By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 11/5/14
Maryland men’s coach John Tillman told a gathering over over 200 players, parents and coaches last week at the annual Duke’s Lacrosse Club’s College Recruiting Seminar at Harriton High that the landscape of early recruiting is challenging for both sides.
“There are roughly 65 Division I program and it’s not growing, but there is a large supply of players and a lot of demand by players to (play Division I lacrosse),” said Tillman. “I think the concern for kids if they want a bigger school is that there aren’t a lot of options getting one of those spots. It’s pretty competitive and they feel they might get left out in the cold.
“From the schools’ side, our dilemma is, ‘Do you pass on a guy’ because you might not find somebody better. Then if they do commit you might not have a spot for somebody else. It’s tricky for both sides.”
Already, nearly 20 2018 boys and several 2018 girls have made their commitments to Division I schools public, and others have committed but have not gone public. It is expected that many ore freshmen will commit to D1 schools in the coming weeks as many colleges – not just Top 10 schools – continue to recruit freshmen heavily.
Tillman, who has coached Maryland to two NCAA championship game appearances in his four years at Maryland, also has been a head coach at Harvard and an assistant at Navy and Division III Ithaca. he was the guest speaker at the Duke’s seminar, and followed up six speeches given by Dukes players, ranging from 2018 commit Caton Johnson (Manheim Township/UNC) to 2015 NESCAC commit Evan Wolf (Lower Merion/Amherst).
Tillman told Phillylacrosse.com that he still holds spots in his classes for players that bloom late in their careers and that any player that wants to play Division I and has not committed by their junior year should be able to find a spot in many programs.
“Absolutely, they’ll be a spot for sure,” he said. “I think that being in a visible program, attending tournaments or by sending your video out and marketing yourself, or get yourself out there, coaches are smart enough to realize kids grow differently.
“I see this not only in high school but in college, that some kids mature later. We all realize there are certain guys that are really good players in their junior or senior year that we really didn’t know about when they were in their freshman year.”
Tillman – based on his experience coaching at different levels – said his message to the crowd also addressed the variety of great lacrosse programs and institutions.
“I try to do give the perspective of having been at four very different places,” he said. “They are all great places in their own way and I try to give value to each. Whether they are scholarship, service, Ivy League or Division III institutions, they are all great.
“Players need to focus on remembering that they need to have fun playing lacrosse because that’s why they play. If you focus on enjoying playing and competing, everything else takes care of itself.”
What are college coaches looking for in potential high school recruits?
“I think first and foremost they want to have players that have high character to represent the program and university well,” Tillman said. “At the end of the day, the kids are part of your program and you have to do things the right way. When we call the high school or club coach, we obviously are looking at kids with good grades. The better students is uaually willing to push himself and challenge himself
“The less time we spend worrying about taking care of business with a player’s grades, the more time we can spend coaching. Obviously, we want a guy that is a real hard worker and is a leader that can make other guys better.”
Tillman also spoke about why college coaches enjoy recruiting in the Philly region.
“The coaching and development that those guys get is really good from the youth level all the way up,” he said. “They are very well coached with very good fundamentals and instinctive qualities. They understand how to play, how to play the right way. Their guys love to compete and a lot of coaches feel that is really important.”
Duke’s LC coach Ebe Helm praised all his players that spoke for sharing their thoughts on the difficult process of recruiting to a large crowd. He noted that Forry Smith (Haverford School, 2016 attackman committed to Johns Hopkins) spoke at the event two years ago shortly after being the country’s first freshman to commit in September and how impressive his speech was two years later. Helm also praised how 2016 face-off specialist Matt Dellacroce (Spring-Ford, Michigan) spoke so well after having to deal with a season-ending injury last year and how 2017 FOGO Anthony Giuliani (La Salle, Penn) spoke about academics being the focus.
Helm also talked about impressive it is for so many Philly players and Dukes players to land spots on Division I programs.
“There’s a new statistic out that says for every D1 player there are 7,000 players going for that spot,” he said. “So it’s incredible how much work it takes for our players to make it to a Division I college. The coaches work hard to help get guys placed.”
Helm said one key point he took from the Tillman presentation was the greater importance of academics, especially in this age of early recruiting.
“Young players absolutely need to hit the books and really get grades to start with because if they don’t, they are eliminating options,” he said. “One of things we emphasize here is from our mission and motto: If you’re an All-American player you better be an All-American person. That’s our foundation and we put in those demands.
“Coach Tillman also liked that we have transparency, in our depth chart. That promotes competition; the kids know where they stand and he said that’s why he likes Dukes players because they come to college knowing what it’s like to compete in a college organization.”