After coming off a championship victory at the Upstate Box Lacrosse Invitational last weekend, the Jr. Bandits have their eyes on claiming more hardware at this weekend’s 6th Annual Jr. NLL Tournament running Friday through Sunday. The league caught up with current Buffalo Bandits’ players and Jr. Bandits’ coaches, Dhane Smith and Josh Byrne, to get their perspectives heading into the Jr. NLL Tournament and 2018-19 season.
Q: How were you first introduced to lacrosse? Did the box game come before field or vice versa?
Dhane Smith: I was first introduced to lacrosse when I was about 3 years old from my parents. The box game definitely came first. I believe I started playing field when I was 14.
Josh Byrne: When I was 3 my mom put me in lacrosse because she thought hockey was too physical. I don’t think she did much research on that situation. I played box until I was 12 then started to do both box and field lacrosse.
Q: How did you get involved with the Jr Bandits?
Dhane Smith: I got involved the first year of Jr. Bandits, a couple of years ago. It was a great opportunity to give back and do something I love, which is coach and develop young kids.
Josh Byrne: Coaching is a passion of mine, so when I was drafted to the Bandits, I wanted to get involved right away.
Q: It’s not every day that you get to be coached by a pro, so I am sure you are a role model for a lot of your players. Who was your lacrosse role model growing up and why?
Dhane Smith: There were so many that I looked up to as a young lacrosse player, but the one that stood out the most would have to be my cousin Billy Dee Smith. As you may know, we definitely are totally opposite players, but having a family member in the NLL was a great opportunity to try and be like him and follow in his footsteps.
Josh Byrne: When I was growing up I looked up to Jordan Hall who played for the SR. Salmonbellies at that time. Keegan Ball was a member of the Jr. Salmonbellies and was someone I always tried to model my game after. Both these guys playing in my hometown while I grew up had huge influences on why I grew to love the game.
Q: The Jr Bandits Midget team is coming off a victory at the Upstate Box Lacrosse Invitational, what can we expect for them this weekend? Back to back championships?
Dhane Smith: First off, I would like to say how proud I am of the young men that played in this tournament. It’s never easy to pick up a different variation of the game “box lacrosse.” I think what you can expect is the kids getting better each game and competing; that’s my main goal and if a championship follows that’s great.
Josh Byrne: Our team played well this weekend and I think a lot of teams took us lightly. I believe you’ll see some highly competitive games this weekend as the talent level of the Jr. NLL tournament is a bit higher then this last one. But we’re looking forward to the challenge and getting better every game.
Q: For all Bandits fans out there, what can they expect from you and the team during the 2018-19 season?
Dhane Smith: They can expect a consistent year for the team and myself. Our main goal is to make playoffs and win a championship. I strongly believe the team is ready to take the next step.
Josh Byrne: The Bandits fans can expect a hungry team to hit the floor this season. Guys are sick of missing the playoffs and are training intensely over the offseason. Year two is going to be a good one.