The city of Coquitlam has proved a pretty pivotal stop for the prestigious Team USBOXLA program over the years.
Back in the summer of 2014, USBOXLA Co-Founder Shaydon Santos brought a quickly slapped together U18 squad to British Columbia to battle some of the best Intermediate ‘A’ teams in the province. On the scoreboard, at least, things did not go well.
The Americans were crushed by the Canucks, especially the Coquitlam Adanacs, who barely gave Team USBOXLA a chance to breathe. In fact, Santos’ mostly state-side kids could barely clear their own end, and likely had fewer passes pass center than Coquitlam had goals, which they had plenty of.
Last summer, while sitting in the seats in an arena at Coquitlam's Poirer Sports & Leisure Complex, Santos snapped a pic of the scoreboard and sent it to fellow association co-founder, Matt Brown.
The text was a celebration of the steps USBOXLA and the Team USBOXLA program had made over the past five years.
The game pitted Team USBOXLA and the Adanacs, both club’s pee wees on the floor during the Trevor Wingrove Memorial Tournament. The final buzzer had just gone off. The game was over. The final score flashed 15-4 in favor of the visitors. The Americans, unlike in 2014, had won, and won big.
Five years after Team USBOXLA U18 first went to Canada for the 2014 #bctour, the Team USBOXLA Pee Wee team won silver at the Trevor Wingrove Memorial last summer. (Photo: Sherri Thomson)
While Team USBOXLA’s trips are more about player development versus what’s scribbled on the scoresheet, victories like the one Team USBOXLA experienced at last year’s Wingrove – an event they left with two separate silver medals packed in their bags – also often serve as a measurement of how well that overall association development is going. Both Santos and Brown, who grew up playing box lacrosse in beautiful B.C., felt good about what transpired between 2014 and 2019 at that Coquitlam rink.
The players from the U18 2014 team, some of which can be found if you scroll down a bit below, were a very early and significant step for the Team USBOXLA program.
The U18 #bctour is still arguably the most popular and talked about event USBOXLA has ever taken part in. It ran for just four years, but featured a host of highly regarded Americans that have excelled both on grass fields and concrete rinks since.
While USBOXLA continues to work behind the scenes to bring the U18 series back as that age group was absorbed by the u21 Jr division, today we recognize those players that first flew to B.C. to start something extremely special, unbelievably significant, and historically important to the sport in this country.
Today we drop the next chapter in our Best in Box series: the U18 #bctour Top 25.
Few are probably still reading this intro and likely immediately scrolled to see #1 after the jump, but for those still around and notice the criticisms in our social comments about our finalized list, could you do us a favor and direct them to the following Top 25 criteria paragraph…
The U18 #bctour has nothing to do with reputations or full resumes. It has nothing to do with what players did, are doing or will do in DI, or the National Collegiate Box Series (NCBS) for that matter. We ranked these 25 players (actually 27, but you’ll see why in a sec) on what they did in the games they played during this history-making tour. That’s it. What impact did they have during the year they repped ridiculously rad Rude Brand designed Team USBOXLA U18 jerseys? Unless you were there, you probably have no idea what they accomplished in cities like Victoria, Richmond, Port Coquitlam, Langley, New Westminster, Burnaby, and of course, Coquitlam.
So, if you don’t know, you will shortly. USBOXLA is proud to present the U18 #bctour Top 25.
Having previously played for Team USBOXLA at the Wingrove, Chandler Nayman made an impact with the U18s while sharing the crease with Scott Kimiecik and Matt Huizenga a summer later. (Photo: Sherri Thomson)
This talented tendy trio led Team USBOXLA to the program’s best-ever record on the #bctour (4-1), their only loss coming against the mighty Coquitlam Intermediate ‘A’ Adanacs. In three of their five games this goaltending group held the opposition to single digit scoring – another first for the U18s. A lack of larger quality minutes due to their platooning playing time prevented either from rising up the ranks here, but all three most definitely deserve some recognition. Their reps and resumes, especially Matt Huizenga, who led the Rivermen to an OCBLL and NCBS National Championship last summer and was later ranked sixth in the NCBS Top 40, are proof that Team USA won’t have a box backstopping issue for much longer.
The 2016 #bctour wasn’t an easy one. In fact, that tour might have provided the U18 program with their most gruelling test over the four years this exhibition series took place. While their record didn’t reflect the ongoing development the team was experiencing, one noticeable standout was most definitely Thuma. A product of California’s dominant box development, Thuma’s relentless play, extra effort, and box IQ were evident from start to finish.
The lanky Team 91 talent and Loyola Greyhounds senior was a solid defensive and transitional threat on a high profile 2015 U18 roster that showcased a number of other outstanding New York natives. Cox’s ability to outwork, outthink, and outreach the Canadians for loose balls regularly, as well as his wheels screaming past center, allowed Team USBOXLA to sport a much more dynamic defensive game and offensive press versus the program’s premiere tour the previous summer.
After impressing on the 2017 U18 #bctour, Connor O'Brien would become a future first round pick in the OCBLL, taken fourth overall by the Stags. (Photo: Sherri Thomson)
He would later be taken in the first round of the first-ever Ohio Collegiate Box Lacrosse League (OCBLL) Draft, but it was during the 2017 #bctour that O’Brien started snapping up mainstream attention for his box-specific skills. The Resolute Lacrosse leader showed that summer that he had above average box IQ, a really slick stick, and an ability to roll up his sleeves and do all the little things on and off ball to help open up the American's offensive game.
In 2009, before USBOXLA was even formed, Guralas was already winning medals with the Cali*Lax ALL-STARS while attending the Canada Day Tournament in Calgary, Alberta. Five years later, during the #bctour, it was clear that Guralas was no box lacrosse bambi. Scoring some big goals in British Columbia, the Cali kid was one of USBOXLA’s early pee wee-to-intermediate success stories, and would later go on to net nearly 150 goals for the Cal Poly Mustangs (MCLA).
Another one of the handful of impressive Team 91 teammates that were rostered in 2015, Kimmel scored some gnarly goals for the U18s that tour. Composed, creative, and crafty, the Monmouth middie looked extremely comfortable creating chances in imposing Canadian barns, including BTB beauties like this one…
The Regis Jesuit regular and later Kentucky Wildcat grew his overall game by benefitting from the early days of LXTC's Denver Elite box system. In B.C., Bealer’s power-forward frame often proved difficult for the Canucks to battle in tight with, but he also showed range from outside or in transition when he saw space. One of the best goals of the tour saw Bealer sprinting with the ball past center, baiting two Langley defenders, dishing it to an open man, only to grab the rebound off the glass and netting it from his knees. Don’t believe us? Press play…
Like Bealer, Jensen is another Denver Elite player that had the opportunity to not only train indoors with Matt Brown, but ultimately become a top talent both indoors and out because of his dynamic box background. Before playing Junior ‘A’ (BCJALL) with the iconic New Westminster Salmonbellies, his Cleveland State career, or landing in the Colorado Collegiate Box Lacrosse League (CCBLL), Jensen impressed on the first two U18 tours. A presence both with the ball in his stick and without, Jensen is a USBOXLA pioneer that has played at the highest level for his age in both the US and Canada.
The high-firing Resolute and now Robert Morris righty (who is returning in 2021) ranked inside the first-ever NCBS Top 40, and does again here for many of the same reasons. Held scoreless a few times during the tour, however, when Popovich found his footing, he was fire up front. As we’ve seen during his time with the Stags (OCBLL) and then again with the Colonials during this shortened NCAA season (18 goals in 6 games) the power-forward potential with Popovich is huge. Due to his size, explosive 2020 DI scoring string, and impressive box lacrosse background, it would be hard not to see Popovich picked in the 2021 NLL Draft.
Collier was repping the red, white and blue during the 2016 #bctour, but between his box-specific ability, rough-and-ready approach, and magnificently majestic mullet, he coulda easily passed as a poutine-craving Canuck any day of the week. The big, athletic San Jose stud, who was recently named WCLL Division I All-Conference while scoring at a ridiculous rate for Santa Clara (116 goals in 36 games over three seasons), was able to show his versatility and collected a nice mix of goals, helpers, and sit downs in the sin bin in 2016. Collier checked a lot of boxes on the 2016 U18 #bctour.
His impressive two-year goal tally ranks the California-born Austin Mello as one of the #bctour's highest scoring sensations. (Photo: Sherri Thomson)
Mello mighta played fewer minutes behind some pretty prolific names on the 2015 tour, but a summer later it was his turn to scorch the scoresheet. The Cali*Lax ALL-STARS standout has size, smarts, and a nice offensive touch which allowed him to score quality and quantity, including a fantastic four-goal effort in Team USBOXLA’s 13-10 win over Richmond. Mello had a solid single season in the CCBLL too, finishing with 33 points in the Red Hawks’ expansion run in 2018.
One of just a handful to feature on two separate U18 tours, Moyett wasn’t afraid to mix it up, played with an edge, secured some solid stats, and ended his second tour with a dislocated shoulder. The talented & tough Team 91 product and current Marist midfielder also spent a summer playing OLA Junior ‘B’ ball for Niagara where he finished with 22 points in 10 regular season starts.
The defensive dominator towered over the opposition in B.C., and still does today playing for the Gold Miners in the CCBLL. Like many during that first tour, Mahoney played an obscene amount of defensive minutes while Team USBOXLA was routinely run ragged by the Canadians. A year later, the presently preposterous 6’7”, 250 pounder was a physical force, a vocal-and-by-example leader, plus his elevated play was a big reason why the Americans went from frightened freshmen to stoic sophomores in 2015.
One of the few Texans to appear on the Team USBOXLA U18 #bctour, Nick Arvin showed in 2017 that he not only belonged on the roster, he was one of that summer's top overall talents. (Photo: Sherri Thomson)
An endorsement by former NLLer and current PLLer, Kyle Hartzel, helped put Arvin on Team USBOXLA coaches’ radar during the selection process. Turns out, listening to Hartzel paid off for the program and the player. The Team USBOXLA bench bosses raved about the Texan’s ability to take direction, adapt, and execute. “You’d ask him to do something, and no question, he’d go out and do it,” said U18 coach and another former NLLer, Ben Prepchuk. The athletic defenseman also spent some time playing key minutes on the other side of center, finishing with an impressive three goals in five games. If the NLL does end up in the state of Texas, like many feel they will soon, a capable local like Arvin on the roster seems like a no brainer.
We went into this player ranking process saying there was no way we’d take the easy way out and tie the Madsen twins on this list. But you know what, the more we talked about what they both brought to the table on the 2015 tour, the harder it was to rank one ahead of the other. USBOXLA President and Team USBOXLA U18 coach Shaydon Santos described both brothers as the heart and soul of that summer’s squad. Their compete level was top notch, they were both uber athletic no matter where they ended up on the floor, and the pair popped from downtown and on the doorstep in impressive fashion. They’ve both since gone on to crush at St. John’s and should garner serious attention during the 2021 NLL Draft.
While Erickson impressed in 2016, it was on the 2017 tour that he really excelled and turned a ton of heads due to his decision making, athleticism, and super-skilled scoring touch. In fact, he finished just a few points (22) behind Jack Hannah’s record-setting U18 tally that summer (25). Now making noise at the University of Denver – alongside Team USBOXLA buddy Hannah – and in the CCBLL (ranked 16th in the NCBS Top 40), Erickson is one of the country’s fastest rising pro box prospects.
While the rest of lacrosse found out about Richie Connell in Richmond this past collegiate season, American box followers have known his name for a while now. (Photo: Sherri Thomson)
Everyone in the NCAA found out what USBOXLA coaches have known for a while now, Richie Connell can shoot the lights out. DI’s second highest-scoring freshman in 2020 (19 goals in 7 games for Richmond), Connell put up similar offensive stats while playing a leading-forward role not once but twice for Team USBOXLA. His height (6’5”) and reach routinely created match-up issues, while his overall box IQ allowed him to regularly find shooting lanes in B.C. barns. No doubt Connell has a Wayne Gretzky (or Michael Scott) poster over his bed, the one that reads, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Richie can shoot. Richie can score. Richie does both, a lot.
Easily one of the best defensive players to ever put on a Team USBOXLA jersey. Tough, gritty, greasy, and relentless, Kriss was a turnover and loose-ball machine, but also found the back of the net at the other end of the floor too. Coming from Kentucky, Kriss was a bit of an unknown, but after significant success with Team USBOXLA, playing for Serbia’s national box team (where he played alongside and against NLL talent), and also impressing at Washington & Lee, Kriss should be on every NLL GM’s and scout’s radar starting now, if of course he wasn’t already.
There were some games where Team USBOXLA got lit up pretty severely both on the scoreboard and especially in the shots against column. In many of those matches, it was “Moose” that kept the team competitive with his play between the pipes, garnering attention and invites from BCJALL and OLA Junior ‘A’ teams after both U18 tours he served. Since then, Whinery has developed into one of USBOXLA’s most talked about talents and leads a growing college-aged American goalie pool that was barely a puddle prior to these tours and the launch of the NCBS.
The future OCBLL first overall pick and Ohio collegiate league's MVP, Landon Trout first made his national mark on the 2016 U18 #bctour by leading the team in point production. (Photo: Sherri Thomson)
Prior to leaving for Vancouver, Resolute Co-Founder and Team USBOXLA coach, Greg Bice, told the rest of that summer’s staff that Landon Trout was the best box player his Columbus-based club had ever produced. After seeing Trout compete in five gruelling games in just seven days, everyone quickly found out that Bice wasn’t just blowing smoke. Trout was as advertised, maybe even better. The future OCBLL first overall pick and league’s first-ever MVP, Trout showed how creative, clever, composed, and offensively evolved an American forward playing box against top-level Canadians can be.
For so many years, Americans playing in the NLL were applauded for their athleticism and work rate, but criticized for their lack of indoor IQ. No more. And it’s players like Troy Loper that will change that tired auto reply from those still stuck in the past. As difficult as those first two tours were, Loper was still able to showcase his super-freak athleticism, box-specific knowledge, and on-floor ability against the toughest of opponents in his ten tour contests. The versatile Cali*Lax ALL-STARS alumn finished at Cleveland State this year and should surely be selected in the upcoming 2020 NLL Draft, joining the likes of former NCBS players like Trevor Baptiste and Bryan Hancock by attending and impressing at an NLL training camp.
Almost half of the players on the U18 #bctour Top 25 played on the 2015 roster, including Penn State's Mac O'Keefe (bottom row, second from right), who led the loaded lineup in scoring.
He played one game in the pre-NCBS Connecticut Collegiate Box Lacrosse League (now fully NCBS sanctioned) last year. Many were hoping he’d play in the new Upstate loop this year (pre-pandemic cancelation) to up his NLL draft stock. But for those that saw Mac O’Keefe on the 2015 U18 #bctour, you could already see what this future pro player would be capable of indoors. O’Keefe proved to be a fire finisher but also baited, dished, and created offensive space all week with his hard to miss orange mitts and red runners. While we’ll have to wait another year to hear his name called out at a future NLL Draft, one thing is for certain, O’Keefe will follow in his father’s footsteps and play in the box big leagues. How good would O'Keefe look in a Riptide jersey? Everyone already knows he looks pretty fresh in navy.
Coming out of the 2015 #bctour there was an American name that was on the tip of everyone’s tongue… the long retired Jay Jalbert. Why? Because it was the comparison seemingly everyone was making after having watched Chad Kreuzer rep the red, white and blue against the likes of Coquitlam, New West and PoCo that week. Another future NCBS MVP on this list, Kreuzer was unrelenting in his own end, aggressive, agitating, and an added bonus on the offensive press. With Furman pulling out of the DI lacrosse landscape amid the coronavirus pandemic, there has been much speculation on what Kreuzer will decide to do in 2021. On or off the floor, wherever he ends up after school is out, Chad Kreuzer will be successful.
Ranked #1 in USBOXLA's Best in Box: NCBS Top 40 late last year, DU midfielder Jack Hannah again grabs the top spot in the U18 #bctour Top 25. (Photo: Sherri Thomson)
We put him #1 in the NCBS Top 40, so Jack Hannah had to be #1 here too, right? Well, yes and no. Hannah is not #1 again because of the significant impact he’s had at DU. He’s not here for his near perfect season with the Rivermen last year where he was named league MVP, led the nation in scoring, captured the Ohio Cup, and then landed the Rivermen the first-ever NCBS National Championship. Jack Hannah is ranked #1, again, because his performance during the 2017 U18 #bctour was the best any American has had over the event’s four years north of the border. It’s a fact, Jack. Hannah set new offensive statistical standards during his single summer wearing a Team USBOXLA sweater (11 goals and 14 assists in 5 games). He was one of the key leaders on a Team USBOXLA roster whose 4-1 record was the best of any previous tour. And we agree with Bill Tierney, Jack Hannah’s compete level, even on the 2017 #bctour, is unmatched. Hannah, who was not even playing for a sanctioned USBOXLA club at the time of being selected for the squad, used that summer’s B.C. swing to let the lacrosse world know… Jack Hannah plays box now, and he’s already scary good at it. Three years later, and we’ve found out that the summer of 2017 was no fluke, it was just a coming attraction to an elite American box lacrosse career that is far from fully written.