here's one vote for "John Beilein's head in a Futurama jar"
Greetings, fellow Michigan fans, and now that it’s official, or will be in short order: As a dual fan whose other school is a lacrosse powerhouse, on behalf of fans of other lax programs, welcome to the world of D-I lacrosse. Michigan is joining an NCAA sport that is growing at a pace that doesn’t satisfy a lot of its fans, but is actually one of the fastest of any that the NCAA sponsors. For some, Michigan lacrosse is a symbol of a new and potentially very exciting frontier of expansion: the Midwest. We are not the only fans wondering about a potential Big Ten lacrosse conference. This is intended not to be an introduction to the game itself, but a primer on the NCAA “scene”, if you will. Hopefully this will get you smart (or smarter) on how the world of Division I lacrosse is arrayed. (Men’s lax only – I’m not qualified to speak on the women’s game.)
Like hockey, lacrosse is a very regional sport; in fact, even more so than hockey, at least for now. Hockey is big in the Northeast and upper Midwest; lacrosse is largely limited to the mid-Atlantic. This year was the first in which an NCAA tournament game was held west of the Mississippi; west of Lake Michigan, in fact. Last year was the first in which a championship game was held with a participant (Notre Dame) from a state that didn’t border on the Atlantic Ocean. Roughly 80% of the 61 teams that played D-I men’s lax this year are clustered in the Boston-to-Washington corridor.
Not only that, but lacrosse is still more insular than hockey with respect to national championships and the “top tier” of the sport. The line between hockey royalty and hockey hoi polloi is much more blurred than in lacrosse; ask a lacrosse fan who the top teams are and he’ll probably rattle off eight teams: the four ACC squads (that’s Virginia, UNC, Maryland, and Duke) plus Cornell, Hopkins, Syracuse, and Princeton. Denver and Notre Dame are working on breaking this octumvirate, but it’s tough. And guess who are the eight teams in the quarterfinals of this year’s tournament? Only Carolina and Princeton are missing, and the former got stuck with Maryland in the first round. The rest have proven largely interchangeable.
Let’s take a look at some of the things you’ll want to know about in case you feel like sounding smart about national men’s lax sometime in the future:
The polar opposite of hockey, this is an ever-shifting landscape as the sport grows. Conferences are much smaller, too, as teams vie for a spot in an auto-qualifying conference of six teams – but not too many more. Things are beginning to match up with the ordinary D-I conferences. The Big East has begun sponsoring lacrosse, as has the Northeast Conference; the ACC and Ivy League always have. Some conferences (such as the CAA) have wildly different membership than their nominal grouping; others (Big East, for example) are just smaller versions of their regular bunch.
Michigan will be playing in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) which has little to do with the hockey ECAC and has been a very fluid conference in recent times, serving as a stopping-off point for many teams on the way to a more permanent home such as the Big East. With Michigan onboard, it is also lacrosse’s biggest conference at eight teams and may get larger if High Point joins; it may also get smaller if Fairfield and Loyola decide to join the MAAC, where they exist in the rest of the world. The current membership should not be expected to be the long-term membership.
The ECAC is also wildly divergent in the quality of its teams. A quick rundown:
Denver – Burgeoning powerhouse and a team to be reckoned with going forward. The biggest obstacle to dominance Michigan will have for some time. They are coached by Bill Tierney, a Hall of Fame legend who won six NCAA championships at Princeton, and are in this year’s Final Four.
Loyola and Fairfield – Loyola is a respectable team that has some history getting into the NCAA tournament and flirted with it again this year; they are located in the lacrosse hotbed of Baltimore. Fairfield is a less-accomplished team, but they can be tough. Both are MAAC teams in real life, and there has been speculation (and nothing more than speculation) that now that the MAAC allows the full allotment of scholarships, they may want to join up.
Ohio State – Slowly gaining respectability in the lacrosse world, games against the Buckeyes will probably be tough pills to swallow in the first couple of years. OSU knocked off North Carolina earlier this year and gave Virginia and Notre Dame a difficult time, but also won by just a goal against Detroit and lost to Fairfield and Albany.
Air Force – Perhaps a good litmus test of where Michigan stands in its first couple of years. Air Force is the only service academy that hasn’t tasted much success in lacrosse. They were 6-7 this year but largely on the backs of the NCAA’s crap teams like Mercer and Presbyterian; and some of those crap teams beat them.
Hobart and Bellarmine – Non D-I schools that play lacrosse as their specialty D-I sport (similar to, say, Ferris State in hockey.) Michigan should be very competitive with these teams and hopefully beat them in their first year.
This isn't even necessarily the guaranteed lineup. Conference membership has been so fluid in this sport that a change between now and next season wouldn't surprise anyone.
The conference tournament, like all other lacrosse conference tournaments, invites just four teams; this is for RPI purposes and ease of scheduling.
THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
Like hockey, the lacrosse tourney is a 16-team, single-elimination affair; it is much less of a plinko game, however. Chalk advances with great frequency. It does not fuss about with regionals; first-round games are hosted by the seeded team. The NCAA determines these matchups mainly by seeding the teams 1-16 and then fudging the bottom half a little bit for travel purposes. The quarterfinals are hosted at two neutral sites, which are usually somewhere between Long Island and Baltimore. The NCAA is fanatical about giving teams as short a ride as possible to their quarterfinal site, even to the extent of allowing a lower-seeded team to play on their home field against a higher-seeded team if they happen to be a host. (This happened when #8 Stony Brook hosted #1 Virginia last year.) As with every NCAA tourney, the Final Four is hosted at another neutral site. The NCAA uses NFL stadiums for this purpose and often fills them, especially if the game is in Baltimore or Philadelphia. The men’s lax championship is usually the third or fourth best-attended NCAA championship each year, depending on how you account for the College World Series; the championship game, at times, outdraws the basketball championship.
Currently, six conferences have autobids to the tournament, but that will change in 2012; there will be eight next year. Because of this, and because of the NCAA’s usual desire to see its marquee teams on the marquee, I expect the tournament to expand to 20 in the near future. Interestingly, the ACC has no autobid because it has only four teams, but its teams nearly always qualify anyway.
Only eight teams – the abovementioned eight “royalty” teams – have ever won the NCAA tournament. Five additional teams have made it to the championship game and lost: Notre Dame, UMass, Towson, Navy, and Loyola. Unseeded teams – those that don’t host first-round games, almost never even make it to the Final Four – it’s happened just
four five times, the fifth this year with Maryland.
Lacrosse has three recruiting hotbeds, in order of importance: Long Island, Baltimore, and Philadelphia/South Jersey. This isn’t to say that talent can’t be found elsewhere, but Michigan will want to establish a presence in at least one of these three areas to start with. Fortunately, the school has a very good name on the East Coast. U-M will also draw players from Chicago, Ontario, perhaps New England, and of course, its home state. Long term, it’s my opinion that having two D-I lacrosse teams in the state, playing each other, will help create a critical mass of interest in the state that just wasn’t there when MSU was the lone D-I team here, and that will be a bonus for Michigan’s recruiting. That’s a factor for ten years and beyond.
One important source of players is the Ivy League. Teams like Virginia and Syracuse typically try to attract an Ivy transfer most years. Ivy schools don’t allow their athletes to play intercollegiate athletics while in grad school, so redshirted players look elsewhere for grad school to finish up their fifth year of eligibility. Because of the NCAA rules about grad school transfers, these players are available right away without skipping a year. Michigan should work very hard to attract these players, especially in the first few years of D-I play; they’ll help bridge the gap between the club years and the beginning of Michigan’s true contending years.
One of the best things about recruiting and fanhood in general in the lacrosse realm is the total lack of concern about the lure of professional sports. In the distant future that may change, but for now, lacrosse has none of the accompanying worry about competing interests. There’s no junior hockey in Ontario, no MLS or overseas club system, no slimy agents whispering NBA dreams in your players’ ears, no minor league farm system. Players play four years and occasionally five. Nobody leaves early for the pros and nobody drafts your committed recruits. It’s the only college sport that enjoys a big-time feel and a four-year guarantee.
I’ll leave the full-scale predictions to the experts. Suffice it for now that there’s a wide range of expectations out there in the wide world for Michigan lacrosse. Most don’t really expect Michigan to contend right away; neither do I. Some go so far as to suggest Michigan will be winless or nearly so, entering the league at a level below even Bellarmine. I don’t think so. But it’s a brave new world of sorts; Michigan will go from the top rung to near the bottom. The first goal: win the ECAC. That will be a few years down the road, especially with Denver in the way in the immediate future. In three years UDM, in the MAAC, came within one game of making the tourney and that was considered an eye-opening feat. My hope is that within ten years, Michigan has established itself as a team firmly established as a contender to earn at-large berths to the tournament; fewer, if the tourney expands.
Good luck to the teams as they take a big new step to the future! It’s a big deal for Michigan to be joining the world of D-I lacrosse, but it’s just as big a deal for the world of D-I lacrosse to welcome Michigan.
(Yes, this is bad)
Saving you all the legwork of checking the aptly titled APR of 928 message board post, these graphics demonstrate the disappointing numbers that, yes, have existed before a guy from West Virginia showed up. While nearly every school in the Big Ten has seen a steady increase of APR (or at least plateaud as is the case of Iowa), Michigan has faced a freefall from numbers that really weren't all that great to begin with. For example, Michigan's highest APR (958 in 05-06) would be 1 point greater than PSU's worst season.
The obvious goat of the Big Ten is Minnesota, with the only penalties of any team in the Big Ten in 2007-2008 (3 scholarships). Northwestern's numbers are mind blowing and also shoot to hell any developed belief that "perhaps the APR is bad because the academics at Michigan are a bit better."
Numbers can be improved upon, obviously. Purdue is an excellent case as seen above: despite ridiculous numbers the first four years, their numbers have increased and taken them out of Kenny Loggins territory. If they continue to post poor numbers, Michigan will find themselves without health insurance because they live in the Danger Zone.
In short, Captain Obvious held a press conference to notify the public that this needs to improve. OSU has had top caliber talent for the entirety of this stretch and still managed to average over 950. A high amount of attention will have to be paid on player eligibility and STOPPING THE DAMN TRANSFERS. BUILD A WALL. SNIPER ON THE UNION ROOF. WHATEVER.
Taft High is the home to DE Adolphus Washington and WR Dwayne Stanford. Teammates, good friends, and a so called package deal recruiting wise. Michigan has made up ground for both, and the pair plan on taking in Ann Arbor this coming weekend. Washington recently announced that Michigan was in his top five. Here's a look at Stanford's film and where he's at in his process.
TOM: Adolphus came out with a top five, so does that mean you have a top group too?
DWAYNE: No, I don't have a top five right now. I'm still considering a lot of schools.
TOM: When do you think you'll narrow your list down, and do you know if Michigan will be in your top group as well?
DWAYNE: I don't know when, probably mid to the end of June I'll narrow it to a top five. Michigan will definitely be in the top five though, especially with how hard Coach Smith is recruiting me.
TOM: Is Coach Smith your main recruiter? If so do you feel like you've built a good relationship with him?
DWAYNE: Yes, he is. I'm pretty comfortable with Coach Smith, I'm really comfortable with him. We talk a little about everything sometimes it's football, sometimes we talk about life. It's not always football, which is what I like about him.
TOM: If you've never been to Michigan before tell me what got you interested in Michigan?
DWAYNE: Michigan is a big time program and for them to be recruiting me I feel great about it. For them to be recruiting me as hard as they are that's what's doing it for me. At first I wasn't too interested in Michigan, but now I'm starting to grow on Michigan.
TOM: Both you and Adolphus were planning on going up to Michigan this weekend, is that still the plan?
DWAYNE: Yeah, we'll be up there. I'm calling Coach Smith to get everything set up and see what Michigan has to offer. It's my first time up there so I want to see if I feel comfortable, how they want to use me, and if it's something I like.
TOM: Do you have any other visits planned yet?
DWAYNE: We don't have any other visits planned, but we want to go to LSU, Alabama, Ohio State, FSU, and Kentucky. None of them are dates set in stone, but we want to get out there.
TOM: I've actually talked to your dad before, and I thought he said he was an Ohio State fan. Are you also an Ohio State fan?
DWAYNE: My family are all Ohio State fans, but I grew up liking Miami and Michigan. I just recently became an Ohio State fan. My family just tells me to stay humble in the process though. They just try to help me figure out if the coaches are being honest with me. They're giving me advice here and there.
TOM: Tell me what kind of receiver is someone going to get with you?
DWAYNE: I'm a big physical receiver that can get separation because of my size. The average big receiver is slow and not fluid out of breaks. I can get out of my breaks, I can play slot, tight end, or play on the outside. I'm not a possession receiver, I'm a little elusive where I can catch the ball and make some people miss too.
TOM: With your recruiting process, what are you really looking for in a school. How will you evaluate a program?
DWAYNE: I just want the school to be honest and up front with me. What's their plan with me. If they tell me I'll sit behind a veteran then I'll appreciate that more than if they tell me I'll play right away and I probably won't.
TOM: I know a lot of times when teammates say they want to be a package deal it doesn't end up working out. Is it 100% that you and Adolphus will go to the same school, or is there a chance you end up at different places?
DWAYNE: We're going to try to fit the best schools for both of us. If he likes a school and I like a different one then I don't want him to feel like he has to go to school with me just because. We want to go to the same school, though. A lot of the same schools are recruiting both of us. If it doesn't happen it's ok, but it is the main goal and we'd like it to happen.
TOM: If you guys are going to pick the same school you'll probably have to announce at the same time. Adolphus said you'll probably do it at an All American game. Is that still the plan for you too?
DWAYNE: We're committed to playing in the Under Armour All American game. I'll probably actually announce it at the end of my senior season. I know Adolphus wants to wait, but ya know, it's kind of on him. We don't necessarily have to do it at the same time, but it might be best to do it together.
Michigan has been on a roll with commitments so far with the 2012 class. What may be more impressive than the number of commitments is how they're getting kids to change their decision timelines. They've had a number of prospects that were thought to be waiting until after their season pull the trigger. That trend might continue in the near future. Here's a look at this week's happenings.
5'11", 185 lbs
West Roxbury, Massachusetts
Reeves has had Michigan and Penn State at the top of his list for a little while now, but he's decided to bring his top two public.
Penn State and Michigan are the top two. I know I'll be back up to Michigan in June. I'm really not sure if my decision timeline will be moved up or not. It probably depends on how my visits go.
Armani has said he wants to wait to make his decision, but he's also aware of Michigan's situation with defensive back offers and Terry Richardson's commitment.
I hope I can take my time with all this, so we'll see what happens. The coaches told me they want two corners and two safeties, and since Terry [Richardson] committed so early that plan kind of shifted up. They want me for corner, and Penn State said that I could play on both sides of the ball and special teams, so we'll see.
Reeves said the Michigan coaches haven't brought up offense with him, but you'd think they would allow him to try any spot where he can help. He said he'll try to clear that up with the coaches when he visits in June.
6'2", 210 lbs.
Michigan recently offered Gant, and he told me he will be up to Ann Arbor in roughly two weeks. The Michigan offer came with much excitement from both Allen and his father, former Wolverine, Tony Gant. The elder Gant talked to me about how this affect's Allen's recruitment and how he feels about his son receiving an offer from his alma mater.
As a dad I was so elated, I always wanted Allen to follow in my footsteps. I think he'll make his decision in the next month or so, and right now he's leaning towards Michigan. That's a dream come true to have him potentially go to my alma mater. As a former player for Michigan, we have to do it right the first time. We can't bring in anyone we don't think is going to contribute to the team. It doesn't hurt that Allen is my son, but if he can't play football, he can't play football. That's not the case with Allen, he can play. I'm just elated all the way around.
Gant also shed some light on his son's national ranking, and what a program would be getting with his son.
They're going to get a student athlete who's full of character and leadership. You have to look at those qualities, he has to be smart, be a student athlete, and be a leader. From the football aspect he reminds me of [former Wolverine] Keith Bostic, as far as his aggressiveness. He loves to hit, he's a big safety. An analyst asked me why he's not nationally known, and it's because we knew it would probably come down to Michigan and Ohio State. We never went to any combines or camps, so his name wasn't really out there that much.
Tony also mentioned the fact that he and Allen both know where they stand with the Michigan coaches, and where everyone else is at in the process.
We have to be aware of how many kids they have committed and who they're recruiting, but we know exactly where we stand with the coaches. We know that Michigan really wants him. We were going to sit back and wait until February, but that was basically from me. I went through the recruiting process in high school and my dad was dying. I didn't get a chance to enjoy the process. Early on I wanted him to travel a little bit and meet some of the great coaches, but deep down we knew he would stay in the midwest. Plus with a program like Michigan, they have the right to be selective. They go after the best, sometimes you can't wait until the last minute to make that decision.
Mr. Gant said that they have been hearing from more and more schools now that the Michigan offer has come through. Purdue, Nebraska, and Michigan State all came down since Michigan offered. Like his father said, I would expect a decision shortly.
6'4", 230 lbs.
Washington and his teammate WR Dwayne Stanford have been a hot topic lately. They have both expressed interest in Michigan, and while I still think Ohio State will be hard to beat Adolphus recently released his top five schools.
My top five is Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama, Kentucky, and Miami. Michigan is recruiting me really hard and I know they want to play young talent so that's why they're in there. Me and Dwayne are supposed to [visit Ann Arbor] this weekend.
That's the weekend of the 27th. A few months ago I would have thought Michigan wasn't really in the running, and even up until recently I wasn't sure how much of a chance they would have. I think there is some serious interest in Michigan from both prospects. Both plan on waiting to announce their decision at an All American game so there's plenty of time for Michigan to catch up.
Where does Michigan stand?
It's unknown for sure how many scholarships will be available come February, but the consensus is that there will probably be somewhere around 22. With that being said, Michigan is in great shape with:
As Armani Reeves said above, the Michigan coaches might take 2 corners and 2 safeties. They have Terry Richardson already on board, so that's one corner. Reeves said the coaches want him for cornerback. Wayne Morgan has Michigan as his outright leader, and can play either safety or cornerback. Allen Gant is a safety, and as I noted above could pull the trigger soon. The same goes for Anthony Standifer position wise, but he could decide to wait a little while before making his decision. I still think Michigan leads for Standifer though. Michigan leads for three of the four, and is in the top two for Reeves. Barring anything weird happening you will probably see 2-3 of these prospects in Michigan's class.
Ben Braden and Caleb Stacey are the two commitments on the offensive line so far. Michigan would like to take 5-6 for this class, and some have said that TE commit AJ Williams could move over to tackle if the coaches wanted him to. That's a luxury. They have positioned themselves well with kids like Jordan Diamond and Erik Magnuson, who happen to be the 209th and 34th overall prospects in the country to Rivals. Both are also four stars on other sites. Magnuson will take an official to Michigan and I have a feeling there's a very good chance he picks the Wolverines.
They also still have a chance with Zach Banner, since he has said he will take an official visit to Michigan. Colorado OL Paul Thurston recently visited Michigan and came away very impressed. There's a good chance that Michigan will make his final cut as well. Banner is the 31st overall prospect and Thurston is ranked 137th. Without even mentioning a few other prospects Michigan has a great shot with like Shane Callahan [191st overall] and Trey Keenan, Michigan has a shot with the number 31, 34, 137, and 209th overall prospects in the country all on the offensive line. That would quite the haul.
Commitments from Mario Ojemudia [hybrid DE/LB], Pharaoh Brown, and Matt Godin have given Michigan a solid start with the defensive line. They would probably like to add two tackles and another strong side defensive end to go with Matt Godin.
The name that seams to pop up the most for that position is Chris Wormley. Michigan is the leader for Chris, and he recently told me he thinks he's getting close to a decision. As mentioned above Adolphus Washington has Michigan in his top five, and it looks like they will get a strong look. Outside of those two Michigan fans are to be very excited about Missouri DT Ondre Pipkins, who's originally from Saginaw. I believe that Michigan has a very good chance with Pipkins, who is also thinking about moving his decision date up. He just won the DL MVP at the stacked Columbus Nike camp.
Instate DT Danny O'Brien was being recruited this weekend by the Michigan commitments at the Nike camp in Columbus. His recruitment has been interesting, so we'll have to wait and see what happens with him. Illinois DT Jaleel Johnson and indiana DT Sheldon Day are very much in the conversation, although I believe interest from Day could be slightly slipping. Ohio DE Tom Strobel was in Ann Arbor this past weekend, so he should probably be on this list as well. I'm in the process of getting a hold of Strobel to discuss the visit as we speak.
DT Jarron Jones is "committed" to Penn State for now, but says he will visit Michigan. His commitment is very soft at this point, and he's interested in checking out what Michigan has to offer. These are the likely candidates, as of now, to take up the spots for the rest of Michigan's defensive line class. As always I'll give you the "Anything can happen, so don't take this as 100%" warning. There are a few other prospects, like Georgia DE Jordan Jenkins who say they will visit that might move up. Until they visit though we'll keep this list as it is. Although Illinois DE/DT Faith Ekakitie was recently offered I'm not sure on how much interest is there yet from Faith. He'll have to get to know the program and coaches a little more before anything serious.
There is a "silent commit" right now on the defensive side of the ball. He's not sure when he wants to make it public yet, so when he gives the OK I will let you know.
DT Ondre Pipkins was named the D Line MVP at the Nike camp in Columbus. Here's some pictures of him, as well as Michigan commits Terry Richardson, Shane Morris, Mario Ojemudia, and James Ross at the event. Pictures are from ESPN Rise Flickr account. Someone asked me recently if Pipkins had made his top group public. He said it was supposed to be private, but an analyst ran with it so it's out there. Michigan is in very good shape with Pipkins, his visit in June will be pretty big.
OL Jordan Diamond told me that he will probably be making his decision sooner than expected. He wants to try to visit all the schools he's already been to one more time, then decide.
The Michigan commitment train never stops. Back to the front page we go! Action since last rankings:
5-17-11 Ohio State gains commitment from Blake Thomas. Northwestern gains commitment from Joseph Jones.
5-18-11 Penn State gains commitment from JJ Denman.
5-19-11 Michigan gains commitment from Terry Richardson. Notre Dame gains commitment from Mark Harrell.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||ESPN Watchlist||24/7 Avg|
Rivals has released their initial rankings, so instead of watchlist guys, I'm going on the 5-star system for them. Remember, currently-unranked prospects by any service receive 1 star.
Full data after the jump.
"You failed a test, your girl left you, things are hard at home, and you got a ticket on the way to the rink. It doesn't matter. Lace up the skates, put on the gloves, strap on the helmet and walk into a realm where nothing else matters. For the next few hours, your universe is absolutely perfect."
...And if perfection is what you get on the ice, chaos is what occurs off of it. Despite some intense uncertainty, things were going pretty well for me at the time. I calmly assumed that things just had a way of working themselves out and that this situation would be no different.
On the second last game of the season my team had a chance to clinch a favorable playoff spot that would allow us to avoid a first-round matchup with a team that has already put two guys in the NHL. It was basically a must win situation. I specifically remember hating the arena in this particular city. Dressing rooms were small, ice was always terrible, and the parents on the other team were insane. I recall one particularly deranged mom yelling over the boards at the ref that I was "on the juice and should be banned" after I laid one of my better body checks against their team.
Winning 4-3 late in the third period, I was back-checking as hard as I could to catch a player on a breakaway. When his shot hit the post and lay in the crease, I stretched out and dove to clear the puck. A dog-pile ensued. After the whistle blew, I got up on one knee and stared into space for a moment. Something wasn't right. Why does it feel like I have no right arm? Then came the pain, followed by my trainer (an MD).
"My arm isn't in it's socket or something"
(Takes off my equipment, feels around the shoulder area)
"Ahh shit, looks like you dislocated your shoulder"
"Well put it back in and give me my stuff, the game isn't done."
"Don't think so pal, you might have torn some things in there."
I had never had a major injury before, I assumed this was nothing and that I would be back in a few days. Speaking to the orthopedic surgeon the next day, I was informed that my season was definitely done and that the best course of action would be to have the surgery ASAP, otherwise it would most likely continue happening.
Anyone who follows the NFL draft knows that the word "surgery" really means "stay away from this prospect". And news travels fast. The phone calls definitely slowed down, but they still came. Dale Hunter called and once again we had a pleasant conversation. This time he told me that he'd love to take me with his 4th round pick but that I probably wouldn't last that far.
I think there comes a point in every athlete's life when they realize that they are not invincible. For some, it could be when going from high school to college and realizing that athletic ability alone won't cut it anymore. For the really good ones, the ones who truly are elite, it might come with old age when they begin to see that they won't stay great forever. My career was far from over, but I never took my talent for granted again after that injury.
The show must go on.
I had the surgery done pretty quickly and all I could do was wait to see what happened. Central Scouting released their final rankings a few weeks before draft day. My final rankings were as follows:
Pre-season - A (rounds 3-6)
Mid-season - AA (rounds 1-2)
Final - B (rounds 6-9)
In the days leading up to the draft, my local newspaper does a rundown of the local prospects with a chance at being drafted and has an anonymous OHL scout give comments about each. Since it is still sitting on my mom's fridge, here is what mine said:
"An interesting case. Has top 40 talent but missed the most important parts of the season with serious injury. Likely won't fall too far, but teams will be concerned about a 15 year-old with major surgery on his resume.
Big, strong, forward was unquestioned leader of his team that had trouble winning without him. Developed a nasty side to his game this year. Willing to get dirty in the corners and in front of the net but possesses surprisingly good scoring and playmaking ability. Needs to develop a quicker first step and learn to stay low."
The OHL draft used to be exactly like the NHL. It was held at an arena with a podium so that the GM's could announce the picks and give a jersey to their selections. My draft was either the first or second one to be held on the internet. Watching heartbroken, future-millionaires plummet at the NFL draft in New York is hard enough. Try watching 15 year olds who believe they are about to get a jersey not get their names called at all. Alot of crying went on at those drafts. Remember that 600 kids are given a letter grade and deemed eligible for a draft that contains only 300 slots.
I'm quite certain that I didn't sleep the night before the draft. Unless you are a definite top 10 pick, nobody has any clue where they will get drafted. I watched the entire draft because it was interesting, but I started to look for my name once the 2nd round started. When you get drafted, it consists of you sitting in front of a laptap pressing F5 every 10 seconds for several hours. When my name didn't come up with the first pick of the second round, I began to fear that I wasn't going to get drafted at all. The headlines would read "Guinness confirms biggest draft plummet in sports history--local has-been to become hobo"
Then my name came up and my heart stopped beating for what seemed like a minute. My mom cried. I won't say exactly where I got drafted but I went well ahead of my final projection. It may not mean that much, but at 15 years old getting selected in a draft that some people in some places actually care about is an amazing feeling. I jumped around for a while and then spoke on the phone to the GM who called right after the pick. After our conversation, I forgot who I had just spoken to and which team had drafted me.
Rehab was going well and decision time was looming. I was hearing that Michigan had become interested in me because a few of their prospects who were older than me had declared their intentions to play in the OHL. But getting drafted is a circus. Everywhere around town I was getting congratulated. My friends had a party to celebrate my getting drafted. Girls started treating me differently at school. I think they thought I had somehow become rich or something, not realizing that OHL players make $55 a week.
If you're undecided, OHL training camp is where you make your decision. As I understood it, once you spend over 48 hours with an OHL team, the NCAA considers you a professional athlete with no college eligibility. So i went to camp, still about a month away from being able to play full contact.
I sat down with the GM, who knew that I was considering college. He basically explained to me the benefits of the CHL, the education packages, and the unique experience of being a young local celebrity. He was very polite about it, but told me that if I was signing, he wanted it done within 2 weeks.
"Two weeks is plenty of time to evaluate your options. I have to know these things so I can plan for my season. There are other kids we drafted who would love nothing better than for you not to sign so that they can have your spot."
He gave me a contract and I took it home. On this contract, I was given the second best educational package available (1st rounders get the best) which consisted of 4 years of 75% tuition paid for. It was also a 2-way contract, meaning I was basically signing with two teams: the OHL team, and their junior B affiliate. This meant that I might play the year in junior B, or they would send me down if I wasn't performing.
So i went home and thought. I thought all day, I thought all night. I had no appetite, and I don't think I spoke to anyone besides my mom the entire time. I was waking up almost every night in a cold sweat. I was so afraid of making the wrong choice. Why should I sign there? If they are going to keep me in Junior B then I might as well just play tier 2 Junior A in Toronto and wait for a scholarship. Then the phone rang, it was the GM.
"Have you thought about it?"
"Yes, I'm still not sure"
"How's this sound? A one-way contract (guaranteed spot on the team) and a 1st round educational package (100% tuition)."
"I'll call you back tomorrow"
What if I wait for a scholarship and then Michigan doesn't even want me? What if Michigan offers me a scholarship and then I dislocate my shoulder even worse next season, ending my career and eliminating my non-binding commitment? It isn't worth it.
So I signed. I signed because I was terrified. Because I couldn't take anymore agonizing, sleepness nights. I signed because the attention I was getting from the OHL and the local fans and my peers was like a drug. I signed because it was the easiest thing to do. And honestly...
It felt great.
I was late getting this done and that is because I had no idea where to end the story. I realize that some of you will not be pleased with this ending but I really can't go much further. The original purpose was to give you guys insight into college hockey recruiting as it relates to the CHL and I think I have done that. Furthermore, anything past that point would have had nothing at all to do with Michigan and would be pretty self-serving on my part.
If you guys have any questions, I'll answer them below. Just remember, I'm not giving up my identity. To answer your first few questions: No, I don't play in the NHL. I am in law school and am a hockey agent in training. Thanks for reading guys. This was a bit rushed because I have somewhere to be but I wanted to have it done by tonight. I'll be back later to correct any of my spelling/grammar mistakes and answer your questions.