Who among us doesn’t remember watching Paul Rabil at Johns Hopkins just a few short NCAA seasons ago? The most impressive aspect of his game was watching him in isolation, barreling down from the top and putting on dodge or two to create his own space. That was all fine and dandy outdoors, but how was this 6-3, 225-pound horse of a midfielder going to fare in the tighter spaces of the National Lacrosse League? Three years into his NLL career, he’s doing just fine, thank you very much. You’d be hard-pressed to find a player with the eagerness to learn a “new” game and Rabil’s embraced the box lacrosse game with open arms and is quickly climbing the ultimate ladder of the game: Respect.
It’s not that opponents had zero respect for Rabil. He’s got a world of talent. But plenty of NCAA men before him have come into the NLL and fallen by the wayside. Not Rabil. He’s been a force for the Stealth since his first season in 2009 and judging by stats alone, he’s only getting better. And you know what they say about success. It only breeds more.
As a rookie, 34 points. In 2010, 37 points and an NLL championship. And last year, 44 points and a runner-up finish in the NLL. But even more than his work in the front end, he’s a machine before the ball even gets there and the reason it’s there often is the result of his grinding work. He was, by far, the Stealth’s leader in loose balls last year with 153 and he was among the team leaders in the new stat of forced turnovers, with 13. He even stepped up the nastiness that’s needed in this game and was carded for 36 PIM, third-most on the team.
It’s easy to see the numbers and their progression, but the nature of Rabil’s job on the floor puts him in positions to help that can’t be “stati-cized.” There are picks, there are rolls, there are passes and there are defensive stops. And, of course, there’s the motor. He’s got that, no doubt about it, and he’s talked with ILIndoor before about what the indoor game means to him and how he’s reinvented his determination.
Yeah, he’ll score goals for ya and yeah, he’ll bring the bling with dodges, checks and just about anything else he’s asked to do for the Stealth or Team USA, the team he helped win bronze in Prague in 2010. But what’s pushing him up higher and higher on that ladder of respect are the little things and the fundamentals he works tirelessly to improve. Ask any GM out there today who they’d start with if they were to build a team from scratch, and there’s no doubt that if Rabil’s name is not at the top of the list, it’s pretty damn close to it.
Top 35 (last year’s rank in parenthesis)email@example.com or go to RochesterSports.com.
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