Jabril Belle-Walker Representing Harlem Lacrosse at NTDP Boys' Combine

PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER


SPARKS, Md. — Jabril Belle-Walker reps his passions on his chest. Literally.

The rising senior at The Pennington School (N.J.) is a product of Harlem Lacrosse, the non-profit organization that provides opportunities and empowers its students to be successful both on and off the field.

When Belle-Walker wasn’t wearing the red, white and blue at USA Lacrosse headquarters for the National Team Development Program boys’ combine, he was representing his roots with a black hoodie with bold “Harlem Lacrosse” lettering.

“I’m from the Harlem Lacrosse crew,” said Belle-Walker, a Class of 2022 prospect. “I started back in sixth grade when I moved to New York City [from Georgia], and ever since then, it’s always been in my mind.”

With his parents watching from the Tierney Field stands, Belle-Walker took the field this week for the second NTDP combine, the first of which came in 2019. He called the entire process “a blast,” with top-tier coaches like Greg Gurenlian, Chazz Woodson, Jamison Koesterer and others setting the tone for a competitive and educational three-day session.

The combine, which began Tuesday and ends Thursday, provides an opportunity for the top high school players in the country to be evaluated by high level coaches to potentially earn a spot on the Select teams.

Without Harlem Lacrosse, Belle-Walker likely never would have made it to this stage. In Georgia, his only exposure to lacrosse was through his brother, who played in middle school. But his brother wasn’t quite the lacrosse talent as he was, and Harlem Lacrosse helped provide guidance.

“The staff at Harlem Lacrosse is amazing,” he said. “Their whole goal is to help kids follow their passion. If that’s using lacrosse as a vehicle to expand on that passion, it’s just overall an awesome organization.”

Belle-Walker hopes to play high level college lacrosse at an institution that can expand his academic horizons. His aspirations don’t stop there. Most of them center around coaching and giving back to the Harlem Lacrosse community that has had a dramatic impact on his life.

“Harlem Lacrosse has had an influence on what I want to do coming out of my lacrosse experience,” he said. “I definitely want to go to the next level and see if I can actually play in the PLL, but overall, it’s just giving back to the community that’s helped me so much.”







THE OTHER SIDE OF THINGS

Greg Gurenlian’s been there.

Though many will remember Gurenlian for his professional lacrosse exploits and his role on the U.S. men’s national team’s 2018 gold medal, Gurenlian’s been cut from teams he hoped to make.

Now a coach and evaluator at NTDP, Gurenlian hoped participants at the combine would look past his successes to hear more about how he had to pick himself up after failures.

“Being on both sides of it, I can be a confidant for these guys to let them know that I’ve been in their shoes,” he said. “I’ve both not made and made the team in the past, so the sun’s going to come up no matter what. It’s important for me to be able to convey that message to them.”

Players like faceoff athlete Andrew Greenspan, who earned a spot on a U.S. Select team in 2019, are back for another opportunity. Gurenlian credited Greenspan for his composure and said athletes who can handle themselves in a similar way will be best suited for success.

“It’s very easy when you’re out here with other elite-level guys to start to doubt yourself. Maybe you lose a couple faceoffs or make one bad play,” Gurenlian said. “I had that experience with Trevor Baptiste. He helped me in 2018 because I’m so emotional and Trevor’s a more relaxed guy. That presence is very important on the sideline and in the locker room.”

The intense competition resulted in spirited scrimmages Wednesday afternoon as the weather shifted between periods of rain and sun. The weather was an afterthought as athletes zipped up and down the field, hurled their bodies at balls headed out of bounds and showcased the physicality necessary to play for a U.S. team.

Their effort forces difficult decisions to be made.

“On one side, it’s awesome because I’m on this side of it. I’ve been on their side,” Gurenlian said. “I know exactly what they’re going through. But on the other side of it, it’s gut-wrenching because I know how badly they all want to be on the team. Picking the team is really way worse than trying to make a team.”

LOCAL DREAMS

George Guyton grew up 13 minutes from USA Lacrosse headquarters. The rising sophomore at the Gilman School (Md.) is looking to make waves in lacrosse. On Wednesday, he was tearing it up with the other U16 hopefuls.

Guyton didn’t hear about the National Team Development Program until he read about it in USA Lacrosse Magazine. He immediately knew it was worth pursuing.

“Playing for the U.S. always sounded cool,” he said. “Representing the country was something I’ve always wanted to do. I loved watching the U19 guys, and being able to be involved as been awesome.”

It’s been a learning experience, for sure. The lanky LSM who played significant minutes in the MIAA this spring has absorbed everything taught to him by the coaches, including “little things like footwork, when to check and how to communicate.”

His tryout earlier this summer was the first time he ever got to play on Tierney Field after watching several U19 events and practices there as a fan. It’s been a dream experience.

He recalled putting on the blue jersey for the first time and feeling the wave of emotions rush over him. Being able to represent his country while also trying out in front of the players — now coaches — he’s always looked up to was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“Everyone’s so encouraging,” he said. “This is very high level and high paced. I’ve learned a lot.”

Guyton isn’t sure where lacrosse will take him, but regardless of what happens at the NTDP combine, he’s thankful for the opportunity it’s provided.

“I want to use lacrosse to meet people and do some traveling, for sure,” he said. “I’m just having fun competing right now, but we’ll see where it takes me. I’m loving the doors it’s opening and the people I’m meeting.”

Most Recent

Research Shows Headgear Reduces Concussion Rates in Girls' Lacrosse

Researches reported a 59% greater incidence of concussions in players not wearing headgear.

No. 1 Recruit McCabe Millon Chooses Duke

Millon, IL's top 2023 recruit, is the son of two National Lacrosse Hall of Famers.

A Unifying Effort Creates Opportunity from Nation United

Three-day National United Summit brings high school girls from around the country together.

How a Lacrosse Store Provided Safe Haven for 9/11 Grievers

Jimmy Butler remembers the day. He was later responsible for helping his community heal.







Twitter Posts