The back-to-back NLL champion Rochester Knighthawks have re-signed transition player Brad Self to a four-year agreement. (Photo: Dan Brodie)
The back-to-back National Lacrosse League champion Rochester Knighthawks have re-signed unrestricted free agent Brad Self to a four-year deal.
“It’s great knowing I will be back in Rochester for the next four years,” said Self. “To get it done before camp, get it out of the way and be able to focus on lacrosse is nice.”
The Knighthawks will open camp on Saturday, Nov. 23 in East Rochester at the Unity Health System Total Sports Experience. Self returns after a season in which he established himself as one of the top defensive/transition players in the NLL. This season, his value has gone up exponentially with the game-day rosters going from 18 runners down to 16.
“I have always been a big believer in two-way players. With the number of players (this season), these guys are even more important to the game,” said assistant coach Jason Johnson, who handles the defense. "The big plus for Brad is he can play defense because he comes from the defensive side, but he can also move the ball up the floor and put the ball in the net.”
“Brad has been a great asset to our team. His speed and anticipation make him a constant transition threat. He has great hands and the ability to finish, but his dedication to playing team defense has allowed us to use him in all situations,” added Knighthawks assistant coach Pat O’Toole. “Brad plays a lot of minutes for us and is always up for the challenge.”
Self’s ability to play both ends of the floor allowed him to enjoy a banner season in 2013. Not only did he end his second year with the Knighthawks with his second straight Champion’s Cup, but he notched a career-high 96 loose balls. He also played in 16 games for only the second time in his career. Self was a member of a Rochester defense that limited opponents to a league-low 165 goals.
“Brad is a solid defender, great on loose balls and plays a huge role in transition,” said Knighthawks team captain and fellow defenseman Sid Smith.
Offensively, Self chipped in nine goals and tallied 22 points. In the postseason, he scored one goal and collected two assists in three games. He also led the team with 25 loose balls and tied his season-high of 12 in the first round win against Philadelphia.
“We can use him in so many situations. He does such a good job with loose balls and transition, and rarely turns the ball over or take undisciplined shots,” said Knighthawks assistant coach Paul Day, who oversees the offense. “He scores when he gets his chance or gets the ball to the offense. He improves every year in our own end.”
With the Knighthawks, Self has played in all 32 games and notched 39 points, which is the best two-year production in his pro career. He also scooped up 183 loose balls. In his first season in Rochester, it was evident that Self was back to his old form as he strung together a six-game goal-scoring streak and a seven-game assist streak. In 2013, he netted nine goals, which was the most for Self since his rookie season back in 2003.
“I think it’s just being more comfortable not just on the floor, but with the guys on the team,” he said. “I was away playing pro hockey and not playing pro lacrosse. I had to come in and earn my spot. I am looking to build on what I’ve done the last two years.”
Self has played seven seasons in the NLL, having last played in 2008 before he returned to the game with Rochester in 2012. In his career, he has played in 72 games and collected 406 loose balls and 146 points.
Self was acquired as part of a four-player, four-draft pick deal with the Colorado Mammoth. It was the same trade that sent John Grant Jr. to Colorado and brought goalie Matt Vinc to the Knighthawks. At the time he was playing professional hockey in Germany, but the trade to Rochester – and some friendly advice – convinced him to hang up the skates and focus on lacrosse.
“It was the opportunity to be able to play at the highest level,” he said. “I talked to Scotty and Shawn Evans and they told me about Rochester and they spoke highly of Curt (Styres) and his mentality of family, team and professionalism.”
Self arrived in Rochester for the 2012 season and capped off his full-time return to the NLL with his first championship. He followed that up with helping Rochester win back-to-back Champion’s Cups for the first time in team history.
One of the highlights of the 2013 campaign was playing alongside his brother, Scott, who was acquired on March 13 from the Buffalo Bandits. The season marked only the third time in their professional careers that Scott and Brad Self played on the same NLL team. The trade reunited the brothers for the first time since the 2008 season while they first played together in the NLL in 2003.
The brothers played in seven regular season games together and three playoff games. The NLL Championship Game last May was a special moment for them, especially with their parents in attendance at the Langley Events Centre.
“I know both of us were pretty emotional in warm-ups before the game started and it was a bit of relief at the afterward,” said Brad Self about Rochester’s 11-10 win over the Stealth. “It’s even more exciting to play a full season with him in Rochester. We’ll try to do it again this year.”