There was probably at least some initial confusion surrounding even the best lacrosse players from Arizona.
Take, for instance, the D1 debut at Johns Hopkins of one of the players featured here.
The fact that there’s another Phoenix—as opposed to the Maryland town of the same name—might’ve been news to some blinkered Blue Jay fans that day back in 2010.
After all, Maryland and Johns Hopkins, the longtime twin totems of college lacrosse in the Old Line State, have had a number of players over the years from Phoenix.
But that’s that place where the Hunt Valley Golf Club is.
You know, part of Baltimore County.
And many old guard Hopkins fans could probably recall the days (and it wasn’t really that long ago) when the Hop’s game-day programs, in a characteristic bit of why-would-you-even-have-to-ask nonchalance, didn’t even bother listing its players’ home states.
So while watching that particular JHU player warm up during the second half of the 2010 season, they must’ve found the realization a little jarring.
This kid’s a freshman.
And it looks like he might be from some…other Phoenix.
And it looks like he’s starting.
Johns Hopkins Lacrosse and Phoenix….Arizona?
Yes, Pierce Bassett was in fact from a Phoenix not located in Maryland.
And he started the remaining games in goal the second half of 2010 for The Hop, as well as those in his next three seasons with the Blue Jays.
Bassett would also be named second-team All-American as a sophomore, and receive honorable mentions as both a junior and senior.
But in fairness to Hopkins and its fans, by the time Pierce Bassett became the team’s starting goalie he wasn’t the only Arizonan on the team.
Hunter Rodgers, his former high school teammate at Brophy in Phoenix, had preceded him on the JHU roster.
(Yet another teammate, and Brophy star of that era, Adam Fishman, would go on to play at Dartmouth.)
Even so, Blue Jay fans may not have been the only ones learning about Arizona lacrosse that day in 2011.
Which is unfortunate. Because lacrosse in Arizona didn’t begin with the coming of Pierce Bassett.
The Many Contradictions of Lacrosse in Arizona
It’s hard to reconcile a few things about Arizona lacrosse.
Arizona has, on one hand, historically been a slow-growth state in lacrosse terms.
Data on high school participation tends to show neighboring state California ranking among the fastest growth areas.
Arizona tends to rank among the slowest in the sport’s growth, ahead of another neighbor, New Mexico, but roughly on par with states such as Montana, Missouri, and Louisiana.
Which is strange.
Because Arizona actually has more of a lacrosse pedigree than many other “emerging” states where the sport is now flourishing—even states like Florida and Texas.
One of the state’s flagship public universities, the University of Arizona, had a varsity-level men’s lacrosse team as far back as the 60’s.
Arizona does continue to uphold that tradition as a desert foothold for the sport of lacrosse; and another of its flagship universities, among the largest in the nation by enrollment, currently boasts a D1 program within a Power 5 conference.
And that program also has a 2021 roster listing players from 18 different states.
But these players, significantly, are women—which leads into another irony about lacrosse in the state.
Lacrosse’s “Title” Town: It’s in Arizona
The “title” referred to in this case is Title IX….and you can take your pick of either Tempe or Tucson.
Because whatever your opinion is of the Title IX (and keep in mind that the legislation, still sometimes dismissed as classic liberal overreach, was actually signed into law by a Republican, Richard Nixon) you’d be hard-pressed to find a state where it’s had greater impact on lacrosse than Arizona.
50 years ago it was the combined effects of budget cuts and Title IX that did in the men’s varsity lacrosse program at the University of Arizona.
And when Arizona State elevated men’s hockey to D1 status in the 2015 season, it was the same concern about Title IX compliance that prompted the Sun Devils to create a women’s D1 lacrosse program.
Arizona Lacrosse from the D1 Perspective
There have never been a lot of Arizonans playing D1 men’s lacrosse at any given time.
In 2021, you’ll only find 5 on active D1 rosters.
But in keeping with the contradictory elements of lacrosse in the state, players from the state sometimes seem to be all over.
As recently as 2018, they seemed particularly inescapable, not only gaining access to the highest reaches of D1 lacrosse, but excelling there—especially in the game’s most conspicuous showcase event.
Defenseman Cade Van Raaphorst had been instrumental in getting Duke to the NCAA tournament that year, as well as to the finals (he caused 3 turnovers in the Blue Devils’ semifinal win over Maryland.)
In 2018 Jakob Patterson scored 3 goals for #2 seed Albany in the team’s quarterfinal win.
And Denver freshman midfielder Ted Sullivan had a goal and an assist in the Pioneers’ quarterfinal loss—to Albany and fellow Arizonan Patterson.
The 5 Best D1 Lacrosse Players from Arizona
Cade van Raaphorst
Cade van Raaphorst has been acknowledged as being part of Arizona royalty.
But when an Arizona paper described him that way, it had nothing to do with his lacrosse prowess.
In fact, it had nothing to do with him at all.
More specifically, van Raaphorst was identified as Sun Devil royalty.
And he received that royal designation by virtue of his father.
Jeff van Raaphorst led Arizona State to both a Rose Bowl victory, and to what still ranks as the ASU football program’s high-water mark, as a quarterback in 1987.
Royal or not, van Raaphorst still had to endure the slow slog of East Coast camps and showcase games, important to most aspiring D1 recruits, but all the more crucial for those high school players outside the game’s traditional hotbeds.
Cade was a talented football player as well—and a quarterback. At Desert Vista High School, he was selected as an Under Armour Football All-American in 2013, 2014, and 2015.
He was captain of Desert Vista football team—but he was also captain of the lacrosse team, and he came to Duke on a lacrosse scholarship. As a defenseman at Desert Vista, he’d been a five-year letterman, first-team All-State in both 2013 and ’14, and an All-American selection in both those years.
But royal or not, van Raaphorst had still had to endure the slow slog of East Coast camps and showcase games, important to most aspiring D1 recruits, but all the more crucial for those high school players outside the game’s traditional hotbeds.
One of those trips east was to Maverik Showtime Lacrosse, an invitation-only showcase held in Connecticut featuring the 320 best rising sophomores and juniors nationally (which Van Raaphorst attended as a sophomore, along with junior attacker and Arizona Force and West Coast Starz teammate, Anthony Abbadessa, see below).
Van Raaphorst not only made the cut for Maverik ‘s 40-player all-start game roster, but was also selected as one the event’s top-ten players.
One recruiting report from Maverik credited him with having “an excellent handle, range and glaring athleticism”—which still pretty much captures the toughness and finesse that the 6-1, 215 van Raaphorst showed at Duke, and continues to show at the professional level
In 2015 he became only the second Arizonan honored as an Under Armour All-American (the first being Hunter Rogers in 2008).
Van Raaphorst entered Duke as #5 on Inside Lacrosse’s Power 100 incoming freshmen, and he’d pretty quickly justify that ranking. He started all 18 games at close defense for the Blue Devils as a sophomore, and ended the season as both an All-ACC and USILA Third Team All-America selections.
In both his junior and senior years, he would receive USILA First-Team honors, and be named a Tewaaraton Award Nominee.
Starting goalie at Johns Hopkins may not quite rank up there with lining up at the tailback position at USC, or even wearing the revered #22 jersey for Syracuse lacrosse, but it’s pretty close—and even more so ten years ago.
When Pearce Bassett did it he stepped into, in the words of the Baltimore Sun, “one of the most scrutinized positions for one of the most storied programs” of college lacrosse.
And he was doing it as a freshman.
That day in 2010, he became the first freshman to start in goal for The Hop since Jesse Schwartzman had done it 7 years before; and he became only the 5th freshman goalie to start for JHU since the NCAA allowed freshman to play varsity—-back in 1972.
Then there’s obviously the Arizona thing.
The irony here was that Bassett wouldn’t have been in the spotlight to begin with had it not been for another performance he’d put in on the exact same field. That was during a game he played with his club team while in high school at the Nike Blue Chip Lacrosse camp held in Baltimore, again played at Homewood Field.
Bassett had also solidified his reputation—-and helped elevate the reputation of Arizona lacrosse–during an East Coast trip taken by his Brophy Prep team. The Broncos had looked particularly impressive in staying with Georgetown Prep, ultimately losing 7-5. Bassett had been a big part of Brophy’s strong showing.
But none of this—or the fact that he’d been a four-year starter at Brophy, won two state championships there, and received four all-state selections—would’ve counted for much if Bassett hadn’t come through against D1 competition.
In his second season, Bassett made Second Team USILA, again becoming the first JHU goalie to receive All-America honors as a sophomore since Schwartzman. He repeated the feat in his junior season, receiving Honorable Mention USILA honors.
Bassett’s senior season was not among JHU’s best. The school’s official record of the season trumpeted the fact that JHU finished out the season with an all-time program record of 933-303-15 all-time….but also had to concede that in 2013 the Blue Jays turned in a lackluster, and uncharacteristic 9-5 performance.
The Hop even failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament, for the first time since 1971.
That said, Bassett had some excellent players in front of him on that team, notably Tucker Durkin, Chris Lightner, and Wells Stanwick; but he was also outstanding in what was an otherwise forgettable Hopkins season.
In 2013, Bassett had a .604 save percentage, and a 7.59 goals against average, and was again an Honorable Mention All-America selection. He finished his JHU career with 500 saves, 36 starting wins, and a 7.72 goals against average.
2018 marked the best season in the history of the Albany program.
For the first time, Albany had reached the NCAA tournament’s Final Four. The Great Danes were 16-3 overall, with two of those losses—one during the regular season, one in the tournament semifinal round—coming against eventual national champion Yale.
As noted above, Patterson had come off a great NCAA Tournament in 2018, after a season in which, as a sophomore, he’d scored 42 goals, scoring three or more in 7 games, and leading the nation in man-up goals.
But since then, Patterson’s had a hard time catching a break.
2019 was a big step back.
Even with the graduation of First Team All-American Connor Fields, the Great Danes had expected the attack tandem of Patterson and Tehoka Nanticoke, previously the nation’s top recruit, to be more than prepared for an schedule that included out-of-conference opponents like Syracuse, Cornell, Maryland, and Yale.
Instead, Albany went 5-9, and instead of making it to the national semifinals, was beaten in the semis of its own conference tournament.
Patterson was then injured in fall ball prior to the 2020 season, a season COVID ultimately brought to a close just when the Great Danes, off a 14-13 loss to Maryland in College Park in which Patterson had 3 assists, appeared to be getting their act together.
And early in the 2021 season Albany, and especially Patterson, were beset by an internal issue: Nanticoke, the team’s leading scorer, was dismissed from the team in late March.
Yet in face of all these setbacks, Patterson has continued to perform.
In the otherwise largely forgettable 2019 season, he was the America East Player of The Year, with 57 points on 25 goals and 32 assists.
In the first five—and what proved to be the only—games of the 2020 season he’d recorded 6 goals and 14 assists; and these numbers weren’t racked up against the expected, standard-issue, early-season creampuffs: two goals and an assist came against Cornell, four assists against UMASS, and as previously mentioned, three came against the Terps in College Park.
Without Nanticoke, the Great Danes went 8-5 in 2021, ending his graduate-year season with a 15-10 loss to Vermont in the America East tournament final, a game in which Patterson had a goal and 4 assists. In the 13 overall games in 2021, he recorded 11 goals and 34 assists.
Patterson came to Albany from Chandler, Arizona, where he played at Corona Del Sol High School, and with the West Coast Starz. He was First Team All-State for three of his four high school seasons.
Patterson was unmistakably a product of Arizona lacrosse, he also, significantly, had East Coast ties; he’d been born in Buffalo, and had roots in the Seneca Nation. He continues a line of Native American players recruited by Albany coach Scott Marr that has also included Tewaaraton Award winners Lyle and Miles Thompson.
Yes, Anthony Abbadessa may not have fulfilled the promise suggested by his selection as Patriot League Rookie of the Year as a freshman in 2015.
But the Desert Vista grad did start every game for which he was eligible during his Colgate career (46), and he captained the team in his senior year.
Also there were some mitigating circumstances.
A tenacious, 5-9 lefty attackman, Abbadessa opened his senior season with hat tricks in each of the first two games—only to suffer a season-ending injury in the third.
He never equaled his freshman-year mark of 24 goals and 15 assists; but that was with a Red Raider team that went 10-6, qualified for the NCAA tournament and, in the regular season, lost to Cornell by one goal and to Syracuse by two.
In 2016, the Red Raiders were 4-10; and in 2017 it improved slightly to 5-9. Importantly, in those two seasons, the team scored 8 goals or less a total of 16 times.
Abbadessa’s numbers inevitably sunk with the team’s overall offensive decline: 20 points in ’16, and, a lot more impressively, 35 in 2017.
Under different circumstances, Addadessa might have fulfilled that initial promise, but he nevertheless had an impressive D1 career.
Ted Sullivan is included on this list for reasons similar to those that had Syracuse’s Scott Loy qualifying as one of Ohio’s all-time best D1 Lacrosse players.
Neither player can claim extensive post-season honors; but Sulivan, like Loy, makes a strong case based on the fact that for several seasons he had starting role on one of the nation’s elite programs—in this case Denver.
Sullivan at midfield for the Pioneers every game for the 2020 and 2021 seasons; he also started the last 9 games of his freshman year, and 10 out of 15 games during his sophomore year, a season he ended with 16 goals and 8 assists.
Sullivan is typically listed as a graduate of New England prep power Deerfield, but unlike many D1 players taking the boarding school route—especially those from areas outside traditional hotbeds—he wasn’t there as a P.G.
Sullivan actually spent his first two seasons at Tucson’s Salpointe Catholic (where his older brother, Chris, played three years before spending his senior year at Deerfield).
David Parry is the founder and editor of LaxAcrossAmerica. A New York-based digital marketer and copywriter, he played Division 1 lacrosse as a walk-on at Brown.