virginia in the Elite division quarterfinals, scoring five goals, including the game-tying goal with a backhanded bounce shot after sneaking in front of the cage. In the semi-final, Forster scored once but was held out of the game for 20 minutes when he banged up his shoulder. That turned out to be a big difference in the game, as Everest Academy lost in OT. Forster had several looks at the cage in the extra frame, but the Six Nations Royal Reds goalie (Brett LaFonte) was on fire and came up with several big saves. Regardless, Forster made a lot of noise at the event. He is a steal for NJIT, and he should be an immediate impact player.
Alex Concannon, Midfield/Attack, Syosset (N.Y.)/SweetLax, 2015 - Johns Hopkins
An early commitment to Johns Hopkins about two and a half years ago, Concannon has greatly enhanced his athleticism and his strength. Combining that with high-level field sense and a relentless style of play, Concannon has become a nightmare to defend. He's quick and elusive, using his short frame to sneak around off ball. He was particularly dangerous when he inverted to attack and worked from X. That's exactly what he did to score the game-tying and game-winning goals against the Six Nations Royal Reds, earning MVP honors in the process. Concannon has developed a cannon - yes. His shot is accurate and he is skilled at getting himself into shooting position and shows a powerful windup but a quick overall release, which makes him such a threat to score from out on the wing with his feet set or in the slot as a cutter. Concannon sees the field and collected plenty of assists along the way, including two goals and three assists in a dominating win over FCA Colorado in the semifinals. We caught up with him after SweetLax's title win, which you can view here.
Matt Schmidt, Goalie, Culver Academy (Ind.)/Resolute, 2016 - Notre Dame
Schmidt was probably the most well-rounded of the goalies I watched at the Dick's Tournament of Champions. He has an aura in the cage, a strong commander who looked almost out of place with his shot-stopping abilities. He made terrific saves in a contest that saw Resolute overwhelm its opponent on both sides of the field. Schmidt made a number of excellent stops, both low shots and bouncers and high heat. He is athletic out of the cage, throws accurate clearing passes and directs the defense in a calm but authoritative manner. I didn't see any other goalie all week who could step to the ball and show reflexes like Schmidt. He should help Culver have another fantastic spring in 2015.
Larson Sundown, Attack, Akron (N.Y.)/Six Nations Royal Reds, 2015
Sundown is one of the best uncommitted players I've seen at this point . A fiercely competitive left-handed attackman, Sundown was a key initiator and playmaker for the Royal Reds throughout the event. He's a good sized kid, at about 6-foot, and is dynamic in that he can dodge, feed and score in different ways. He's got a hard shot from out on the wing, and he's able to draw enough attention operating out on the wing to force doubles and find open cutters in those situations. He scored three goals in Six Nations' overtime victory in the semifinals against Everest Academy and then collected three assists in the championship against SweetLax. Sundown plays hard and at a high level.
Layne Smith, Attack, Assumption College (Ont.)/Six Nations Royal Reds, 2015
Smith might have had the best set of hands of anyone I watched at the event. Somewhat subtle in his field presence, Smith didn't necessarily catch your eye at first glance, but then he'd get the ball, and it would be in the net almost instantly. Smith has a low center of gravity and is unaffected by physical play, able to keep the ball through hard checks. He caught passes in traffic, evaded defenders with some slippery play and displayed a quick release and accuracy on his shots. Smith scored three times for the Royal Reds in the semifinal win and then registered another hat trick in the Elite title game against SweetLax. Smith was the second leading scorer on the Six Nations Rebels in 2014 in helping the team win its third straight Founders Cup.
Austin Popovich, Midfield, St. Francis DeSales (Ohio)/Resolute, 2016
Showing excellent chemistry with his teammate and future Buckeye Nick Musci (St. Francis DeSales, Ohio, 2016) down on attack, Popovich seemed to sprint onto the field, make a play, head off, come back and repeat each possession. He's a slasher of a shooter, wheeling his stick and letting it fly with his feet moving or set. He can bring it and also makes great passes using his windup almost like a fake, which makes it hard for defenses and goalies to read where he's going with it. Off ball, he looks ready to catch and fire at all times and has both velocity and accuracy on his big shot. In one game I caught, Popocvich scored on one of his patented righty slings and then assisted Musci on a quick pass across the crease for a behind-the-back finish.
Avery Myers, Midfield, Gonzaga (D.C.)/FCA National, 2016 - Michigan
Myers was arguably the most dangerous offensive midfielder for the loaded FCA National team. Smooth and fast, Myers was able to get shots off time and time again using his speed and ability to separate himself from defenders. While most of his teammates struggled to find openings against the rangy, active sticks of the Royal Reds defense, Myers scored two excellent goals that showcased his dodging and shooting skills. He is without question one of the more underrated 2016s out there.
Jared Bernhardt, Attack, Lake Brantley (Fla.)/SweetLax, 2016 - Maryland
Bernhardt was an engine for SweetLax as the team went undefeated and pulled off a thrilling comeback in the Elite title game to defeat the Six Nations Royal Reds 7-6 in overtime. Bernhardt, who appears to be getting bigger, stronger and more athletic each time I see him, has developed into an elite-level quarterback attackman. He has a strong frame and is able to dodge hard with his head up, protecting the stick well so he can work with a defender all over him. He can sling the ball with velocity and seems to always be moving his feet. Bernhardt had a fantastic showing throughout the tournament, including at least four goals in the semifinals. He hit the pipe a handful of times in the title game, but contributed a goal to get SweetLax moving. His style of play reminds of Mike Leveille. He is on an upward trajectory as a highly skilled lacrosse player, but also as a well-rounded athlete.
Noah Taylor, Midfield, Watertown (N.Y.)/SweetLax, 2016 - Albany
Taylor had an impressive three days playing for SweetLax, emerging as one of the best upperclassmen midfielders on the stacked national roster. The Albany-bound Taylor shined as a two-way presence, coming up with plays on both sides of the ball. He hustles and doesn't get flashy, just puts his head down and does work. His biggest contributions came on offense, which included a goal and an assist in the semifinals. He showed extremely well in the championship game, calmly carrying the ball in overtime before whipping a pass to Alex Concannon to assist on the game-winner. Watertown has become one of the stronger North Country/Frontier League pipelines to Division I schools. Taylor is the next to come through Brian Navarra's program.
Peter Dearth, Midfield, Ridgefield (Conn.)/SweetLax, 2016 - Syracuse
Dearth, who plays for Roy Colsey at Ridgefield and for the Syracuse legendís Superstar program out of Connecticut, was a midfielder I'd not yet seen in person until the Tournament of Champions. He's your prototypical Division I midfield recruit: a tall, athletic player who can shoot the ball hard both with feet planted and on the run. Dearth scored goals in both ways in the semifinals, blistering the top shelf from up near the restraining line and then later hitting the top left corner with a full-speed alley dodge and sidearm shot. He was difficult to stop when he got moving and is a threat to score from out on the perimeter. Dearth is a great sleeper pick for the Orange, fitting right in with an unbelievable pack of Division I-bound midfielders.
Terry Lindsay, Midfield, Georgetown Prep (Md.)/FCA National 2016 - Duke
Lindsay had a strong three-day showing for FCA in making plays in the middle of the field and on offense. He plays a blue-collar breed of lacrosse in doing work on both sides of the ball. Lindsay is a strong shooter and is able to use his athleticism to dodge to high-percentage shooting locations. Lindsay plays with confidence when dodging from up top, but works to get the ball moving and get others involved. He's a high-IQ midfielder who is fundamentally sound across the board. He was a leader of the talented corps of FCA middies destined for Division I rosters. Lindsay was crucial in FCA's run to the title matchup, where he made a number of plays in the middle of the field and contributed an assist.
Jerry Staats, Defense, Assumption College (Ont.)/Six Nations Royal Reds, 2016
I'd heard so much about Staats in the last few months, so it was refreshing to get a look at him in a competitive setting. Staats is a tough, intense and fundamentally sound left-handed defender who was an absolute rock for a tenacious and imposing Royal Reds defense. Staats has all the makings of a Division I defender: he's got quickness, an active stick that helped him make several interceptions and he is always communicating. He's also tough as nails. When I say he's intense, I mean he is as intense of a player as I've ever seen. His field sense is strong, and he's absolutely fearless in getting after his man and groundballs. Staats was an outstanding defender this past summer for the Founders Cup champion Six Nations Rebels.
Percy Booth, Attack, Lafayette (N.Y.)/Road Warriors, 2016
Booth is a big and strong lefty with an excellent stick and the power to muscle around or through defenders on dodges from X or out on the wing. He has tremendous hands and can catch and finish close to the cage, making him even more of a matchup challenge as he is wise off the ball. Booth had an outstanding championship game, earning MVP honors with two goals and an assist. The assist came on the game-winning goal by Devon Buckshot after Booth snagged a clearing pass and made FCA pay as the defense and goalie scrambled unsuccessfully to protect an open net. Less than a minute later, he again used his height and reach to bat down another clearing pass that would have given FCA one more chance to tie the game and instead closed it out for the Road Warriors. He is one of the better uncommitted players from New York's Section III. View our video interview with Booth below.
Cecil Monture, Attack/Midfield, McKinnon Park (Ont.)/Grand River Ironmen, 2017
Monture's shooting and his stick are "bang." At least that's what I can hear his fellow Iroquois players saying. This kid put on a display of wizardry and uncanny shooting while helping the Grand River Ironmen make it to the semifinals, where they lost by one goal. Monture is a big kid - stocky and powerful. He uses his body to protect the stick and his size makes him tough to cover. Though he's not the fastest player, he can bull his way by defenders and through traffic, thanks largely in part to how well he can take care of the ball. His shots have serious heat on them, and his hands are tender and allow him to catch and flick the ball very quickly. He can bring it from up top, but can also catch near the cage, fake and finish. He was a point machine in the first game I watched Grand River play, notching upward of a half dozen points, just whipping the ball to teammates and shooting with head-turning accuracy and velocity. He scored an eye-popping goal from the restraining line, using his defender as a screen, putting the stick right across the playerís body and sticking the ball as close to the top left as it could get. He registered 11 points in another game, and then had a huge showing with five points as Grand River fell 6-5 to SweetLax in the semis. Monture has a high ceiling as a talented scorer who is tough to budge and is smart with his stick. I would love to see this guy make it to a Division I roster.
Devon Buckshot, Attack, Lafayette (N.Y.)/Road Warriors, 2017
The other bookend opposite of Percy Booth, Buckshot had a productive three days at the right-handed attack position for the Road Warriors. He has great hands and is nearly impossible to take the ball from, which led to opportunities for his teammates as defenses would think they had the ball on the turf with doubles and it would leave players open for him to hit, or he'd manage to battle his way to the cage to finish the play himself. He can also score in similar fashion to Booth, with high-level shooting and close-range finishing using his great set of hands. He might have been the Road Warriors' leading scorer throughout the tournament, with his most clutch goal lifting his team to the Rising Stars championship.
Briley Miller, Goalie, Assumption College (Ont.)/Six Nations Royal Reds, 2017
Miller is a monster in the net, standing at 6-feet-2 inches and with a big frame to go along with it. Considered the next top elite box netminder coming up the ranks in the Six Nations indoor programs, Miller shined in the net for the U15 Royal Reds team. In a single 25-minute game, Miller recorded more than ten saves. He reads shooters well, which matched with excellent hand speed makes it tough to beat him. Taking up a good part of the net, he was a nightmare for shooters and could develop into a fantastic field goalie with more experience and reps. Regardless, he will become a box star as a Six Nations junior backstop.
Zion DeChesere, Goalie, Coronado (Nev.)/Bradyís Bunch, 2017 - Michigan
DeChesere was one of the most impressive goalies in attendance, maybe the most athletic. He's big, rangy and gets up and out of the cage, with almost a chaotic or intimidating presence as he clears given his strength and speed. In a thrilling overtime win against FCA, DeChesere made more than six saves, showing quickness as he dipped to meet shots and standing tall on the pipe as he pivoted to meet shots from the wing and from attackmen dodging from X. DeChesere is as good as coaches are saying and has even more potential.
Owen Hill, Midfield, Akron (N.Y.)/Six Nations Royal Reds, 2018
The only 2018 competing in the Elite championship (the highest level championship), Hill had a fantastic run with the Royal Reds. Hill was a key presence in between the lines for the Royal Reds - athletic and able to clear the ball, play strong defense and battle for ground balls. He has terrific stick skills and weaves through traffic up the field. Hill can do the same thing when initiating from the top of the box. He makes crisp passes off the dodge and can put the ball on a rope. He took the majority of the Royal Reds' face offs and was outstanding, winning a high percentage in each game leading up to the championship, where he had to face arguably the best draw man in the country in Gerard Arceri; he won a couple of those too. From where I stand, Hill is one of the best midfielders in the early 2018 midfield conversation. He brings so much to the field. Occasionally, coaches threw him a long pole on defense, allowing him to play longstick defense next to his older brother Chauncey Hill (2015), who was the Royal Reds most active defender in the middle of the field.
Austin Stewart, Midfield, St. Stephen's & St. Agnes (Va.)/MadLax, 2018
Stewart finished out 2014 with maybe his best run at any of the tournaments he attended the last couple months. He's smooth and can handle the ball well. Stewart has vision when carrying and can make good passes with his feet moving and with a defender working on him. His playmaking and his skills make him a well-rounded midfielder. He's not the biggest guy, but he's tough enough to extend himself and make plays. He has an accurate shot and gets himself into good position off ball and with the ball to get to the shots he wants. Stewart hustles and plays with his head up, seeing the field and generally making good decisions with the ball. The right-handed middie was named the MVP of the U15 championship after putting up a game-high goal and three assists. He has great chemistry with his MadLax teammantes, including North Carolina commit Ricky Miezan (Episcopal, Va., 2018), who also performed well in the run to the title. We caught up with Stewart after the win. You can see the video below.
Javon Johnson, Attack, St. Anne's Belfield (Va.)/Road Warriors, 2018
Johnson, like Owen Hill in the Elite division, was the youngest player and the only 2018 player competing in the Rising Stars championship game. Working alongside two big attackmen in Percy Booth and Devon Buckshot, Johnson quarterbacked the offense from X, displaying his explosive speed and ambidextrous abilities as a feeder and a shooter. His low center of gravity and shiftiness make him a challenge to mark. He can get topside, he can rollback to his opposite hand and then redodge to the inside while looking to pass. He's all over the place while riding, showcasing speed that is hard to find in most high school freshman. Johnson scored once and assisted on another goal in the Road Warriors' impressive championship win over FCA.
Harrison and Henry Schertzinger, Midfield, (Ohio)/Resolute, 2018 - North Carolina
Harrison Schertzinger and his twin brother, Henry, were both outstanding for Resolute in facing for the most part older competition. The brothers are, naturally, similar players, showcasing great speed, relentless dodging (they love the roll back) and hard shots. Harrison in particular stood out for his ability to dodge at high speed and make plays. They are still growing and so what they are able to do while playing up with bigger, more experienced players is impressive. They can make plays from up top or from X. Both brothers scored in a win over Team Atlanta. Harrison's goals came on a low-to-high shot off a great face dodge up top and then a diving effort as he drove from X and got just past GLE. The potential is high for these two talented twins, whom the Tar Heels were quick to scoop up before they had a great deal of exposure on the recruiting circuit.
Chase Scanlan, Midfield/Attack, The Hill Academy (Ont.)/Grand River Ironmen, 2018
Smooth and talented with the stick, Scanlan was one of the more intriguing 2018 prospects at the event. I watched Scanlan play goalie for Silver Creek in Western New York when he was a seventh grader. He was in cage on the varsity team playing in the New York State playoffs. Obviously, he was just a little guy then. A couple years later, he's tall and lean and shows the ability to glide and slip by defenders. He has high-level stick skills and can use those to beat his man with fakes and deception and finishing with natural scoring abilities. He's able to play attack and midfield, though he's got the legs to do damage as a middie, also showing good sense on the defensive half of the field. Scanlan will be one to really watch as The Hill Academy embarks on another grueling schedule this spring.
Griffin Gelinas, Attack, Brunswick (Conn.)/SweetLax, 2018 - Syracuse
A member of Nick Daniello's Prime Time, Gelinas joined the SweetLax national team for the trip down south and excelled alongside fellow future Division I attackmen like Aidan Olmstead (Corning, N.Y., 2017, Loyola) and Ross Pridemore (Taft School, Conn., 2018, Virginia). Gelinas looked promising playing with a lot of 2017s. He's explosive and dangerous when initiating his dodges from the wing or from X, with a quick first step and penchant for getting off a hard overhand righty jump shot. Gelinas scored two of the best goals of the tournament. He somehow managed to snag a rebound from his own shot that rang off a goalie's face mask, grabbing it and slamming it behind his back. A few minutes later, he weaved his way by a defender and into traffic a few yards out in front, getting hit, nearly turning his body upside down and still sticking an underhand shot high into the nearside corner. It was one of the better showings for Gelinas, though his linemates were all impressive, including still-uncommitted Teioshontathe McComber (Salisbury School, Conn., 2018).
Joe Epstein, Attack, Landon (Md.)/MadLax, 2018 - Johns Hopkins
Epstein was the most outstanding attackman for the MadLax team as it was able to shake off an early loss to Cam Holding's Power Play Titans early in the event and run to the championship of the U15 division. What makes Epstein so dangerous is the way he plays with determination to get to the cage - he's the type of player who makes scoring, especially on dodges from X, look natural. He has an incredible sense for when to shoot as he crosses GLE, able to stick the ball in the corners or inside the far-side post. He's much grittier than he looks at first glance, and that toughness helps him do his business regardless of the defender he's facing. He is going to get the cage if you don't have an elite defender marking him. Epstein put up points along the way, including two goals in the championship.
Mason Kamminga, LSM/Defense, Everest Academy, 2018
Kamminga was a huge presence for the talented Everest Academy squad. A big-bodied, strong-legged defender, Kamminga can get up the field and make plays in between the lines. He's physical, but doesn't take it too far. He was excellent in coming up with groundballs. His size, strength and checking ability make him a tough matchup for attackman who arenít big or fast, and he can hang with those who do have those traits. He isn't going to be backed down easy and he can cover ground well. In a thrilling victory in the quarterfinals against Alexandria Travel White, Kamminga was brought up to the face-off X and won the crucial final draw to give his team the chance to win the game.