Albany's Nanticoke Proves to be Lethal Addition With Fields As Mentor

PHOTO BY MICHAEL KELLY/THE DAILY GAZETTE OF SCHENECTADY

Albany freshman Tehoka Nanticoke, touted as the nation's top recruit, now joins 2017 NCAA scoring leader Connor Fields for the 2018 season.


For their first practices as teammates at Albany, the current top offensive player in the NCAA and his presumed heir were not an unstoppable duo, but lined up as opponents. In early fall scrimmages, the Great Danes' coaching staff put 2017 NCAA scoring leader Connor Fields and star freshman recruit Tehoka Nanticoke on opposite sides.

Had there been a scoreboard, it would quickly have overheated.

“We were going back and forth, shot for shot on some of the scrimmages,” said Nanticoke.

From those early days of fall ball, said Albany coach Scott Marr, it was clear that Nanticoke, the nation’s top high school prospect last year, would make an immediate impact for the Great Danes.

“There’s no reason why not,” said Marr. “He’s so smart in knowing the game. He’s got some ground to gain in terms of carrying the ball at this level, but even in our scrimmages, he’s showed he can put the ball in the goal.”

Nanticoke arrived at Albany from the Six Nations Indian Reserve outside of Ontario, Canada, by way of a three-year career at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds at Albany, Nanticoke earned a reputation at IMG as a fierce dodger and inventive scorer. As he emerged as the nation’s top recruit, he drew inevitable comparisons to former Albany players and Native stars Lyle and Miles Thompson. The Thompson are Onondaga while Nanticoke is Mohawk, both of which are nations within the Iroquois confederacy.

Meanwhile, as Nanticoke's legend grew, Fields was putting up an historic year of scoring for the Great Danes with 117 points (55 goals, 62 assists), the highest non-Thompson total in NCAA history.

This season, playing next to a freshman star, will represent a reversal of roles for Fields. As a freshman at Albany, he played with and learned from Lyle Thompson, then a senior. With Nanticoke's arrival, he says, he finds himself on the other side of a similar relationship.

“It’s crazy to go full circle now,” said Fields. “Lyle was a mentor to me and a great friend and great teammate. Obviously as a freshman, you look up to the seniors and you know they’ll always have your back,” he said. “I’m the senior now with Tehoka coming in. We’re great friends and I try to give him as much as advice as I can.

“Lyle’s biggest thing was telling me to always play with confidence,” said Fields. But that role of a mentor, he said, only goes so far with a player like Nanticoke. “He knows so much about the game and he’s so skilled that I’m learning a lot from him."

PHOTO BY KEVIN TUCKER

Albany senior Connor Fields, who was the 2017 NCAA leading scorer, will now fill the role of mentor for freshman Tehoka Nanticoke, like Lyle Thompson was for him.

Indeed, Nanticoke said his three years at IMG, far from home and playing elite competition, gave him a leg-up in adapting to college.

“I find college is no real transition,” said Nanticoke, who said his days at IMG started at 7:15 a.m. and ended with study hall until 9 p.m. “Lacrosse-wise, I’m doing what I love to do. At IMG, it was always up and down the field, and same thing here.”

Ironically, Nanticoke's arrival may mean less shots for Fields.

“I’m definitely going to be behind the net a little more this year,” said Fields. “It’s where I like to be, and Tehoka is such a great dodger from the wing. You’ll see more of us on the wing and behind, working the two-man game.”

“With me on the wing and him at X, it really opens the D for us,” said Nanticoke. “I think there’s not enough shots for us to go around.”

The addition of Nanticoke has put a preseason spotlight on Albany, but the real measure of the Great Danes' expectations is the return of nine starters from last year’s quarterfinalist team, a team that knocked out defending champion North Carolina from the NCAA tournament before falling to eventual champ Maryland.

From Fields on offense to America East second-team all-conference goalie JD Colarusso, the Great Danes will have one of the most game-tested rosters in the country.

Key veterans include face-off ace TD Ierlan, who as a freshman was named a third-team All-American after winning 323 face-offs in 2017. All three close defenders return for Albany, along with long-stick midfielder Matt Perla and Connor Filipowski. Senior Justin Reh will fill out the attack with Fields and Nanticoke. Reh has started next to Fields since his sophomore year after playing behind Lyle Thompson as a freshman.

Only at midfield will Albany need to fill holes, with Kyle McClancy and Jack Burgmaster likely leading the way.

In all, Marr returns one of the most veteran rosters in the country and one he compares to his last breakthrough team.

“It compares to the 2006-into-07 year,” said Marr, referencing the 2007 Albany team that recorded the Great Danes' first win in the NCAA tournament to advance to the quarterfinals. “We missed the playoffs in '06, but brought back a lot of those guys.”

And Marr is not coy on his expectation that this year’s team should break new ground of its own.

“In the end,” he said, “the goal is to be in the national championship game. To [achieve] anything else would be disappointing.”







About Albany

  • Coach: Scott Marr

  • Last Seen: Losing to eventual champion Maryland in the NCAA quarterfinals after surviving a legitimate Game of the Year-contender in the first round, a 15-12 nail-biter with defending champion North Carolina. The game was Albany’s first NCAA playoff home game and fans responded to the milestone with a first round-record crowd of 6,472. Albany jumped all over the Tar Heels to lead 14-3 at the half, only to see the defending champs roar back with a 9-0 run. Fields and Albany’s high-powered offense scored just once in the second half, but the defense held the Tar Heels scoreless over the final 10 minutes to hang on. “We kinda took our punch,” said Fields. “We weren’t happy with how we finished that game. We learned how fast a lead like that can disappear.”

  • Key Returners: Connor Fields (55 G, 62 A, 117 PTS, the latter being fourth highest in NCAA history), TD Irelan (202 GB, 323 FO wins, the latter ranking second in Division I history), JD Colarusso (9.37 goals allowed per game), Justin Reh (39 G, 19 A, 21 GB)

  • Team Stats: 15.39 goals per game, 9.5 goals allowed per game, 68.6 faceoff percentage, allowed just seven man-up goals

  • Last Nike/US Lacrosse Ranking: No. 7

  • Conference Snapshot: There's not much mystery to the America East. Albany brings back nine starters to the team that walked undefeated through the 2017 conference season and tournament play. The Great Danes last lost a conference game of any kind in 2012. Stony Brook and UMBC will likely be Albany's closest pursuers again.

Offseason Hot Topics

The NCAA men’s lacrosse rules committee is allowing teams to experiment with a shot clock this fall. The committee is also discussing several other aspects of the game, including whether to allow attackmen to leave their feet to score around the crease and whether to change the size of the substitution box. Marr provides his feedback on these three hot topics in the men's game.

  • 60-Second Shot Clock: “It's kind of a defacto 90-second clock with a 30-second clear. I think 60 seconds from the time you pick it up would scare a lot of people if you had 60 seconds including the clear. But I’m fine with it.”

  • The Dive: “I’ve always been a fan of it. I think it's good for the game. I’ve made some suggestions of how to keep the goalie safe. Once the NCAA takes it out for safety reasons, it's hard to get it back in, so I don’t see it coming back in.”

  • Smaller Substitution Box: “I’m all for it. A larger box cuts off transition. If you shorten that box back up, then middies have to make a decision if they’re going to run to the box and give up a five-on-four or four-on-three break. Some coaches don’t like it, but that’s because of how they run their team and it benefits them personally.”

Social Snapshot

The U.S. men's national team hosted 2017 final four teams Maryland, the eventual champion, and Towson at the annual Team USA Fall Classic over the weekend. Team USA topped the Terps 10-9 and the Tigers 22-2.

Ohio State stunned MLL champion Ohio Machine 12-10 in the inaugural Ohio Lacrosse Fall Classic.

Penn State hosted its One Love fall ball tournament, featuring Cornell, Lehigh and Stony Brook. The Nittany Lions also had a chance to watch their football team and enjoy a team banquet.

North Carolina hosted Notre Dame in a fall ball scrimmage on the new Finley field. Senior midfielder and two-time gold medalist Marie McCool also attended the launch of the Carolina Campaign.

Maryland women's lacrosse players tried their hand at volleyball in support of the school's volleyball team.

Notre Dame men's lacrosse hosted its alumni weekend.

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