You can’t mess with success.
And when it comes to drafting the next wave of National Lacrosse League superstars, certain colleges and universities have proven to be hot-spots, providing a pipeline to the big show.
Over the past five years, seven colleges or universities have produced multiple top-10 draft picks in the NLL, with four of them sending three or more since 2014.
It’s no shock that all seven are heavy hitters when it comes to success on the collegiate level, as well as developing talent for the National Lacrosse League. Taking a look at the last five NLL Entry Drafts, these are the schools that have produced the most top-10 picks.
The University of Virginia
The Cavaliers are currently the kings of college lacrosse in 2019, winning the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in the program’s history. Over the past five years, Virginia has also celebrated having a pair of players taken in the top-10 in the NLL Draft.
Mark Cockerton was taken with the sixth pick of the 2014 draft by New England and Zed Williams was selected with the fourth pick by Georgia in 2017.
Cockerton scored 11 goals his rookie season for the Black Wolves and spent three seasons in the NLL. Williams is coming off a solid sophomore season for the Swarm, registering 22 goals, 23 assists and 69 loose balls.
The five-time Division II champion Saints sent two players into the first round of the NLL Draft over the last three years as Saskatchewan selected Mike Messenger with the third pick in the 2016 draft and Colton Watkinson was taken by New England with the seventh pick in 2017 after Georgia traded the pick to New England. Messenger, a national champ in 2014 and 2015, found a home as a valuable defenseman in Saskatchewan, and won an NLL title with the Rush in 2018. He has scored 24 goals and added 18 assists in three years. His 293 loose ball pickups are in the upper echelon of the league’s best during that span. Watkinson, who helped the Saints win national titles in three of his four years after they won again in 2017, has continued his success as a 2018 All-Rookie Team selection and is earning valuable time as a transition player for the Black Wolves with 28 points and 125 loose balls in 35 games.
Syracuse has one of the most storied lacrosse histories with 15 national championships and the Orange have produced some fantastic talent over the years. Most recently, Randy Staats went sixth overall in the 2015 draft and Brendan Bomberry was taken last year with the seventh pick. Both were Georgia Swarm draft picks. Staats has played four seasons with the Swarm and has become one of their key players after being named the 2016 Rookie of the Year. He has tallied 134 career goals and 202 assists in 64 games. Bomberry has begun contributing as a transition player with 17 points in 17 games while grabbing 61 loose balls.
University of North Carolina
Last season’s entry draft was a big one for the Tarheels as Chris Cloutier went second overall to Philadelphia and Shane Simpson was taken sixth by Calgary. It’s too early to say how both newcomers might pan out as Cloutier split time between Philly and Buffalo, recording 19 goals and 27 assists in 15 games, while Simpson, a defender, appeared in just 10 games for the Roughnecks registering 10 points, 38 loose balls and nine forced turnovers. Both players, however, carry championship experience on the big stage, having won a national title with the Tarheels in 2016.
The one certainty for UNC is Chad Tutton, who was taken fifth in 2015 by Georgia and was an instant success as he was named to the 2016 All-Rookie Team. In four years, Tutton has played all 64 regular season games and has chipped in 22 goals and 29 assists along the way.
University of Denver
Drafted by Rochester second overall in 2014, but traded to Colorado shortly after, Jeremy Noble has become a fan favorite among the Mammoth fanbase, and for good reason. In five years, he has accumulated 78 goals and 173 assists, including an 82-point outburst in 2018. Denver alum Wesley Berg was taken fourth by Calgary in 2015 shortly after the Pioneers won the NCAA Championship and Berg received MVP honors of the tournament. He played three years in the NLL before missing the 2018-19 season on a contract dispute and is now a member of the San Diego Seals. Prior to that, Berg was one of Calgary’s top weapons, scoring 99 goals and 133 assists in 54 games.
The Pioneers prepared another Roughnecks key player in Tyler Pace, as he was taken ninth by Calgary in 2017. In just two years, Pace has made an impact, scoring 23 goals and 38 assists in just 24 games. He too was part of the 2015 National Champion team.
The Great Danes had four players taken in the top 10 of the NLL Draft over the last four years including Miles and Lyle Thompson, Seth Oakes and Connor Fields. The Thompson brothers have been tremendous players for the Swarm since they entered the league a year apart. Miles was first, taken third by the Swarm in the 2014 draft by the then-Minnesota Swarm. The following year after relocating to Georgia, the franchise selected Lyle with the first overall pick. The Thompson brothers have combined for 283 goals and 325 assists (608 points) in their still-blossoming careers.
Oakes has played just 26 games in three years, scoring 18 goals and 22 assists since being selected eighth by New England in 2016. Fields made his debut in the spring and played two games after recovering from a knee injury. He was taken tenth by San Diego last year.
Ohio State University
Incredibly, five Buckeyes have been taken in the first 10 picks of the NLL Draft in the past five years, which is the most by any school in the country. Oddly enough, all five picks were taken over a total of two draft classes. In 2015, Jesse King was taken third overall by Georgia and Turner Evans was selected with the first pick of the second round (tenth overall) by Toronto.
King’s appearances have been spotty, playing in 2016 (22 goals, 55 assists) and 2018 (28 goals and 41 assists) before being traded to the Roughnecks last summer. Suiting up in just two regular season games, King proceeded to take off in the playoffs, scoring six goals and 11 assists in four games as the Roughnecks won the NLL Championship.
Evans spent two years with the Rock, posting 20 goals and 52 assists before being taken by San Diego in the 2018 Expansion Draft, where he accumulated 19 goals and 26 assists last season.
The Rochester Knighthawks bet heavy on the Buckeyes in 2017 after Ohio State lost in the NCAA Championship game, using three first-round selections on players from that squad. The Knighthawks took defenseman Jake Withers second overall, forward Austin Shanks fifth and forward Eric Fannell sixth. All three were named to the 2018 All-Rookie Team and Withers received the honor of Rookie of the Year.