September 6, 2012

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Harrison Back With Team USA for 'Duel in Denver'

Former Hopkins star continues to spread game around the world

Kyle Harrison missed the cut for Team USA's 2010 World Championship team and is excited to back in the fold for this weekend's duel with Canada.
© John Mecionis

by Matthew DeFranks | LaxMagazine.com

Kyle Harrison had not become a lacrosse star yet. He had not won a national championship and a Tewaaraton Trophy at Johns Hopkins. He had no endorsements.

Fifteen years ago, Kyle Harrison was just an awestruck youngster standing next to Paul and Gary Gait at a lacrosse camp. Now, the tables are turned and it is Harrison that is the celebrity at camps around the world.

"I remember how excited I was to stand next to those guys," Harrison said. "I was no different than [the campers] are now when I first was playing the game, learning the game."

Harrison has been very visible on the camp circuits with his camp company, Playmaker Lacrosse Camps, but not in the areas you would expect. The 29-year old Baltimore native said he does not do many camps in the Mid-Atlantic but rather in places where the game is still growing. He has done camps in Kentucky, Alabama, Colorado, Chicago and Kansas City in addition to ones overseas in Finland and London.

"This sport has done so much for me, you just want to make sure you do your part to coach and teach as many kids as you can," Harrison said. "You want to make sure you get there and coach not only the kids, but also the coaches the right way to teach the sport."

Harrison, in addition to working camps, has been playing on the LXM Pro Tour. Harrison helped found the tour in 2009 with the intent to "provide highly-engaging lacrosse festivals, showcasing elite-level lacrosse, music and fan interaction, at an affordable price."

Most of the players live in the burgeoning lacrossse playing state of California.

"The coolest thing about the LXM Pro Tour and Team STX West is that a lot of us live out here on the West Coast. [A lot of us] coach high school teams, coach youth teams, get into retail stores, just do as much as possible to grow the game out here," Harrison said. "The reception is awesome. They all love the sport and they all show up."

Harrison has earned an invite to try out for Team USA in preparation for the 2014 FIL World Lacrosse Championships. He, and the rest of Team USA, will battle Canada at 9 p.m. ET Saturday in the "Duel in Denver," at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo.

"I got a phone call asking if I'd participate...and the opportunity to play with this group of guys and this coaching staff is something you can't really pass up," Harrison said. "I'm proud to be a part of this team headed to Denver to play against Canada but I also know this is a really long process."

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The athletic midfielder won a silver medal with the 2006 squad before being cut in 2010 while hampered with a hamstring injury. In 2010, Team USA won the gold medal. Defenseman Nicky Polanco and midfielder Joe Walters are also in the same situation as Harrison, having not made the 2010 team after winning a silver in 2006.

In 2006, Team USA lost to Canada in the gold medal game 15-10 after defeating Canada 13-12 in group play.

"While some people may look at that whole [2006] experience as a failure, I do not," Harrison said. "Losing to Canada obviously wasn't ideal but being able to learn from those guys, be around those guys for a couple weeks and wear a jersey with USA on the front was a pretty unique and special opportunity."

While Harrison said his athleticism was still his greatest strength, his game has evolved recently.

"Over the past few years, I've started to take the technical aspect of the game more seriously," Harrison said. "I've become a better shooter. I'm more comfortable shooting from different angles, different areas, changing the plane of my shot. I still heavily rely on my athleticism but I'm a lot more comfortable with either hand and putting the ball in certain areas."

Team USA has not practiced together yet in preparation for Canada. The squad will practice Friday night and shoot around Saturday before the game against the 2010 World Championship runners-up.

Despite the absence of practices, Harrison said the jelling process should be an easy one.

"A lot of these guys have already played together in some capacity, whether that's on Team USA or college or messing around in the summer," Harrison said. "There's not one guy on the team that I've never played with before. Everybody knows each other's game."

Just as there will not be many surprises on the USA side of the ball, Harrison said to expect more of the same out of Canada.

"Nothing out of the ordinary for them, they all handle the ball very well," Harrison said. "They have great leadership and guys on both sides of the ball that are capable of dominating a game...It's going to be a tough game but I'm excited to get out on the field."

Check back to LaxMagazine.com for full coverage of Saturday's "Duel in Denver." To see the matchup in person, general admission tickets are priced at $20 and are available at www.uslacrosse.org/duelindenver.


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