If there was a theme to this year’s National Lacrosse League Entry Draft it was big, strong and skilled. The Colorado Mammoth jumped on board that train when they tabbed Colton Clark with their first pick, ninth overall. The righty forward excelled with the Burnaby Lakers when he wasn’t stepping on balls in practice and rolling his ankle. Clark scored 21 goals and 37 assists for 58 points in the Western Lacrosse Association’s 2011 season. Only Dane Stevens had more goals and points and nobody topped his assist total.
In 2012, he missed half a dozen games for the second time with Burnaby after a second ankle-turning incident in practice. Clark still piled up 15/21/36 totals in 12 games, good for fourth on the team in points. He recognizes, though, that his role as a primary option will undergo some adjustment in the NLL.
“It’s going to be a tough transition. I’m used to holding on to the ball a lot,” Clark said. “I had a long conversation with [Head Coach Bob] Hamley and he said one of the main things I need to not do, which is what a lot of young guys want to do when they come into the league or are used to, is hold onto the ball. That should be a bit of a transition for me.”
The Bellarmine University star midfielder says he has no problem, though, making that transition…or anything else the Mammoth expect of him. “I’m just going to do whatever I can to make the team,” he said. “They were definitely my top choice for teams I wanted to get drafted by. Getting drafted is basically my dream come true. It’s something I’ve been working towards my entire life, so it was just nice to finally hear my name called out.”
As for the Mammoth’s expectations of him, Clark says “They’re looking for me to play offence, open up some holes on their right side, set a lot of picks.” He’s well suited for role, standing 6′3” and tipping the scales at a solid 215 pounds.
Clark is confident in his abilities, but he makes it clear that he understands what it means to be a rookie in the NLL. “I don’t want to step on anybody’s shoes when I get to Colorado,” he says. “I’m going to a great team with guys like John Grant, Jr. and Gavin Prout. Obviously, I’m not going to be the first option on offence. I just want to do whatever I can to contribute to winning games. If they want me to play transition, that’s what I’ll play. ‘ll be setting a lot more picks, using the physical aspect a lot more. Hopefully I’ll get to do some goal scoring, too, but we’ll see how it works out.”
Not that he’ll be a shrinking violet; Clark says when scoring chances are there he won’t hesitate to take them. But he doesn’t mind deferring to guys like Grant and Prout. “Not at all,” he emphasizes. “The chance to play with those guys is the main reason I’m so excited to be going to Colorado in the first place. John Grant is the best offensive player in the world and if I make the team I get to be on the floor with him. What more could I ask for as a young player?”
Other than avoiding stepping on balls during practice—so he can stay on the floor with Grant and company—not much.Stamp is a TV sports announcer and lacrosse lover whose skill set made him a defender but who always dreamed of being a goal-scorer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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