JT Giles-Harris Rewards Chrome's Patience with DPOY-Caliber Season


Chrome defenseman JT Giles-Harris sizes up Cannons attackman Lyle Thompson during a one-on-one encounter in Salt Lake City,.

It was a decision Chrome coach Tim Soudan and his staff wrestled with for weeks. Who should they pick third overall in the 2021 Premier Lacrosse League Collegiate Draft?

They loved what they heard about Duke defenseman JT Giles-Harris, how well-rounded he already was as a college player. But Soudan also knew fellow Western New Yorker TD Ierlan well, and the top faceoff specialist in the history of college lacrosse doesn’t come around very often.

In the end, it took another domino falling to help the group make their choice. Right before the draft, Soudan learned defensemen Tom Rigney, a former draft pick set to move over from Major League Lacrosse, would no longer be available as he pursued a military commitment. The team’s biggest hole was on the back end, and they felt Giles-Harris was up to the task of filling it.

But would he have been the pick if Rigney was available?

“Probably not,” Soudan admitted. “It was one of those situations where it was fully a need after Rigney stepped away.”

Sometimes things just work out. Ierlan has certainly been no slouch for Redwoods, but in Giles-Harris, the Chrome landed a player already capable of guarding the best the PLL has to offer in his first professional season.

“He’s all that the coaches that were around Duke, coach [John] Danowski and the young guys on our team [said he was],” Soudan said. “Everything has come true about JT Giles-Harris. I have a personal relationship with TD. I would have loved to have had him on the team. But as a GM and building a team around people, it was important for us to solidify the defense for the next eight years.”

The Chrome had to be patient to enjoy the fruits of their selection. Giles-Harris suffered a knee injury in his final collegiate game, the Blue Devils’ championship weekend defeat against Maryland, which kept him out the entirety of the 2021 PLL season. He visited training camp in Foxborough, Massachusetts, to meet his new teammates while waiting for his diagnosis, but soon learned he’d have to wait a bit longer to make his pro debut.

“It sucked,” Giles-Harris said. “It was the first big injury I had in a while. Unfortunately, it happened in the last game of my college career. That stunk. It was kind of tough, but like it all it was just kind of getting through it.”

Instead, Giles-Harris watched from his couch as the Chrome struggled to a 2-7 season and a last-place finish in the standings.

“I was watching every game,” Giles-Harris said. “It was kind of yelling at the TV sometimes by myself.”

Giles-Harris was eager to finally suit up this spring, though that came with nerves. The goal initially was just making the team, but it was quickly apparent to the coaching staff that he wasn’t on the fringes of the roster.

“His fitness and his focus on his fitness over the years is great,” Soudan said. “His feet are really, really good and he doesn’t overcheck. He plays body first and he knows when he can take chances and check. But his biggest concern is playing team defense, beating his matchup. I just think that focus and that IQ, along with the physical ability that he has, is just tremendous.”

Giles-Harris has been critical in the defensive turnaround for the Chrome, which went from allowing 12.8 points per game last year (seventh in the league) to 10 this year (second and just .1 behind the Whipsnakes). He’s accumulated 21 ground balls and 11 caused turnovers in nine games, was named to his first PLL All-Star Game and has done well to shut down nearly all opponents’ initiations from X.

The Chrome are comfortable putting Giles-Harris on an island and letting him do the rest.

“With him, you don’t have to go help,” Soudan said. “There are certain guys that we will maybe help if they post him up in the five-by-five and they’re rocking him back and forth. That’s basically one of our team concepts. It just takes that help and support piece out of the way for at least one of the guys. And honestly, I think we have that in all three of our defensemen this year. With the correct matchups, we don’t really have to go to those guys and it helps a lot.”

Giles-Harris was quick to identify the toughest cover he’s faced yet — Lyle Thompson. But you wouldn’t know that based on the pair’s most recent matchup. The young defenseman held the league’s leader in points and goals to just three points in a victorious effort. After the game, Thompson shared kind words about Giles-Harris’ impact on the Chrome’s 11-9 triumph.

“JT was shutting me out the whole game and it was sort of up to me to demand the ball and work hard for the ball,” Thompson said. “It was definitely a good defensive plan on their side. It disrupted the offense.”

That compliment meant a lot to Giles-Harris, especially considering the endurance test guarding Thompson proved to be. But his success was no surprise to those who have watched him closely.

“JT’s really steady and a student of the game. He does a lot of work preparing for his matchups,” Chrome veteran Jordan MacIntosh said postgame. “The Cannons do a nice job of bringing picks to Lyle to change those matchups and Lyle has amazing vision off-ball and it’s really difficult to keep him in check. JT did a nice job of that.”

Giles-Harris’ latest showing further bolstered his candidacy for the Dave Pietramala Defensive Player of the Year award, potentially even sealing him as the favorite. No player has ever won Defensive Player of the Year in his first professional season – MLL or PLL – if you disqualify Rob Doerr earning the honor in the first-ever pro field season.

“It obviously would be really cool. I’d be really appreciative of it,” Giles-Harris said. “I wasn’t really going out for that. I was just trying to go out and win a championship.”

Thankfully for Giles-Harris, the team success has come, too. The Chrome enter their regular season finale in Tacoma, Washington, in second place, a game up on Archers, Atlas and Waterdogs. The team has already clinched its first postseason berth in franchise history, and the future looks bright. The defense has a 24-year-old cornerstone in Giles-Harris, and the offense is led by a pair of rookies in Brendan Nichtern and Logan Wisnauskas.

“It works,” Giles-Harris said. “Kind of a good mix of old and young, whether it be the jokes and the tastes and other things. It a very cool team to play on with the guys that we have. … This one is a good vibe for sure.”

As for Soudan, he can look back on the 2021 draft with no regrets. He has his No. 1 cover man for years to come, and the faceoff spot has turned around, too. Connor Farrell currently leads the PLL in ground balls and is third in faceoff win percentage.

“This year with the way that Farrell’s been playing and that pick paying dividends for us, it’s been incredible,” Soudan said. “Faceoffs are such a big part of it, and a guy like TD only comes around once and a while. But it’s the play-in, play-out stuff. When Trevor [Baptiste] was giving Farrell a really hard time the first half of our Atlas game, we still had to play really good defense.”


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