Oct 28, 2016

Rookie Camp.jpgBy Craig Rybczynski -- The Rochester Knighthawks got back to work on Wednesday as they hosted their first of two Rookie Camp sessions at the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena in Hagersville, Ontario. With coaches and management in attendance, 20 prospects were introduced to the Knighthawks’ philosophy and team’s offensive and defensive systems.

“It went well. I was a little rusty at first, but it was a lot of fun to get out with the team, and meet all the coaches and all the staff,” said first-round pick Josh Currier. “It was really cool to get started.”

Currier was one of six draft picks in attendance, joining Kyle Jackson, Dan Lomas, Tyler Albrecht, Luke Laszkiewicz and Brine Rice. The two-hour practice began with an introduction and a video session with the Knighthawks coaching staff. Head coach Mike Hasen took the lead and spelled out the team’s vision for the 2017 season with one word: WIN.

“It stands for What’s Important Now,” said Hasen. “The next step is, ‘What is important next?’”

During his PowerPoint presentation, he showed photos of players setting picks, scoring goals and taking on tough guys to emphasize what it is going to take to win in the NLL. Veteran coach Paul Day, who handles the offense as one of the team’s assistants, reinforced that point with video clips. “

These players have to make this team better,” said Day. “They have to work every day to improve and think about what is important now each time they train.”

[JoshCurrier2] After the locker room session, it was on to the turf for a 30-minute warmup and workout under the direction of the team’s Athlete Performance Coach, Dan Noble. Noble, who also works as the Director of Athletic Performance at The Hill Academy, has experience training high-level athletes. A number of his pupils have gone on to play in the Olympics, the OHL, NHL, NLL and collegiately at some of the top lacrosse programs in the NCAA.

Noble was brought in by Knighthawks Owner and General Manager Curt Styres to raise the fitness bar for the players.

“Everything we do (at the Hill Academy) is about making our athletes perform at the best level,” said Noble, who has been at The Hill for 10 years. “Curt and I have always chatted in the past and he’s shared some respect for what we have been able to do. The opportunity came because the Knighthawks are looking to step into a different direction in terms of their athletic performance program, sports science and how they develop and prepare. Curt thought of me in terms of that role; I am honored that he reached out.”

That change in philosophy for the Knighthawks began at Rookie Camp and will continue throughout the season. Noble said it’s creating a “culture of competitiveness.”

“What’s important to Curt is developing the right culture on the team,” he said. “What we told the guys is that it starts in the locker room first by establishing what they do on their own and how they communicate and hold each other accountable. It’s what they define as being successful and what their standard of excellence is for themselves and as a team. That is really going to define them and will be a real marker on how we are going to end up and how successful we are.”

[BrineRice2] The draftees and invitees were the first group to train under Noble in a practice setting. It set the stage for an up-tempo second hour that featured shooting drills, and positional and transition work, along with executing team concepts. More importantly, it was a chance for players to hone their skills before training camp starts in late November.

“It felt good to get back out there, get our sticks going and get our heart rate up,” said Rice. “It was great to get out there and be with the boys.”

The list of Rookie Camp invitees included players from all levels of lacrosse, from the junior ranks to the NCAA. Two familiar faces were former Knighthawks defenseman Justin Pychel and former free agent signee Jake Crans. Two players, who also had ties to Rochester, were RIT’s Josh Harris and Canandaigua’s Tom LaCrosse – who both experienced an NLL training session for the first time.

Harris, who finished his collegiate career in 2016, played at RIT with Knighthawks transition man Brad Gillies and would like nothing more than to rejoin his former teammate on the Knighthawks.

“Brad is a good friend of mine,” said Harris. “I played with him for three years and then he was my coach for one year. It would be awesome to play with him again and be back in Rochester.”

LaCrosse, who played his college ball at Penn State, was competing and taking part in drills with his hometown team on Wednesday night.

“I grew up watching the Knighthawks and live only 20 minutes away,” he said. “It’s a dream come true being able to try out with them.”

The Knighthawks will conclude their two-day Rookie Development Camp on Monday, Nov. 7 from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. at the ILA. The coaches will get one last look at the talent pool before deciding who will move on to training camp.

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