Transfer Portal Focus: California’s George Pike and Avon Old Farms
For a number of years now, Florida lacrosse has benefitted from a parade of seasoned coaches relocating to the state from northern hotbeds.
The list of transplanted talent includes former Penn, Hopkins, and Towson coach, and Hall of Famer Tony Seaman.
Also on the list is Stan Ross, whose D1 resume includes serving as head coach of a Butler team that sadly imploded, and two coaches associated with Long Island powers: Joe Cuozzo, who lead Ward Melville to 8 New York state titles, and Richard Speckman, head coach for over 40 years at Nassau Community College.
What’s all this have to do with the transfer portal?
One of the more recent additions to Florida’s snowbird coaching pool has been Skip Flanagan, longtime coach at Avon Old Farms, a Connecticut boarding school and formidable New England prep power.
And one of the most recent transfer portal entrants, declaring the ’22-’23 season as a graduate student, is Brown middie George Pike, just one of many Avon graduates from outside traditional lacrosse hotbeds who have gone the east coast prep school route.
The path to Avon is a particularly well traveled one for non-hotbed talent.
Maryland’s Bubba Fairman, from Sandy, Utah, is one example, as are three Colorado players, Denver’s Charlie Winsor, Albany’s Owen Weathersby, and Will Rosenblatt of Colgate.
Yet another Avon grad is Bucknell’s Harry Wellford, who along with Georgetown star Graham Bundy Jr., is also a product of St. Louis’s MICDS.
The Well-Worn Lax Path to New England
Again, spending a single post-grad year, or even several years, at a northeast prep school isn’t a newfound phenomenon.
One of the most famous examples is Cornell legend Rob Pannell, who boosted his recruiting stock considerably—even though he’d played high school in the quintessential hotbed of Long Island– via a PG year at Deerfield.
Pike, an ex-Maryland commit and former UA Underclass All-American, is a Woodside, California native, and came to Avon for several years after playing for the Menlo School.
With the logjam likely to result from current D1 players opting for a make-up season in the wake of Covid, you can probably expect the prep school option to become a highly attractive one—especially for non-hotbed talent that might otherwise be overlooked or discounted.
Transfer Portal Player Focus: Dallas’s Parker Alexander
North Carolina has been the hub of a lot of transfer activity recently.
This includes the entry into the transfer portal of Alex Trippi and Brian Cameron.
And that was obviously on the heels of the announcement, in January of this year, that Will Bowen would be leaving UNC to join Georgetown—as a rare two-year graduate transfer.
Yet another recent Tar Heel transfer portal entrant is short-stick defensive middie Parker Alexander.
Alexander was one of 86 Texans on active D1 lacrosse rosters in 2021 (“active” means, basically, excluding the Ivies).
But he is also one of 9 players on that Lone Star list who are graduates of a single school: Dallas’s Highland Park High School.
What’s impressive here is not so much the total number of HP D1 players.
What is really compelling is just how thoroughly those players have managed to infiltrate the highest reaches of Division 1.
The current contingent of Scots includes, beyond UNC’s Alexander, Syracuse’s Owen Seebold, Penn State’s Colby Kneese, Georgetown’s Chris Walker, and 2021 (and ’19) NCAA Tournament standout Cade Saustad of Virginia.
Other former HP players in 2021 were Gabe Galbraith and Drew Scott of Ohio State, Trystan Uphoff of Johns Hopkins, and Bucknell’s Andrew Stanzell.
The Highland Park Lacrosse Legacy
Since this is, after all, a site focusing on D1 lacrosse outside traditional hotbeds, I wanted to take a moment to place the Highland Park program in some sort of perspective.
Highland Park’s athletic heritage extends from 1948 Heisman Trophy winner (and later NFL star) Doak Walker to more contemporary names like Matthew Stafford and Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw (who also, incidentally, played center under Stafford).
Highland Park also has a considerable lacrosse pedigree.
This includes the appearance in the inaugural Under Armour game in 2006 of grads Charley and John Dickenson, who later went on to a Denver program that Bill Tierney was just beginning to elevate to national prominence.
Many of these Highland Park players straddle the school’s football and lacrosse traditions—something not exactly unusual among D1 lacrosse players from Texas, but especially apparent in the field awareness and defensive finesse of the school’s D1 corps.
Chris Hipps, a Duke All-American at defense, and the first Texan to play on a D1 lacrosse champion in 2013, played for the Scots on three consecutive state championship football teams. In just his senior year, he caught 86 passes for 1,580 yards.
Saustad was another football great for the Scots.
He caught three touchdowns in HP’s 2017 state championship game victory, and had over 200 yards in receptions.
Alexander provides yet another example of this tradition.
In addition to being a two-year All-District selection in lacrosse, he also received the same honors both years in football.
For more on the cross-over between Texas football and lacrosse, check out “Texas’s 14 Greatest D1 College Lacrosse Players“.
The 2021 Tournament and Overlooked Transfers
Relocated talent has been on display throughout the 2021 season, and inevitably, in the final rounds of the NCAA Tournament as well.
The players that come immediately to mind here are Duke’s Mike Adler (St. Joseph’s), Carolina’s Connor McCarthy (Princeton), and, of course, fellow Ivy League refugee and Escaped Tiger Michael Sowers.
One transfer who arguably hasn’t gotten the attention he’s deserved is the guy who drew the unhappy lot of trying to guard Michael Sowers in the semifinal round: Maryland’s Nick Grill.
Next, more photos of players now in the transfer portal.
Also, a new summary chart appears below on D1 players entered in the 2022 portal.
Finally, some additional notes on those players in the transfer portal who are from non-hotbed areas—which is, after all, the main focus of this site.
A quick acknowledgement: this chart builds on research done by Lacrosse Bucket.
The Transfer Portal: The Non-Hotbed Perspective
Casey Wasserman will be joining his brother Drew at Utah.
And with the 2022 season, Utah will be joining Air Force, Bellarmine, Cleveland State, Detroit Mercy, and Robert Morris in the reconstituted ASUN conference.
Like his older brother Bryce, a 2018 Monmouth grad and one of the all-time best lacrosse players from the state of Texas, Casey played at Grapevine Faith, in the Dallas area.
Wasserman started 8 out of 9 games (3g, 5a) in 2021 for a Towson team that looked a lot better in person than on paper.
The Tigers went 6-8 overall, but lost 4 games by a single goal, and one by two; and close losses to a team like Drexel, which stayed with a good Notre Dame team in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, now seem more compelling.
Wasserman should find a good amount of playing time with the Utes.
Bergmann was not on the 2021 Canisius roster, but the freshman had been one of the few bright spots in the team’s bleak, Covid-curtailed 2020 season
The Golden Griffiths went 0-5 in 2020, losing by margins of 14, 12, 8, 6, and 4.
In the cage during this goal differential, Bergmann was second in the nation in saves per-game (15), but was also in the top-25 among all D1 goalies in save percentage.
And one thing Bergmann clearly didn’t lack for at Canisius was action.
Robert Morris put 41 shots on goal against him.
Again, that figure represents not shots, but shots on goal.
Hartford had 34 (resulting in Bergmann setting the season’s single-game save mark for all of Division 1).
Michigan had 32, and against Air Force Bergmann dealt with a relatively leisurely 26.
Millican is yet another to reach the highest reaches of D1 after the tutelage of Dallas Jesuit coach Chris Surran, a former All-American goalie at Syracuse.
Millican hasn’t fared as well as Surran’s previous charges, but he’s had some bad luck. He suffered an off-the-field concussion after starting several games for the Tar Heels as a freshman and has had difficulty getting a starting spot since.
Caton Johnson heads to Ohio State on the heels of another bad break: the interruption of UNC’s 2020 season.
Before the season was brought to a close in March, the Tar Heels were 7-0, beating opponents by a composite score of 125-70; and Johnson had been the nets for each of those victories, including wins against Denver and Hopkins.
Not on the UNC 2021 roster, Johnson avoided the unenviable task of competing for playing time with freshman star Collin Krieg.
Kane reverses the path taken by Caton Johnson: he says goodbye to Columbus and Ohio State, opting instead for Long Island and Hofstra.
The former Lambert star also spent a PG year at the Hill Academy in Ontario, and had been recruited as part of a Buckeye coaching initiative to bring in products of the box-influenced Canadian game (Ohio State had 6 Canadians on its 2021 roster).
The lefty should have no problem finding playing time on the Island.
Riemann leaves a Hampton program that chose to sit out the 2021 season.
Going the military academy route was not the severe step it might appear: Riemann had been attracted to Hampton in part by its ROTC program, and had considered VMI during recruitment.
In 2020, Riemann lead Division II goalies in Texas in save percentage.
Drew Elder departs D1—and therefore the scope of this site—for D2 power Tampa.
He wouldn’t be the first D1 transfer to find a home at Tampa. One prominent example is Georgetown transfer—and Florida native— Conor Whipple.
Gay arrived in Hartford having played a PG year at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, and before that, on the first two teams to be fielded by Mount Pisgah Christian School (the Johns Creek, Georgia school was coached by former Lambert and Robert Morris player Trey Arnold).
The Hawks played only 7 games in 2021, with Gay making all 7 starts and recording 2 goals and 2 assists at midfield.
The Culver Military product was one of 3 players from the Indiana power on the Notre Dame 2021 roster.
Having started every game as a freshman and 12 as a sophomore, Schmidt has faced declining playing time since with the Irish.
But he’s a solid goalie who has stepped up in some crucial spots for ND.
In the 2018 and 2019 ACC Tournaments, he led the Irish to wins over Duke with 11 and 18 saves, respectively.
Here’s additional information about two significant, and recent, transfer portal entrants.
Khan and Lulley Enter Transfer Portal
As reported by Inside Lacrosse, Penn’s Sean Lulley and Villanova’s Keegan Khan, entered the NCAA transfer portal earlier this month (May 11th and 12th).
Both players come from high school programs squarely within traditional lacrosse hotbeds. Khan is a product of Delbarton, an established New Jersey power that has sent a parade of recruits to D1 schools, and to Villanova specifically (the Wildcats’ 2021 roster also included Delbarton grads Colin Crowley, Matt Campbell, and and Chet Comizio).
Keegan also put in a P.G. year at Ontario’s Hill Academy, which has, among many others, produced D1 stars like Cornell’s Jeff Teat.
So Why Include Khan and Lulley Here?
Penn’s Sean Lulley also emerged from a quintessential hotbed power: Long Island’s Half Hollow Hills East.
So why, in a site focused on D1 lacrosse outside traditional hotbeds, devote time and attention to these players?
The simple answer is that coverage of the D1 transfer scene has to take into account all players–regardless of where they come from. That just makes sense.
Secondly, the entry into the portal by these two players dovetails with some trends noted here previously. Yes, you can’t jump to conclusions: entry into the portal isn’t ironclad, and players can, and do, frequently withdraw.
But these are two accomplished D1 players. Lulley’s action may mark a further talent drain from the Ivy League—and from Penn specifically (adding to the loss of Kyle Thornton and Kyle Gallagher).
Khan’s entry might signal an attempt at upgrading. Villanova, after all, missed the NCAA tournament. On the other hand, you’d be hard-pressed to find a program that picked itself up off the mat as convincingly as the Wildcats. They looked abysmal in a 16-1 early-season humiliation at the hands of Georgetown; then a month later they almost beat that same Hoya team. And in addition to beating an otherwise undefeated Lehigh team, they took to overtime yet another top-ten power, Denver, which had dusted them by seven goals earlier in the season.
Upgrades like this via the transfer portal tend to feed into the further concentration of talent at the uppermost echelons of D1 lacrosse—another trend noted here.
But again, when it comes to testing the waters, motives are never entirely clear-cut; and any one entry into the portal is itself subject to multiple interpretations—and, as we’ve all seen, hardly irreversible.
This site focuses primarily on D1 lacrosse from the perspective of areas outside traditional hotbeds, such as states like Texas, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, South Carolina, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, California, Nevada, and Georgia.
But it’s hard to take that kind of narrow focus when it comes to transfers. The chart below therefore covers all D1 2021 transfers, regardless of the player’s home state.
Before checking out the chart below, take a second to consider what might be learned from what’s currently happening in college hockey.
College Hockey’s Portal Problem: A Preview for Lacrosse?
As a college lacrosse fan, you understandably may not know, or even care, much about college hockey.
But what’s now happening in college hockey, both within and as a result of the transfer portal, could have implications for college lacrosse.
Yes, college hockey and lacrosse have different dynamics. Hockey is obviously on a different seasonal cycle; and the significantly greater financial rewards of the N.H.L vs. pro lacrosse make player and team jockeying that much more calculated…and consequential.
That said, lacrosse fans might take notice of the fact that as of this week, the week that it will determine its national champion, college hockey has more than 255 players in the transfer portal.
Just to put that in perspective, that number represents about 15% of all college hockey players.
Writing in College Hockey News, Mike McMahon offered up a few insights that may already resonate among followers of college lacrosse:
“In a short period of time, the transfer portal has turned into college hockey’s version of free agency.”
“And remember, the fifth year of eligibility doesn’t just apply to seniors. It applies to every player who played this season, so the ripple effects will be felt for the next four offseasons”.
“If teams add a fifth-year player out of the transfer portal, any scholarship money given to that player would have to count towards the program’s 18-scholarship maximum.”
Again, the specifics vary between the sports. For instance, lacrosse only has a scholarship allotment of 12.6 per team.
Despite these underlying differences, the impact of the transfer portal on both sports may prove similar.
For that reason alone, the college hockey scene may potentially bear watching in the coming months.
The Post-Grad Option for Lacrosse
One likely impact of “ripple effect” mentioned above, and general instability at the D1 level, will be the greater appeal among high school recruits of a post-graduate year.
A PG year—typically taken at an East Coast boarding school —has been a well-worn path for many recruits from outside traditional hotbeds.
That additional of experience and seasoning, especially playing with an acknowledged national power like Deerfield in Massachusetts, could buy recruits needed time to assess the recruiting landscape.
The Division 1 2021 College Lacrosse Transfer Chart
The Transfer Portal: The Pre- and Post-COVID View
A League of Their Own
The Ivy League: D1 Lacrosse’s Very Own “Unsettled Situation”
Again, the chart makes a couple of pretty stark points about the impact of D1 lacrosse transfers.
The first is, again, the reality that already elite, blue-blood programs like Duke and Denver got a disproportionate share of top-level transfer talent.
The other unavoidable reality is just how severe a talent drain the Ivy League has suffered.
Could it really have been only a year ago that the Ivies had three teams in the top 5 nationally?
This week the Ancient Eight finally weighed in on the future of spring sports for its member schools. There will be no Ivy League play or competition. Instead, the League held out the hope that members might play against “local non-conference competition”.
So, in other words, the Ivy League is now essentially the DIY League.
You obviously can’t fault the Ivies for acting from, to use that already insufferable phrase, “an abundance of caution”; but you can fault them for not acting a year ago to provide its athletes with some sensible form of relief.
Last March the League reasserted its commitment to producing student-athletes “to boldly take on world challenges and lead lives of great impact”.
Unfortunately, they’ll be making that impact at programs like Duke, Denver, and Notre Dame.
So in search of a fourth year of eligibility—one that almost every other D1 lacrosse senior not at a service academy will be entitled to—some of the League’s, and nation’s premier senior talent had to go elsewhere.
So, again, the rich get richer, and the Ivy League gets…well, not much.
Just the assurance that 250+ years of academic rectitude wasn’t jeopardized.
Though details have not been provided, the League has also indicated this week that current senior athletes will be permitted an extra year of eligibility in 2021-22 while enrolled in graduate studies at their current institution.
But again, the time for the Ivies to have taken meaningful action was last year.
Instead the League’s athletes got a lot of high minded posturing.
Will the Ivies even be able to schedule games—local or otherwise—at this late date?
And with Yale already shutting down for the season, will other Ivies follow suit?
(Just for the record, there was opposition to the League’s policy. As just one example, Princeton published an open letter of protest from a group of lacrosse alumni, along with the university president’s response).
A Reminder about the Transfer Portal
Once again: just what is the transfer portal?
The term has an almost furtive, backdoor feel to it; but it was actually intended to bring transparency to a process that could be anything but.
Since October 2018, the NCAA Transfer Portal has provided a more ordered way for players, schools, and—most importantly–compliance administrators–to manage the transfer process.
Entry into the Portal doesn’t create an ironclad commitment to transferring; players may withdraw from the Portal, something that the lacrosse world has seen frequently in 2020-21.
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