Kaminski Gives Delaware a Shooter's Chance
by Justin Feil | LaxMagazine.com
CAA championship MVP Kevin Kaminski found his stroke at the most opportune time and hopes to continue his sharpshooting ways Saturday at Duke.
© Mark Campbell/UD Athletic Media Relations Photo
Delaware midfielder Kevin Kaminski's shot selection has been in question, but never his athleticism.
"The thing with Kevin is, he can run by anybody," said Blue Hens men's lacrosse coach Bob Shillinglaw. "We've had him dodge poles. It's what he does with it after that."
The Blue Hens got the best of Kaminski in his final Colonial Athletic Association tournament. The Delaware senior was named Most Outstanding Player of the CAA tournament after scoring a pair of goals in Delaware's 10-9 win at No. 8 Hofstra in the semifinals and three more in their 9-7 win at No. 19 UMass in the title game. He scored the game-winning goal in both games for the underdog Blue Hens, who were seeded fourth.
"That's probably one of the best performances I've had," Kaminski said before pausing and adding, "but hopefully not ever."
Delaware plays at Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament Saturday.
"He's going to help across the board," Shillinglaw said. "In the settled offense, in 6-on-6 offense, I think he can make Duke respect him as an athlete, and they're going to have to slide to him. He can help jump start the offense.
"I think he's got some confidence," he added. "And with the fact he was successful with his shooting percentage, that should help give him some confidence. That should help him going into the next weekend."
Kaminski came to college with the Old West gunslinger's mentality of shooting first and asking questions later. It started in high school at Strath Haven in Pennsylvania.
"We weren't really a powerhouse," Kaminski said. "When I played, they'd give me the ball at the midfield line and tell me to run.
"I took what I did in high school and I tried to transition that to college. That's what I try to do, run by people and create offense."
Kaminski can run himself free so often that it's tempting to shoot every time he creates space. In four seasons plus three games in an injury-shortened year, he has squeezed off 295 shots.
"I'm sure Bob Shillinglaw and I have a lot of common," said Strath Haven coach Dave Waldman. "Some of those shots were fantastic. His ability to get deep is amazing. And I'm sure we've seen our share of shots we'd want back."
As a freshman at Delaware, Kaminski fired 60 shots, and that was as a second-line midfielder. But he also served notice that he could deliver in big moments. As a freshman whose athleticism helped him fit into the college game quickly, he had a goal in Delaware's upset of Virginia to reach the Final Four in 2007.
"We knew he was going to be an absolute beast," Waldman said. "The thing about Kevin, even in college, he's a sort of next level athlete. He's faster and stronger. He's got more burst than most college kids that play his position."
This year, Kaminski has attempted a career-high 91 shots for Delaware, nowhere close to the school record of 165, and not even in the school's top-15 all-time, but 14 more than the Blue Hens' leading scorer Eric Smith, who connects on almost 30 percent of his shots, roughly double what Kaminski shoots.
"We've had to have some discussions about when to take that shot," Shillinglaw said. "He's gotten better at it. That's part of his
"We got a CAA championship. We want to get to the final four again."
game that he's learned more about. It's not always the first shot, but the best shot."
Kaminski has discovered how to use his athleticism to be a more productive all-around player. Playing in a school-record 70 games for the Blue Hens has helped the two-time captain.
"I think now I'm more conscious of the team aspect," said Kaminski, who is tied for fourth on the team with 14 goals and has added three assists. "Individual awards are great, but team awards blow them out of the water. When I was a freshman, it was get your goals and that's how you're going to help your team. If I miss a shot now, I have to sprint back in the hole and stop the fast break. I used to put my head down if I took a bad shot.
"I want to help out the team and win a championship. We got a CAA championship. We want to get to the final four again."
The Blue Hens can live with a few bad shots for all the good things that Kaminski brings. He helps in transition and in putting opposing defenses at a disadvantage.
"He's one of the guys clearing-wise, we can get the ball to him," Shillinglaw said. "He can turn into the designated clearer. His lacrosse IQ has improved over the course of the time.
"Kevin, he does a terrific job like the hockey assist guy. He gets the defense concerned about him, and then the next thing you know he moves it to the next guy who finds someone who gets the assist and the goal."
Kaminski was selected by the Boston Cannons with the 22nd pick in the Major League Lacrosse draft. Nobody doubts that he has the athleticism to play at the next level, though he will have to refine his skills. Injuries to his ankle and shoulder have cost him a pair of offseasons during which he could have improved his skills more, but his potential seems limitless for the faster pro game.
"He'll work on his shot and his passing," said Waldman, who still sees Kaminski in summers. "He's as athletic as any lacrosse
"He's as athletic as any lacrosse player playing the game in America."
Strath Haven (Pa.) coach Dave Waldman
player playing the game in America. He's an unbelievable athlete. If he can improve his skills, he's going to be incredible."
Kaminski has parlayed his athleticism into quite a college career. He is the active goal scoring leader for the Blue Hens, yet UMass elected to cover him with a short stick in the CAA championship game. Kaminski was even more shocked when the Minutemen didn't slide to him when he dodged past his defender.
Said Kaminski: "I guess they thought my shooting percentage wasn't good enough so they weren't going to slide toward me."
Kaminski is only connecting on a career-low 15.4 percent of his shots, though his .495 shooting percentage on goal is second-best in his career. But in the CAA tournament, he was 2-for-4 against Hofstra and 3-for-5 against UMass.
"My shooting percentage isn't what I want it to be this year," Kaminski said. "I'm glad I'm shooting better in the playoffs."
Kaminski can always create space by beating defenders, but what made a difference against UMass was his ability to create good shooting angles for himself. That showed his development as a player as well as his experience.
"He always felt he had the green light," Shillinglaw said. "We had to make some adjustments on that. Our success kind of rides on his decision-making."
Kaminski has already prolonged Delaware's season. The Blue Hens looked done when they lost back-to-back games to Penn State and UMass – both badly – going into the CAA tournament. They had to win it to reach the NCAAs again.
"Freshman year, we were kind of in the same boat with, are we going to make the CAA tournament?" he said. "We played Villanova, and beat them 19-18, and that put us in the CAA. We were fortunate to win there, and we went on to go to UVA and win there and get to the final four.
"We had those losses to Penn State and UMass. We had a lot of meetings, player-only meetings, saying, let's do this."
Kaminski took the lead in his final season in getting Delaware back to the NCAAs, and now he hopes to rekindle the magic he shared in when Delaware reached the final four in 2007.
"We got our swagger back," Kaminski said. "Hopefully the ball keeps rolling."