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April 20, 2010

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UnCensered: The Prokhorov College Lax Big Board

by Joel Censer | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online | Censer Archive

Brian Farrell's got the physical tools to be higher on Joel Censer's mock big board ranking current collegians, but his disappearance in a big game has Farrell at No. 32.

I’ve always found it interesting that some players who were studs in college sports are unable to translate that success to the professional ranks.

Count among them 2001 Heisman winner Eric Crouch, who made a career of torching opponents at Nebraska, but couldn’t even play third string in NFL Europe. Former USC quarterback Matt Leinhart was a can’t-miss, Heisman-winning lefty bomber, who has spent his first five years in the NFL carrying Kurt Warner’s clipboard and making news mainly for off-the-field exploits (in the Deadspin era, it’s probably not particularly smart to be photographed in a hot tub with a bunch of co-eds).  

In basketball, Michigan State point guard Mateen Cleaves led the Spartans to a national championship in 2000 and nabbed Most Outstanding Player in the process, but has since found himself playing maestro for D-league squads in Bakersfield, Calif., and Fayetteville, N.C.

There are obvious parallels in entertainment as well. David Caruso left "NYPD Blue" to make movies and, after some well-documented flops, came back to television, tail tucked, to star in a CSI spinoff. "Saved by the Bell" star Tiffani Amber Thiessen had every pre-adolescent boy at her fingertips as the wholesome Kelly Kapowski, but couldn’t hold her own playing opposite Pauly Shore in "Son in Law."

Clearly, there’s no shortage of athletes (or actors) who could impose their wills at a lower level of competition but, when asked to perform on a bigger stage, weren’t able to bring the requisite amount of heat. Some got injured (Dajuan Wagner, Sam Bowie, Kijana Carter); some had physical limitations that couldn’t be overcome (Crouch was only 6 feet tall and didn’t have a big arm); and some were drafted as raw athletic wonders and never developed the required skill sets to compete at a higher level. (Yes, Matt Jones, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jamarcus Russell, I am looking at you).

Others might have had neither the temperament nor the maturity to deal with the burdens that come with being a professional athlete (Joe Forte, Cade McNown, Charles Rodgers).   

Whatever the cause, watching Maryland stud longstick midfielder Brian Farrell struggle during the first half against Virginia three weeks ago, I wondered whether the Terp pole -- like Cleaves and Crouch -- was best suited for the college game. I was used to seeing the 6’4", 220-pound Terp LSM be the team’s catalyst, the guy who -- despite not being particularly fleet of foot -- was almost without peer at generating transition and handling the rock.

But against the Cavs, a team that has speed all over the field, Farrell uncharacteristically turned the ball over on multiple occasions. 

Whether or not Farrell’s miscues could be attributed to the game’s pace or just a bad half (by the end of the game he was back to making game-changing, no-look passes), I don’t know. But it got me thinking about if there was a professional lacrosse league that paid their players enough money where it would be their only job and where everyone needed to rigorously train to stay in the league, which collegiate players would translate best? Would the sports’ top players from college continue to be the best players professionally?  Or instead, because the professional game would inevitably be much faster, would different guys with specific skills sets (think left tackles in the NFL) become far more important?

My guess (and it’s somewhat of an educated one, having watched attackman Brendan Mundorf and Matt Striebel’s rise in the MLL) would be that offensive players who have the stick skills to keep the ball moving quickly in six-on-six offense and the athleticism to consistently create separation from a long pole would be in very high demand (in part because, unlike finishers, they are pretty rare).

How else could you attack a defense filled with amazing athletes except by having a lot of different guys who have the potential to win a one-on-one matchup (maybe with Canadian two-man games)?

Another trait that would be a priority for teams to acquire would be superior athleticism and/or skill from players who work in between the lines -- faceoff men and long stick middies in particular. At this level, the likelihood a team will score is probably pretty high, so anyway to influence the possession battle would be crucial.

And maybe one day there will be a college lacrosse draft where teams can fork over the type of money that would encourage players to focus fulltime on the sport and -- for better or for worse -- leave college early to play. Personally, I’m hoping Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire and the new owner of the New Jersey Nets, whose passion for European models, extreme sports and owning pro teams has been well documented, sees a lax game soon. Seriously, what if on the way to a Nets game, Prokhorov accidentally went west on Route 78 and ended up watching Summit-Delbarton?

I can only imagine what he’d think.

“This game is rough. Metal sticks hitting people. It reminds me of that time I had to bargain the Chechens down about that oil pipeline. I want a team of my own. Now.”

Anyway, should this happen, I certainly want to be only a Google search away from becoming his head of scouting. So channeling my best Mel Kiper impersonation, I put the hair gel on thick and did my best to rank current collegians. As mentioned, I ranked guys higher based on their skill set (prioritizing players who could generate offense and/or would be significant factors in between the lines) and how they would respond to what would be a faster game. So without further ado, here is my first annual Mikhail Prokhorov college lacrosse big board!

*Note that I only included players I have actually watched this year. And as nice as my parents’ TV and DVR are, they don’t capture everything. Apologies to Fairfield (Joe Marra), Cornell (Rob Pannell and Ryan Hurley), Hofstra (Jay Card and Jamie Lincoln), Villanova (Brian Karalunas), Notre Dame (Zach Brenneman, Grant Krebs, Andrew Irving, Scott Rodgers)  Brown (Thomas Muldoon), Navy (R.J. Wickham), Quinnipiac (Zach Pall) and Bryant (Andrew Hennessey), who I haven’t seen play yet.

The Lottery

1. Billy Bitter - Attack - North Carolina
2. Joel White - LSM - Syracuse
3. Parker Mckee - LSM/D - Duke
4. Ned Crotty - Attack - Duke
5. John Galloway- Goalie- Syracuse
6. Shamel Bratton - Midfield - Virginia
7. Jimmy Dunster - Midfield - North Carolina
8. Max Quinzani - Attack - Duke
9. Michael Kimmel - Midfield -Johns Hopkins
10. Jeremy Thompson - Midfield/FO - Syracuse
11. Rhamel Bratton- Midfield - Virginia
12. Ryan Flanagan- Defense - North Carolina
13. Sean DeLaney - Midfield - North Carolina
14. Steele Stanwick - Attack - Virginia

Still first round…

15. Jack McBride - Attack - Princeton
16. Kevin Crowley - Midfield - Stony Brook
17. Curtis Dickson - Attack - Delaware
18. John Lade - Defense - Syracuse
19. Cody Jameison - Attack - Syracuse
20. Justin Pennington - Midfield - Rutgers
21. Jovan Miller - Midfield - Syracuse
22. Chris Daniello - Attack - Syracuse
23. C.J. Costabile - FO/LSM - Duke
24. Ken Clausen - Defense - Virginia
25. Mark Manos - Goalie - Drexel
26. Mike Manley - Defense - Duke
27. John Cunningham - LSM - Princeton
28. Chris Nixon - LSM/D - Georgetown
29. Jesse Bernhardt - LSM - Maryalnd
30. Will Yeatman - Attack/Midfield - Maryland

Honorable Mention

31. Brian Carroll- Midfield - Virginia
32. Brian Farrell - LSM - Maryland
33. Mike Chanenchuk - Midfield - Princeton
34. Ryan Young - Attack - Maryland
35. Scott Kocis - Midfield - Georgetown
36. Tom Montelli - LSM/Defense - Duke
37. Dean Gibbons -Attack - Harvard
38. Matt Tierney - Defense - Syracuse
39. Christian Pastirik - Midfield - Towson
40. John Ranagan - Midfield - Johns Hopkins


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