Tim Desko Makes Name for Himself
by Mark Medina | LaxMagazine.com
Syracuse's Tim Desko is coming off the best game of his career against Army just in time for Friday's No. 1 vs. No. 1 showdown against Virginia at the Carrier Dome. "He's not the coach's son anymore," goalie John Galloway says.
© Greg Wall
Once he returned home for the summer, Tim Desko received a dose of sobering reality.
Giddiness over Syracuse men's lacrosse winning the 2008 national championship one season after the team's missed NCAA tournament bid for the first time in 25 years evaporated. His thoughts shifted to his playing role. Desko redshirted that season so he could learn the offense from the surrounding talent without wasting a year of eligibility. No way, however, would Desko remain satisfied with staying on the sidelines permanently.
"I'm going to be on that field next year," he remembered saying to himself shortly after the Orange secured the 2008 title.
It foreshadowed the evolution Desko soon took. The redshirt junior enters Syracuse's (2-0) matchup Friday at 6 p.m. against Virginia (4-0) at the Carrier Dome -- the teams are tied for the No. 1 ranking in the latest USILA Division I poll -- less than a week removed from scoring a career-high three goals in SU's 11-9 victory Sunday over Army. He's starting at attack for the first time in his career. And he remains, in the eyes of father and Orange head coach John Desko, one of the team's "most productive players," ranking second in points (five) behind sophomore midfielder and No. 22-adorned JoJo Marasco (nine).
Tim Desko's increased role appears fairly linear. After vowing nearly three years ago he'd earn more playing time, his father and teammates equally have lauded his work ethic, accuracy, dodging and creativity. Desko spent most of his redshirt freshman season in 2009 playing at faceoff and on the man-up unit, moved to attack his sophomore season and secured a starting spot his junior season. But the trek between each destination proved challenging.
"It made me work harder," Tim Desko said. "I never let up and didn't take a break at all."
It first involved handling the contention expressed both in message boards and fans at opposing venues that Tim Desko simply received a roster spot because he was the coach's son. John Desko said he and his wife, Cindy, warned Tim ahead of time about that attention ever since he committed to the Orange.
Yet Tim Desko, who called himself "under-recruited" for fielding offers only from Syracuse, Hobart, Navy and Le Moyne, acknowledged struggling with that attention his first two seasons at SU.
"I've been tougher on him than most of the guys," John Desko said. "He's handled it well. He's had to grow up with it. With the team I think, I'm speaking as a father-coach, they see that and respect that and he's had to work for everything that he's gotten."
Tim Desko believed playing with that scrutiny "helped me a lot" in ignoring the chatter that fainted each time he assumed a larger role. The delayed arrival of junior college transfer Cody Jamieson, as well as Tim Desko's improved finishing and conditioning, earned him a shared role with Chris Danielo at attack in 2009, playing roughly half of each game, scoring 14 points, playing on the man-up unit and helping the Orange win its second consecutive title.
The adversities continued, however.
A month into the 2010 season, Tim Desko missed four games after getting assaulted at an off-campus nightspot. He declined comment on he incident, but said he was the victim and his injuries included a broken nose, an unspecified number of broken teeth and a head injury that required eight staples.
"I wanted to be playing again," said Tim Desko, who added the pain has improved but still lingers. "That really motivated me to work harder."
Desko returned with renewed creativity in his game, including a goal against Princeton in which he scored off a shot between his legs, a shot teammate Stephen Keogh said he's demonstrated plenty of times in practice. Coach and player accounts tick off other examples that shed light on Tim Desko's work ethic. John Desko noticed his son spent most of his summers sneaking in weight-lifting sessions with strength and conditioning coach Hal Luther. Keogh recalled Tim Desko often peppering coaches and teammates with questions about drills, shooting techniques and scouting reports. And goalie John Galloway frequently fielded practice shots from him.
"He's not the coach's son anymore," Galloway said. "Tim has his own name. He's establishing that as his name here at Syracuse."
Even if Tim Desko has made his own name within the Orange ranks, he sounded equally as hungry as that one summer day three years ago where he vowed he'd get on the field.
"Hopefully I can build off that," he said. "I want to make a big impact."