All eight MLL teams have multiple players of the remaining thirty on the list. If MLL were a 30-team league like the NBA or NHL, then these guys would be franchise players. Some are the second or third scoring options on their team; some are defenders who don’t even draw the top assignment on a weekly basis. Don’t let the league size diminish their skill sets, though. These guys are the alpha males of MLL.
30. Shamel Bratton – M – New York Lizards
Some people don’t even expect Shamel to make this roster. I can’t blame people for being skeptical of his work ethic; he was dismissed from the team his senior year at UVA. But those skeptical of his playing ability? You’re out of your mind.
Behind Steven Brooks, Shamel has the best left-handed shot in lacrosse. To be honest I’m not sure anybody else is even close. I’d say there is a huge gap after those two, and then it is Zack Greer, Garrett Thul, Logan Schuss and Kevin Buchanan in some order.
Shamel has an unconventional face-up game. Rather than take a run at his defenders, he loves to jab-step like a basketball player. It actually helps him scan the field and feed the crease without worrying about slides. Tim Desko and Erik Krum have been the beneficiary of many Bratton feeds when he “dodges” like this.
If Shamel is cut from the Lizards, it’ll most likely be a decision made based on his personality and dedication. He still has the stick skills and athleticism to be an All-Star in MLL. His future is in his hands. C’mon, Shamel! I already used my mulligan for this column (Brandon Corp). Don’t let me down!
29. Mike Manley – D – Rochester Rattlers
In recent years we’ve seen a new breed of attackmen. Grant Catalino, Mark Matthews and Thul are built like NFL tight ends. Will Yeatman is a professional offensive guard. Evolution’s reactionary move is to produce Super Size defenders. Enter Mike Manley.
At 6’1’’ and 204 lbs., Manley is a tough matchup for the league’s biggest attackmen. He is only 25-years-old, but he has plenty of experience from starting 74 games in his career at Duke. This summer, he will be the top deep defender on what should be a very good Rattlers’ defense in 2014. If you enjoy bruising defense and physical play, then be sure to catch a Rattlers’ game. If not, then shield your eyes. Or join the Mike Manley Hate Club that a man named Mike Camarda apparently seems to have started:
[Sidenote: Am I the only one who finds the irony in this situation? This Camarda character verbally attacks Manley for being overly aggressive and, in turn, becomes the overly aggressive party in the situation. People are crazy.]
28. Zack Greer – A/M – Denver Outlaws
27. John Grant Jr.– A – Denver Outlaws
I’ve always had a soft spot for the 2008 Duke team, so I was irrationally excited for Greer’s return to MLL this summer. The big, Canadian lefty didn’t disappoint. Greer helped generate much of the Outlaws’ league-leading offense He thrived as a ball carrier in pick-and-rolls on the wing. In just eleven games he scored a career-high 28 points and earned a locker [and a bottle of Fireball!] at the MLL All-Star Game:
MLL All Star game. ESPN2 @ 7pm est. *Note the big bottle of Fireball Whiskey pic.twitter.com/3KoD9osHAz
— Zack Greer (@ZackGreer88) July 13, 2013
Now, the Outlaws have another big, Canadian lefty. Junior, who was sent to Denver for Brendan Mundorf, is coming off a strong campaign of his own. The 39-year-old attackman scored 32 points. Greer-Junior pick-and-rolls have insane potential. Both players have some of the best hands in the sport and box-style finishing abilities. Their size and Canadian hands give them the versatility to be either the ball carrier or the screener.
Junior was a little butthurt when I compared him to Zach Randolph. I made it very clear that the comparison was solely based on playing style – not career accomplishments – but I guess Canadians don’t appreciate hoops. I’m sure he will be equally unhappy with me for putting him at No. 27. Obviously, there was a time in his career when he’d top this list. I just don’t know how many years he has left competing at an elite level.
[Sidenote: I know most MLL transactions are based on working and living situations, but Junior was just traded with Michael Simon and the No. 16 overall pick for Brendan Mundorf. Denver is a better fit for Junior [who also plays for the NLL’s Colorado Mammoth] so location definitely played a huge role in that trade. The extra value Chesapeake had to surrender makes it impossible to rank Junior ahead of Mundorf, though.]
26. Drew Snider – M – Denver Outlaws
The Outlaws have always been dominant in the regular season. Despite fairly significant roster turnover, this team continues to find a way to win. Players like Max Seibald, Drew Westervelt, Peet Poillon, Mark Matthews and Jordan McBride have been important contributors to this team in the past few years, but they were all replaced quickly. The Outlaws’ core [Jesse Schwartzman, Lee Zink, Matt Bocklet and Brendan Mundorf] is what has kept this team competitive.
This offseason, the Outlaws parted with one of those core members – Brendan Mundorf. Snider’s success is a big reason why the Outlaws considered Mundorf expendable. The Seattle Slinger earned his nickname this summer, recording 31 goals and 46 points on his way to being named the 2013 Warrior Most Improved Player. His two-way play changed the identity of the Outlaws. Along with the Bayhawks, they became the prototype for MLL teams. The Outlaws’ success was rooted in their midfield depth and fast-paced transition. As long as Snider is in town, it should be their identity for many years to come.
25. Joe Walters – M – Chesapeake Bayhawks
24. Brendan Mundorf – A – Chesapeake Bayhawks
Very few professional athletes earn the role of Batman. Entering this offseason, only three Batmans existed in MLL: Paul Rabil, Joe Walters and Brendan Mundorf. [Matt Danowski submitted his application for Batmanhood last Championship Weekend. The Batman Committee is waiting until this season to make its final decision on him.]
If a team were lucky enough to land one of these guys, they’d be stupid to let him go. Batman-type players are few and far between. Not only are these players talented on the field, they bring an unparalleled competitive spirit. In tight games and clutch situations these guys don’t shrink. They shine. They have that little extra fight in them – the sort of fight the Joker appreciates.
Now, Florida and Denver are searching for their next Batman. The early frontrunners are Kevin Crowley in Florida and Jeremy Sieverts in Denver. We’ll see what they do when given the chance to be the go-to guy. Whoever emerges must remember this: You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself traded to Chesapeake.
23. Ryan Flanagan – D – Charlotte Hounds
Last year I attended a career seminar with Bob Ryan at Boston College. Ryan has worked the same job for his entire life: writing for the Boston Globe. He loved his job until the day he retired; he did, however, mention that he was grateful to have worked with the NBA when he did.
In the 1980s Bob Ryan would travel with the team. No, not just attend away games – he took the same plane as Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. In fact, everyone took the same plane as them. The players were not off-limits to fans and media like they are today. Those guys were his best friends.
According to Ryan, two turning points ruined the player-fan relationship in the NBA: private charter flights and Michael Jordan. Luckily for us, lacrosse players do not take charter flights, and MLL has never seen a celebrity like Michael Jordan. Plenty of Major League Lacrosse players help coach local youth programs, stay after games to sign autographs and take the time to do interviews for numerous lacrosse websites and radio shows. These players are not obligated to do any of this. Ryan Flanagan, the HEADstrong Humanitarian of the Month, does just about all of it. Enjoy the league and guys like Flanagan while you can.
22. Joel White – LSM – Rochester Rattlers
I am incredibly against judging players by their highlight tapes. Some truly not-so-great athletes have jaw-dropping, 2-minute-long videos on YouTube. Highlight tapes tell a tiny fraction of an athlete’s story. But at the same time, some plays transcend words. So watch these clips of White [specifically at 0:53] and just take my word for it that he is really, really good outside of these handful of plays.
21. Jeremy Thompson – SSDM – Florida Launch
Nowadays when the name Thompson is mentioned, you might expect to see another highlight reel. Jeremy is a very different player than Lyle, Ty and Miles though. He isn’t a flashy scorer – or even much of a scorer at all. He faces off, plays excellent defense and is an opportunistic offensive player.
His experience in the NLL has helped him work some nifty two-man games with his Canadian teammates, primarily Kevin Crowley. In this first clip, Jeremy is the ball-handler. Crowley slips a screen and settles in a quality shooting area. Jeremy recognizes the miscommunication between the defenders and finds a wide open Crowley:
Now, Crowley is the ball-handler. Just like Crowley did in the last clip, Jeremy slips the screen. Again, both defenders flow to the ball-handler, this time leaving Jeremy wide open. Crowley doesn’t look back to Jeremy, however, and he forces a low percentage shot.
Jeremy will never invade the box score like his brothers and cousin. His offensive game might be quiet, but it is extremely efficient. Combined with his play on defense and in transition, it makes him one of the most valuable players in the league.
If you have a question or idea for Joe, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org! Include your first name and hometown. You could be featured in his next mailbag column!