This update is courtesy of Team Canada Lacrosse
Zack Greer, Garrett Billings, Adam Jones and Stephen Keogh are pushing hard to make Canada’s world field lacrosse team.
They are impressive young attackers trying to win spots during a three-day selection camp that began Saturday in Toronto. They’ve got their work cut out for them, but they’re not intimidated in their quest to be part of Canada’s defence of its world title in Manchester, England, next July.
“You have to come in here with a confident attitude,’’ says Greer. “A lot of us young guys have had a lot of success at different levels so we come in confident but, at the same time, there are a lot of great players here so you need to find a way to make a difference.
“You have to tread that fine line between trying to do too much and doing what you’re good at. It’s certainly exciting to be playing with some of the best players in the sport.’’
Greer was a junior box lacrosse standout in Whitby, Ont., starred in U.S. college field lacrosse at Duke and Bryant and was the No. 3 pick in the recent NLL draft by the Minnesota Swarm. He whipped in a powerful sidearm shot for a goal during the camp’s first intrasquad game. The hitting was heavy.
“It’s the Canadian style and you’ve got to be ready for it,’’ he said. “I definitely expected that coming in, for sure.’’
Head coach David Huntley has his pick of such pro shooters as Dan Dawson, Shawn Williams, Jeff Zywicki, John Grant, Mark Steenhuis, Gavin Prout, Merrick Thomson and Jordan Hall, so the rookies are going to have to be eye-popping good to win a roster spot.
“It’s nerve wracking,’’ a sweaty Jones said as he left the St. Michael’s College School field after the first intrasquad test. “You’re out here with people you grew up watching, some of your favourite players.
“You try not to get starstruck. It’s really neat. It’s a great opportunity.’’
Jones plays field lacrosse at Canisius College in Buffalo. The native of Owen Sound, Ont., was named Minto Cup MVP when he helped the Orangeville Northmen win the 2009 Canadian junior championship.
His father, Brian Jones, played on Canada’s team that won the world title in 1978, also in England. Did he get any advice before attending camp?
“He just said, `Work your hardest. Keep your head up and good things will happen.’ He said it would be pretty neat to have both of us, father and son, play for Canada.’’
Hopefuls had to pay their own way to the camp, and Billings came all the way from Langley, B.C.
“I’ve wanted to play for Team Canada since I was a little kid,’’ he said. “If I make the team, it’ll be the fulfillment of a life-long dream.’’
Billings was drafted by the NLL’s Toronto Rock last month out of the University of Virginia. He tried out for the 2006 world team and was one of the final cuts.
“I’m competing with a lot of other righty attackmen and we’ve got quite a few good ones,’’ he said. “I’ll give it my best shot.’’
He always seems to miss out on Thanksgiving dinner in Langley.
“This is the fifth year in a row I haven’t been home for Thanksgiving so I’ve learned to deal with it,’’ he said with a grin.
Players pay their own transportation costs to take part in the three-day camp.
“I couldn’t let this opportunity get away from me just because it’s costing a few bucks,’’ said Billings.
Keough is from Toronto so he would have been home from Syracuse University for Thanksgiving anyway. He was a teammate of Jones in Oranageville and preceded Jones as Minto Cup MVP.
“It’s a great experience playing against the best players in Canada,’’ Keogh said. “It’s a great opportunity. I’ll work hard. Representing Canada has been something I’ve wanted to do since I was a little kid.’’
He took an overhand shot that sent the ball into a bottom corner of the net.
“Everyone is going hard,’’ he said. “They’re working their tails off.’’
Huntley stood alone watching the action.
“They all played pretty well,’’ he said after the first scrimmage when asked about the wave of young talent. “You can kind of tell the different levels of experience.
“Zach and Billings are a couple of years more advanced than Keogh and Jones. You look at decision making and things like that. You can see their maturity a little bit more. On the flip side, you also saw a lot of energy from Keogh and Jones. It’s a matter of bottling that energy and sending it in the right direction.’’
Canada’s team will try to play a hybrid style combining field and box strategies.
“We try not to play college field lacrosse,’’ Huntley explained. “We’re not very good when we do that.
“That’s one of the challenges for some of our younger guys. They’re in college programs right now and some of the stuff they do there doesn’t mesh as well with what some of our other guys do.’’
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