Toronto Rock transition player Kyle Belton impressed coaches at the Combine and went in the third round of the 2012 Draft. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)
When you're the only Toronto Rock rookie on the veteran-laden roster and you score your first career goal (then two more) on your birthday, you could say transition player Kyle Belton had some memorable moments last season. But had the Langley, B.C. native not entered the 2012 NLL Combine, things may have been different for Toronto's third-round draft pick.
"Kyle was a player we had on our radar coming out of Junior," said Rock general manager Terry Sanderson. "Being from the west coast, we had limited opportunities to watch him in person. Having the chance to watch him at the NLL Combine last year, going through the physical testing and scrimmages, his performance solidified our interest in him and raised his draft stock tremendously in our eyes."
The Combine for prospects and free agents is a two-day event starting on Saturday, Sept. 14 at 6 p.m. ET before day-long activities on Sunday at Toronto Rock Athletic Centre (TRAC) in Oakville, Ontario. Players will have the opportunity to showcase their skills in a practice setting through structured games and take part in an interview process with NLL general managers and coaches. All players who participate in the combine will be subject to a series of tests that will evaluate their endurance, reaction times, strength, agility, speed, and lacrosse-related skills. The testing will be conducted by Sport Testing Inc., a provider of athlete assessment technologies and services.
As a Combine success story, NLL.com recently caught up with Kyle:
When did you start playing lacrosse? At what age did you realize you could play pro?
I started playing lacrosse when I was four years old with the Langley mini-tyke Warriors. My first year playing senior summer ball was the year I realized I could compete with players that were playing in the NLL. Gaining experience through playing D-I lacrosse with Stony Brook University also helped me continue to grow my game and to learn to train at a high level to help me reach my goal of making the NLL.
How did box lacrosse make you a better NCAA player?
Playing with and against high-caliber players each summer had me playing lacrosse all year long. Playing box all summer always kept my stick in my hands and in shape for the following NCAA season.
How did you end up at the Combine?
I heard about it through NLL.com.
Did you prepare for the Combine in any way and what were your expectations heading in?
Just coming off the summer league, I felt prepared for the Combine. But I did train and kept the stick in my hand as much as possible leading up to the Combine to stay sharp. I didn’t really know what to expect coming in. All I wanted to do was work hard and take advantage of the opportunity to get a quality look from NLL coaches and scouts.
Thoughts on the Sport Testing company at the Combine that measured performance?
I was really impressed on how professional and lacrosse-specific the Sport Testing combine drills actually were. The specialized drills definitely helped showcase everyone’s skill sets and athletic abilities. But I found the practice with the NLL coaches and scrimmaging to be the most effective in completely showcasing all the prospects’ level of play.
How did it feel to get drafted by the Rock the next night?
I was huge Rock fan growing up, so I couldn’t have been happier. I was just grateful for the opportunity to play and experience being a part of the Rock family.
Describe scoring your first NLL goal then two more on your birthday.
Felt good to finally break the ice. The fact it was my birthday was just an added bonus haha.
Any props for winning NLL Rookie of the Week?
The Beltons are a tight-knit family and I grew up playing lacrosse with a lot of my cousins, so it was nice to feel the family support for winning it. Throughout the season, they were all able to watch the home games on TSN.
What are your thoughts on the TRAC facility (which will host both the Combine and Entry Draft this year)?
I can speak for the entire Rock team when I say that we understand how lucky we are for having the TRAC facility at our fingertips. They did an unreal job with the entire setup of the facility, making it real convenient on the entire organization to work effectively towards our goals. As a player, we’re able to access the locker room at any time, get on the floor if it’s open or get in some training with Sean Holmes at Dynamic Athlete. Couldn’t ask for a better setup.
Any advice for an aspiring draft pick in preparing for and participating in the Combine?
Take advantage of the opportunity at hand because you only live once and nothing worse than living with regret for not trying.
Watch highlights from the 2012 NLL Combine here.