By Martin Cleary
If you’re a talented lacrosse player in Canada or the United States, one of the end goals of the game is to reach the National Lacrosse League.
Every summer, the 14-team, 36-year-old league holds its draft so clubs can select the next wave of best players with junior A, university or senior experience.
The coaches behind the Ottawa Capitals lacrosse program, which was co-founded by NLL superstar Callum Crawford of Stittsville, were in a celebratory mood Saturday, after eight of its graduating players were selected in the 2022 league draft.
Born into a military family, Austin Madronic, who spent his high school summers in Stittsville after attending Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana, achieved his long-awaited goal by travelling a rather different route. Madronic was selected in the first round and sixth overall by Saskatchewan Rush.
During his school breaks, he was part of the Capitals’ program, which helps players reach their next level of academics and athletics, as well as the Nepean Knights and Kahnawake Hunters Jr. B teams from 2015 to 2017.
But in the past three years, Madronic hasn’t played his regular schedule of games in junior, senior or university lacrosse because of the COVID-19 pandemic or full-time work.
He missed his final year of junior A as an attack player with the Victoria Shamrocks in 2020 because of the pandemic. But he left the junior ranks with a reputation as a player who contributed in all aspects to the team game.
The Burnaby Lakers senior A team drafted Madronic third overall in the 2021 Western Lacrosse Association Draft, but he didn’t play that season. After he graduated from Harvard University this spring, he was hired by GF Data in New York City as a research manager in June.
During his four years as an economics student at Harvard, Madronic missed his junior year of field lacrosse in 2021, when the Ivy League shut down all sports because of the pandemic. But he continued training with Harvard and had an exceptional year as a senior in 2022.
Madronic, 23, scored a team-high 28 goals in 13 games and added 13 assists and 80 shots for Harvard, which made the NCAA championship tournament for the first time since 2014. No. 6 Rutgers University defeated No. 14 Harvard 19-9 in the first round as Madronic had two goals and one assist.
“Because of COVID, I was in a unique situation. I hadn’t played box lacrosse since 2019 because of cancelled seasons. I was a little different than anyone else,” Madronic explained about his pandemic-affected resume entering the 2022 NLL Draft.
“But the (NLL) GMs relied on what my previous coaches said about me and my field games at Harvard. I led the team (Harvard) in goals and we made the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014. It was really a great year and it was exciting to be a part of it.”
When Saskatchewan made its first-round pick of the draft, their executive team liked what Madronic had achieved in his past and selected him sixth overall. In his freshman year at Harvard, he was a two-time Ivy League rookie of the week and recorded 22 goals and 13 assists in 12 games.
“It’s an honour,” he added about his selection by the Rush. “It’s something that has been a goal of mine since I was four years old.”
For many years, the Rush’s Mark Matthews was one of his lacrosse idols and now he’ll get a chance to play alongside him. Matthews is a four-time, first-team all-star and the 2018 league MVP.
If Madronic makes the team, he could play against Crawford and the New York Riptides at some point.
“He (Crawford) was my coach with the Ottawa Capitals. It will be a fun and cool experience to play against him.”
Here are the other players from the Capitals program who were selected during the 2022 NLL Draft:
· Brett Dobson (Oshawa), 11th overall to Georgia Swarm
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference defensive player of the year in 2022 as St. Bonaventure University’s goalkeeper; led the country in save percentage at .665 and was second nationally in saves per game at 16.8; university’s first All-American in men’s lacrosse.
· Cam Wyers (Ottawa), 13th overall to Buffalo Bandits
As a defender, he picked up 33 ground balls and caused 16 turnovers for Loyola University during his senior campaign this year; was a member of the All-Patriot League first all-star team and an All-American third-team member in his junior year.
· Tyler Hendrycks (Ottawa), 35th overall to Toronto Rock
Playing the attack position, the High Point University junior counted one goal in three games in 2022, and one goal and two assists in eight games as a sophomore in 2021.
· Teioshontathe McComber (Kahnawake, Que.), 48th overall to Georgia Swarm
During his senior year (2022) at the University of Albany, he registered six goals and seven assists in 11 games as an attack, after he had seven goals and one assist as a junior.
· Cam Badour (Greely), 49th overall to Saskatchewan Rush
A five-time Atlantic Coast Conference Academic Honor member, the midfielder counted 24 goals and 12 assists in 38 career games at Duke University; he scored his first collegiate goal and hat trick in the 2019 season-opening win as a freshman.
· Matt Duncan (Scarborough), 67th overall to Albany Firewolves
As a short-stick defensive midfielder and co-captain, he had career highs in his senior year (2022) with six goals and six assists along with 120 ground balls for St. John’s University; named to the Big East All-Academic team as a junior.
· Carter Brand (Ottawa), 95th overall to Saskatchewan Rush
After three years at the University of Denver, he transferred to Limestone University (Gaffney, South Carolina) and was pivotal in his role as a midfielder to help the Saints win their first-ever South Atlantic Conference regular-season championship; he scored eight goals, 11 assists and had 10 ground balls in 13 games.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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