John Grant Jr. has been through a lot the last few seasons, whether it’s being traded or dealing with injuries. That’s what makes his pursuit of the National Lacrosse League’s single-season points record even sweeter, he says. He goes into Saturday’s regular-season finale with 110 points, 5 shy of the mark and with refreshing clarity, Junior told his hometown Peterborough Examiner what it would mean to break the record. “It’s not so much important as it is validation that I feel I can still play this game at the level I want to,” he said. “Most in the lacrosse world figured, after my injury, I was finished and that at 37 I didn’t have anything left. I’ve been traded two times in the last couple of years so if anything it’s validation I can compete at a high level. If I got the record and we were 4-12 it would mean absolutely nothing but it shows I’m helping my team.” Bravo, Junior.
An answer like that reflects the growth of a player who understands that just because he’s older doesn’t necessarily mean his game has to look the part. Experience is a valuable asset and Junior’s making the most of his knowledge in creating scoring opportunities for himself — obviously — and for others in Colorado.
This growth of Grant’s game couldn’t have been timed better, following a renewed dedication in the off-season to fitness. It’s coincided with the arrival of a handful of spry and talented rookies to make Grant and the Mammoth one of the top NLL stories this season. The team was 5-11 a year ago and barely qualified for the postseason. It’s 11-4 today.
“I’m not a fool. I know I’m not physically able to do what I used to,” he said. “That just means I had to find other ways to help my team. I look at J.T. who is 43 and still at the top of the league. It can be done. You just have to fine-tune your game and become smarter. I’m trying to become a stronger athlete mentally. I think by doing that it will help bridge the gap of what I don’t have physically. I think I’ve made a strong effort this season to be a mentor to these kids and be a lead-by-example guy.”
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Blaine Manning is a big fan of the Edmonton Rush, even though he’ll be trying to beat them Saturday night. The veteran forward is a native of Sherwood Park and thought he’d be one of those NLL players who did the weekly commute for games. But when he landed with Toronto in 2002, the Rock encouraged and helped him move to the Toronto area and it’s a decision he’s never regretted. It’s something he hopes to see happen with the Rush. “Hopefully, some of the young guys that play out there now will take a look at the opportunities and see how great of a city it is out there and make the permanent move,” Manning said. (Edmonton Journal) … Speaking of the Edmonton Rush and young players, John LaFontaine is doing what he can to help the Rush in their late-season surge and that means playing some defense and some offense. Or whatever coach Derek Keenan asks of him. “I like playing defence more, but whatever I have to do to help the team win. It’s fun, it’s exciting. Everyone wants to be an offensive player and score goals,” LaFontaine said. (Edmonton Sun) … It’s pretty simple for the Philadelphia Wings as they head to Rochester for Saturday’s game. Beat Rochester and they get to stay home for a playoff game next weekend. But if they lose, they’re heading back to Rochester for a first-round game. “We’re at playoff time, we’d love to host a playoff game in our building. It’s a goal we’ve had since the beginning of the season,” said GM and coach Johnny Mouradian (Philly.com) … There were plenty of young lacrosse players and adoring fans at Stayner Arena to see Toronto Rock forward Josh Sanderson, who helped the players by leading a training session. (Simcoe.com) … With just 28 points in 12 games this season for the Buffalo Bandits, no one is more aware of Tracey Kelusky’s struggles than Tracey Kelusky. “I don’t think I’ve lived up to my expectations as far as my offensive output since coming to Buffalo, but … I know last weekend was good because I was able to cash on my opportunities,” he said. (Bandits.com) … The Minnesota Swarm are winners of 3 straight and to make it 4, they’ve got a tall order with the Colorado Mammoth coming to town. “We’re coming in just as prepared as we have been if not more than any other game. It’s important for us to go into the playoffs with momentum,” coach Joe Sullivan said. (MNSwarm.com) … The Colorado Mammoth have activated rookie Joey Cupido from the practice squad and the team says the forward will be in the lineup on Saturday. He’ll be the ninth rookie to suit up for Colorado this season.Chavez is an avid lacrosse player in Rochester and a journalist for the Democrat and Chronicle as well as a longtime Inside Lacrosse contributor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to RochesterSports.com.
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