Phillylacrosse.com is pleased to honor the accomplishments of the top players from 2018 re-posting its annual All-Phillylacrosse.com series
By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 11/13/18
T.J. Malone – who played two years of JV lacrosse – is a testament to any player who continues to work at his/her craft after the college recruiters or high school coaches say they are not quite good enough.
“Being a late bloomer was hard because I wasn’t as big as everyone else so it was hard to keep up,” said the Haverford School attackman. “That’s why I played JV for two years. I questioned if I could ever played varsity, but that motivated me to work even harder so once I grew I would be able to dominate.”
And dominate he did. Malone made the Fords’ varsity in 2017 when he became a key member of an Inter-Ac League champion. Then, in 2018, he emerged as a standout, sharing the Inter-Ac’s Most Important Player (with Penn Charter faceoff specialist Gavin Tygh) and leading the Fords to a perfect league season and a National rankings.
Malone was so well-regarded, in fact, that Malvern Prep’s game-plan in the 2018 Inter-Ac championship was focused on stopping him with a shadow defender. The Friars won the game, 17-13, but respect for Malone grew only higher.
Just around that time, Malone – who had committed to Division III power Amherst as a junior – was being wooed by many top Division I programs. Now an All-American who collected 55 goals and 42 assists against a National schedule, he chose to commit to Penn State.
For his accomplishments, Malone has been named the 2018 Phillylacrosse.com Co-Player of the Year, sharing it with Strath Haven senior midfielder Jeff Conner.
Unlike Conner, Malone was clearly not a heralded recruit when he arrived as a high school player.
“He’s an anomaly,” said Haverford coach John Nostrant. “He spent two years playing JV lacrosse. That’s the way it used to be. His is a throwback who grew into his body.
“He was small, but he was a hard worker. He doesn’t look the part; that’s why he didn’t garner lots of interest from the Division I schools.”
Malone uses his smarts and a variety of moves to score and feed.
“He is so hard to cover,” Nostrant said. “He comes around the cage and gets his hands free. He shoots when the goalie doesn’t expect it near side. He is very crafty and he’s really really sneaky tough. He’s tough for not having a lot on his bones.
“He is a wonderful kid and it was great to coach him. Everything (in recruiting) came late (for him).”
Malone said he learned skill development more as a JV player.
“I just kept working on my game on my own, soaking up everything my coaches said, and hitting the weight room more,” he said. “I couldn’t have done it without my amazing Haverford coaches and my NXT coaches.
“I don’t think I could have achieved these awards until this year. I wasn’t good enough. I had a lot of motivation going into my senior year. Some college coaches told me I wasn’t good enough to play on their teams so I wanted to prove them wrong.”
Malone’s only real disappointment could have been his final game for the Fords. Malvern Prep kept Malone covered and raced to an 11-2 halftime lead.
Haverford, with Malone getting some key feeds, rallied and pulled within three goals late in the game. But the deficit was too large. Still, Malone says he has no regrets about the 2018 season.
“I wouldn’t trade our team or our season for anything,” Malone said. “I had the best teammates and coaches in the world. I am extremely lucky to have played for the legendary Haverford coaching staff.
“I would have loved to bring home an Inter-Ac championship for my last year, but we gave our best effort so that’s all I could ask for. I don’t regret anything.”