Who is the best lacrosse player you’ve ever seen?
What made him the best? Was it a single game performance or did you see him multiple times throughout his career? Can you put it into words?
I want to share some of the best high school lacrosse players I’ve ever seen and want to hear yours. Me first.
These are the players I’ve seen in person. I’m not counting any televised (or streaming) games on this list. There’s something about the excitement of being on the sideline and feeling the energy of a game that adds to the experience.
Drop a comment below to share your experiences. I’ll gather some of the best and post them here.
Wilkins Dismuke, Rock Canyon (Littleton, Colo.), Johns Hopkins
Dismuke was one of those players I immediately liked. He had the type of character coaches love, he always called me sir or coach even though I have never been a coach or consider myself old enough to be a ‘sir’.
He was under-the-radar at the time, but two events catapulted him into a household name. He earned All-Star honors at the Battle of the Hotbeds in 2011 where he first grabbed my attention. After that he was selected to the 2011 Warrior 40 held in Boston where he earned MVP honors. Shortly after that he committed to Johns Hopkins.
To prove it was not a fluke, Dismuke earned MVP honors at the 2012 Warrior 40 after scoring five goals, including four goals in the fourth quarter of the final competition.
I can’t say that Dismuke stood out during drills or even during practice. At such large events there are always players that create more aura than others, but when it came to game-time, Dismuke was the man.
Nick Galasso, West Islip (N.Y.), North Carolina/Syracuse
Every time I think about Galasso, I think of silk. That’s the impression I had when I saw him at the 2010 Champion High School Lacrosse Showcase.
He had just graduated from West Islip where he amassed 500 career points, but had yet to suit up for North Carolina. He made lacrosse look effortless. Inside Lacrosse had him as the No. 1 ranked player in the nation and he looked the part. He had several behind-the-back shots over the course of three days and he never seemed to tire, even when the heat soared into the upper 90s.
I remember thinking he did not seem to be running as much as gliding over the field. He made passes into tight places that would make Brett Favre wince. I believe he knew where teammates were going to be before they did. Galasso finished his high school career as Long Island’s leading scorer and seeing him in person, it is easy to see how.
Austin Shanks, Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.), Bellarmine/Ohio State
Tom Peace will get a kick out of this, because he probably remembers how I would go on about seeing Shanks at the 2011 Prep School Showcase at Salisbury School (Salisbury, Conn.).
The Showcase was at Salisbury School and Shanks was not considered a high profile player at that time. After watching him on Sunday, I came away impressed with his drive. He was a sophomore at Brewster Academy and it was obvious he intended to get the attention of coaches. He scored three goals in his first game of the day. He was fast, agile and always around the net.
Looking back at my notes from that day, I jotted down an overheard comment from a coach calling Shanks a special player. The most impressive of his three goals, was his second. He came from the X, curled around the net, sprawled out, almost horizontal from the ground, to wrap his stick around the goal and put it on the far side.
I lobbied for Peace to place Shanks among ESPNHS’ top players after that day, but Tom’s a stickler and had to see for himself. He eventually made the list of Top 50 juniors at ESPNHS.
Lyle Thompson, Salmon River (Fort Covington, N.Y.), Albany
The first thing I remember about landing in Boston for the 2010 Warrior 40 was one of our event staff members telling me Thompson missed his flight. They were panicked and I was never clear if he actually missed it or almost missed it. Regardless, he made it to Boston and was simply smooth.
He might have been one of the quietest players there. He was reserved around the staff, but his play over the course of three days spoke volumes.
During the first day, the Warrior 40 staff held a trick shot contest. It was up to the players to decide what they wanted to do. Thompson was among the final players to go. Most players tried flips or to leap other players, behind-the-back shots. Thompson disappeared from the field entirely. When his name was called, all of us looked around the field and didn’t see him. Until he yelled from the stands of Harvard Stadium.
He walked about halfway up the stands of the bowl and was holding his stick. The shot attempt must have been 200 yards, at least. He missed the first couple, but everyone in the stadium wanted to see him make it, so players kept tossing him balls. I lost count how many attempts he made, but when that final shot went it, there was no doubt who the winner was.
Carl Walrath, Haverford School (Haverford, Pa.), Virginia/Notre Dame
Walrath was part of a team that earned my No. 1 ranking in the ESPNHS Powerade FAB 50 after the Fords went 23-0. Walrath lives in my memory for the last 36 seconds of his high school lacrosse career. He scored the final two goals to propel Haverford School to a 5-4 victory over Malvern Prep (Malvern, Pa.) at Cabrini College to win the Inter-Ac Invitational championship, a game that ranks as the No. 33 Greatest Game of all-time (so far).
As a reporter, I’m generally unbiased when it comes to game outcomes. As a fan, I like to see an upset. But on that day, I came out to see the team that had been my preseason No. 1 clinch the title and take home the trophy (literally, Powerade gave us money to give all our No. 1s a trophy). As the clock ticked to under a minute, and Haverford School down by one, I felt sweat droplets bead on my forehead as I was trying to figure out what to do with my No. 1 team if the Fords lost. They had the best schedule, by far. I was debating it with my friend who ran the national soccer site for ESPN.
Walrath made it a moot point. He made two plays that stand out. With 36.9 seconds left to play, Walrath got a shot past Malvern’s sophomore goaltender Matt Barrett to tie the game. On the ensuing faceoff, Haverford’s Joe McCallion lost the draw over Drew Kennedy, but was able to cause the loose ball. Walrath picked up the ball, ran down the field and put the ball in the back of the net to get the score and the win. The crowd of 1,200 people went wild and it’s still one of the more exciting games I’ve seen. He finished the year with 40 assists and 28 goals, but it was those final two goals that made the memory.