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April 24, 2014

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Tanton: A Pitch on Recruiting With A Catch

by Bill Tanton | LaxMagazine.com

This column originally appears in the May 2014 issue of Lacross Magazine. To start your subscription, Join US Lacrosse today!

Dear Dom, Dave, Joe and any other coaching friends who'd like my help with recruiting:

Hey guys. I've been feeling sorry for you because of the recruiting demands that never stop. It's worse than ever now. It used to be a lacrosse coach could watch a couple of high school games on the Island, see two or three MIAA games and then make the obligatory stop at West Genny.

That was it. Done. Recruiting was over.

That day is gone forever. These days even the top Division I talent can come from anywhere. How can a college coach running a top program find time to recruit everywhere — while also looking at prospects as young as middle schoolers, which is what you're doing? It can't be done.

So I set out to find a prospect you might otherwise never discover, and I've found one. You'll never guess where. It was on a sunny beach in Florida. He was throwing a lacrosse ball around with his younger brother and their father. Even with the Atlantic Ocean nipping at his heels, my young prospect's skills were dazzling — lefty, righty, behind the back. He has better stick work now than I had when I played at Johns Hopkins.

Here are the boy's particulars.

Name: John Danforth.
Residence: Skaneateles, N.Y.
Age: 13
Grade: Eighth
Height: 5-foot-11 and broad shouldered.
Club Team: United Lacrosse (coached by colorful former Syracuse All-American Ric Beardsley).

Danforth's long-range college sights are set on Syracuse and Duke. His father, Hayes, played lacrosse at Skidmore. Beyond the stats, he is a bright, well-mannered, intelligent young man, projected to grow to 6-foot-3.

By now, you coaches are wondering what credentials I could possess to qualify as a recruiter. Let me tell you. On a day that seems like it was yesterday, I saw a middle school-aged boy with big hands, big feet and a big neck wolfing down breakfast at a deli. I said to his mother, "If I ever saw a future lacrosse star in the making, it's your son."

The boy was Ryan Tucker, now one of the best players at Virginia. His mother is Johns Hopkins women's lacrosse coach Janine Tucker. So by my count, I'm batting a thousand as a recruiter.

There is one complication, though. You see, I started thinking that pretty soon, college coaches are going to become very interested in young John Danforth. As much as I admire him, I don't think he's any more ready to commit to a college than he is to choose the person he will marry.

"If a coach were to ask you to commit to attend his college now," I asked him, "it would be hard to say no, wouldn't it?"

What a look came over young John's face. His eyes dropped. His body slumped slightly. He knows it's not yet time for him to commit to any college. But could he say no? Maybe not.

So, coaches, I've found you a good prospect. But here's the rub: All of you know rising high school freshmen are not ready to commit to college. Let's cool it for a while. It seems to me a good policy would be not to talk to these kids until Sept. 1 of their junior year.

In your hearts, you know I'm right.


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