The sick dangle. The pass fake that has the whole arena looking where the ball didn’t go. Taking a huge hit along the boards and coming out the other side with the ball. Crashing to the net and somehow making it through traffic with the ball still in your stick. Stickhandling in lacrosse has many facets and today we look at the best of the guys who do them well. There are plenty of contenders for the best in the National Lacrosse League. Some excel at stickhandling in space and some show their stuff when the confines get a little tighter. But all 10 of our candidates make handling the ball a thing of beauty. Have your say about who is the best of them after the jump.
He’s a great natural athlete, he’s developed crazy slick stick skills, plus Mark Steenhuis gets some bonus style points for flair thanks to the curly locks protruding from his helmet. The Bandit is a one-man argument in favour of not running the shot clock during the penalty kill because he makes dancing around defenders while cradling with aplomb an art form.
Another approach in leagues where you can kill a whole penalty by just hanging on to the ball is to hand it to someone from whom it’s just about impossible to dislodge it. Watching Andrew Suitor rag the ball brings to mind seeing a running back crash into a mass of bodies at the line of scrimmage and magically emerge on the other side. How he can maintain control of the ball while fighting through two and three defenders at a time strains credulity. It may look like a bull in a china shop style but it takes a ton of skill to pull off.
With some guys, it’s a little harder to pinpoint what it is that makes their stickhandling so impressive. They present a subtler set of skills that impact in various ways on the floor. Among these guys, a couple of veterans stand out. Colin Doyle is the master of the unorthodox. He’ll make a pass or get off a shot—and often a successful one—from the unlikeliest of angles. He can do it because he has supreme awareness of and feel for just how the ball is sitting in the pocket. Casey Powell has carried his field skills to the box and made them work like a charm. There’s a fluidity to his game that can obscure just how difficult some of the things he makes look easy are.
Speaking of field skills, wait till you get a chance to see Matt Gibson play with Minnesota. The kid can flat-out dangle. He was MLL rookie of the year, but being a phenom on the grass doesn’t necessarily translate to the NLL game. Gibson, though, made the Swarm roster because he’s showing that he can make the same moves in traffic that he pulls off so flawlessly in space. Gibson’s still got some indoor learning to do, but look for this smart little player to figure things out quickly.
And speaking of smart little players, how about Shawn Evans? He is more than willing to take a pounding to work the ball into scoring position. When a shooting lane emerges, he has the footwork to create just enough room to let his supreme stick control fire the ball towards an opening. More likely, though, is that he has seen a teammate coming open and will flick a pass at the perfect moment to create a scoring chance for someone else.
Next up are a couple of lefties with the chops to play defence and the creativity to produce in the offensive zone. Jeff Shattler was the NLL MVP a couple of years ago largely thanks to his multi-faceted game. Jordan Hall is similar in his ability to contribute with a great stick at either end of the floor. Both have a pretty sweet array of moves that can leave defenders grasping at air and the wherewithal to finish.
Nobody finishes in traffic with more panache than Athan Iannucci. He’s so good at shooting with one hand that it can seem like a pretty even matchup when he’s bulling his way to the net against three defenders. Nooch is the king of the jaw-dropping, speechless-rendering highlight reel goal.
Last but definitely not least, there is the man who can do pretty much anything anyone else on this list can do with a lacrosse stick and ball. Heck, John Grant, Jr. can do things with one hand that most really good ball handlers can’t do with two. His backhand pass and shot are so good that you really have no idea where he’s going to throw the ball. It’s commonplace for him to toss his stick from one hand to the other across his chest with a defender right on top of him. It looks completely natural when he does it, but it shouldn’t even be possible. Turning the improbable into the everyday is all in the line of duty for the magical stick of John Grant.
Rate This Story: