The defending West Division champion Edmonton Rush open training camp this weekend.
After coming up just short in the 2012 National Lacrosse League Championship Game, the Edmonton Rush begin training camp with hopes of another deep playoff run in 2013. Plenty of hype surrounds the Rush after selecting elite prospect Mark Matthews with the first overall pick in the 2012 Entry Draft, but a few other rookies could also turn heads at camp.
The defending West Division champs were excited when Michael Burke, a 22-year-old forward from Caledon, Ontario, was still available with the 28th overall pick in this past October's draft.
“Burke should never have slipped to the third round, but we are happy he did,” said Rush head coach Derek Keenan. “We needed right-handed offense and we got it in Burke.”
The rookie is also confident that he will be able to contribute offensively.
“I believe I can be a scoring threat from the right side, working with my teammates to open room and create scoring chances," Burke said. "I am incredibly excited to join the Rush family and I cannot wait to get to work with the other members of the team.”
The talented scorer posted a league-leading 129 points (45+84) in Ontario Jr. A box lacrosse in 2011. This fall, Burke recorded 55 points (42+13) in just 11 games with the University of Guelph to lead the Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association in goals and points while playing alongside Curtis Knight, Edmonton's 8th overall pick.
“He was the workhorse of our team this year," Burke said. "I would say 'Knighter' and I do most of our bonding on the field. He's a very smart player and understands the game like I try to. Many times, we are able to read and react to each other on the field without saying anything.”
Prior to joining Guelph, Burke played NCAA lacrosse with Hofstra University from 2009-2010 and Marquette University in 2011. Entering his first professional training camp, Burke will try to bring his scoring talents to the next level.
“As a rookie, I know I have to find my role on the team," he said. "I am going to listen, work hard, and establish an identity that will hopefully land me a spot on the roster.”
Burke is also excited to familiarize himself with the Edmonton area.
“I have been to Alberta before and visited Banff, but I have never been to Edmonton," he said. "I look forward to getting to know the city and the people, as well as experiencing what life in the west has to offer.”
Edmonton’s 33rd overall draft pick, local lacrosse product Simon Giourmetakis, looks to contribute on both ends of the floor.
“Simon is a kid willing to do the dirty work,” Keenan said. “But he also has some scoring ability.”
Giourmetakis hopes to help his hometown team playing in front of his family and friends.
“I am born and raised in Edmonton, it will always be my home,” he said. “Growing up and playing [here], I definitely thought that I might someday be in a Rush jersey.”
Giourmetakis played NCAA field lacrosse from 2009-2012 at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY. He led the team in points in both his junior and senior years while helping the team win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Championship to qualify for the NCAA tournament. He was just the fourth player in Golden Griffins history to be awarded first-team All-MAAC honors twice.
Before they were all drafted to the Rush, Giourmetakis played with Mark Matthews in the Canadian box lacrosse circuit and is also quite familiar with Edmonton rookie Mitch Banister.
“I played against [Banister] for four years, but I’d like to think we are pretty good friends now,” he said. “I can’t wait to see him at camp.”
The Rush selected Banister with 46th overall pick in the draft. The son of former Calgary Roughnecks owner Brad Banister, the physical rookie has caught the eye of the Edmonton coaching staff.
“He's tenacious and feisty,” Keenan said. “He’s capable of playing an up-tempo style of defense. The classic case of a guy you hate to play against, but love to have on your team.”
The Rush open training camp on Saturday, Nov. 24 in Six Nations, Ontario. The team begins their regular season campaign on Sunday, Jan. 13 against the Toronto Rock on Crystal Glass Field at Rexall Place.