By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 10/13/13
A group of 52 elite high school boys’ lacrosse players – including 14 from Philly – competed Saturday through today in the Paul Rabil-Mark Millon Project 9.9 at St. Paul’s and Loyola University in the Baltimore area.
The players – most of who have committed to major Division I – were treated to elite status and received coaching from the likes of Rabil and Millon (event directors) as well as Patrick McCabe, Buddy Hoffman, Scott Rodgers, Ben Rubeor, Stephen Berger and Greg Bice and strength and conditioning coach Jay Dyer (Johns Hopkins).
All players were invite-only.
The Philly players included:
Haverford School’s Jake Hervada (2015, FO-MF, committed to Delaware), Grant Ament (2015 ATT, Penn State) and Ben Euler (2015 DEF);
Central Bucks East’s Matt Heim (2014 MF-ATT, Loyola) and Tyler Butler (2014 DEF/LSM, Penn State, did not play due to injury);
Malvern Prep’s Charles Kelly (2015 FO, North Carolina);
Bishop Shanahan’s John Mehok (2014 ATT, Lehigh);
Episcopal Academy’s Brian Zappala (2014 G, Penn);
Conestoga’s Chris Brady (2015 MF);
Salesianum School’s Freddy Freibott (2014 defenseman/LSM, Ohio State);
Downingtown East’s Jake Peden (2015 DEF, North Carolina);
Wissahickon’s Luke Gomez (2014 MF, Hofstra);
Avon Grove’s Will Schreiner (2014 G, Penn State); and
Trinity/NXT LC’s Tim Hickey (2014 defenseman, Holy Cross).
The Philly players excelled in many fronts. Freibott was named the top-ranked defenseman for the event, which featured extensive drills, 1-on-1 instruction broken down with video-tape, a game today and strength and conditioning instruction by the highly-regarded Dyer.
Meanwhile, Ament was the No. 2-ranked attackman and Mehok was ranked No. 5 after Sunday. Schreiner was the No 1-ranked goalie after the first day (he was not ranked No. 1 at end of the event, but final goalie rankings were not given out).
“It was a great experience; the coaches were so knowledgeable and they helped me with so many little parts of the game I hadn’t noticed before,” Freibott said. “They had video on you and in individual meetings showed you in slow motion the little things to improve your game.
“Then we got to play such great competition with top players from 16 states and Canada. I learned so much. It was probably the best weekend of lacrosse I ever experienced.”
Said Ament: “There were a lot of Philly guys there. They said they wanted players that wanted to be there.”
The schedule was packed – but the players loved it.
On Saturday they arrived and had individual drills and instruction by position before some 1-on-1s.
“It was high intensity,” said Ament, who attended the event last year. “Everyone was trying to make their mark. The defense was physical and the offense was so speedy. It was fun to watch; the competition was really amazing, you could feel it.
“The majority of the kids were committed and there were no college coaches. Paul (Rabil) said the event was made to help the players make their move into college a little bit smoother. It was a 3-day weekend of what life is going to be like.
“We did everything they (college players) do – from strength and conditioning to 1-on-1s, stick drills and different things.”
On Sunday the players got their first rankings by position. Ament said the coaches based the rankings on their adaptability and coachability.
“They wanted us to show we can change our game,” Ament said. “For example, you could tighten up your dodge and show you could adapt to the information while incorporating it in your game. They also wanted to see how you’d compete; that’s what matters at the next level.”
The players spent nearly 12 hours doing drills and receiving instruction on Sunday. For one stretch the coaches switched and attackmen coaches went to defense and defensive coaches taught the attack.
“That was probably my favorite part,” said Ament. “Obviously, the best way to beat your opponent is to know their weakness. This gave us all the tools; but it was also harder for us because the defense knew what we’d throw at them.
“It made the competition even higher and harder. It raised the intensity.”
Ament said the players spent 90 minutes doing shooting drills. He marveled at how Rabil never missed.
“It’s obvious the coaches did these drills,” Ament said. “Rabil and Millon don’t miss! They ping the corners, left and right.”
After a long period of strength and conditioning and 6-on-6 drills at Loyola, the players went back to the hotel for meetings with their coaches where their play was broken down inch-by-inch through videotape.
“They did video with IPads and showed us how we looked in slow motion,” Ament said. “They split the screen and showed how Mark Millon looked vs. how we looked.
“They compared us and broke down things and showed us what we can take out. It was really cool to see yourself in slow motion.
“You think you look good in the fast break. But when they slow it down, you can see all the flaws in your game. It’s tough to see that about yourself, but it’s great.
“Paul and Mark both say this will not make us dramatically better. We all know we are good players. But that little inch, that small step; that’s going to separate the good from the great.”
Today’s action closed with a game that featured all the skills taught the two previous days. Team 9.9 defeated Team Project, 14-11 and the Game MVP was Landon School 2015 attackman Colton Rupp (Cornell commit).
Other Philly players comments:
Freibott: “I am taking away from this a taste of what it will be like to play at the college level. I can’t wait. Coming back to high school, I feel like it’s a totally different level. With the tips, it will make my game that much faster, that much better and that much smarter.
“I definitely gained a lot of confidence. It also was humbling, but I knew how good the competition was and I feel a lot more confident with my game.”
Charles Kelly: “We had the best coaches from across the country. It was a great time. They really didn’t focus on certain group of kids; each group had its own set of coaches and they really broke apart your game and showed you little things that make you one or two percent better. You can focus on getting to the next level and getting you tools to keep bettering yourselves.”
Luke Gomez: “It was something I’ve never gone to before. It helped me tremendously. It was the first event where it wasn’t all about a showcase; we weren’t trying to impress college coaches. We were trying to get our own game to the next level.”
Jake Peden: “The coaches did a great job and filmed everything. Just watching it in slow motion helps you to see wrong steps and helps you correct it. They helped you step by step individually, catering it to you.
“They gave us a bunch of different skills you can practice by yourselves; different shots you take if you are in transition. The game is changing. If you can’t handle the ball and score goal it’s tough to get on the field at the next level.”
Tim Hickey: “It was definitely the best competition I’ve ever been against. It was a pretty elite group of guys on the coaching staff and I received the best instruction I’ve ever had in my career.
“The coaches were very technical and they didn’t just tell us what to do; they showed us. They were very positive and upbeat and made it competitive and yet at everyone’s learning level. This prepares you for what the college experience is like. It was really intense.
“It was a really great experience and playing the best made me better; I hope I made them better.”
Jake Hervada: “They pretty much broke your game down and showed you how everything works to be a better overall player at your position.
“You played against all the best players and the way they critiqued me helped me a lot. I will keep working hard and use all the things they taught me.”
Will Schreiner: “I was really humbled by this experience. I really hadn’t seen lacrosse played at such a high level. Every shooter could sting corners. It gave me a desire to work harder and become a better goalie. I will take everything I learned and use it to become better.”