Friday, May 22, 2015

USILA Honors UAlbany men's lax standouts

The University at Albany men's lacrosse team keeps racking up awards and, once again, Lyle Thompson is leading the charge.

The Great Danes senior attackman has been named the Lt. Raymond J. Enners Most Outstanding Palyer for the second straight season. It's Thompson's fourth major USILA award as well. He was named the Most Outstanding Attackman in 2013 and 2014.

That's not all though.

Thompson was named a USILA First Team All-American on Thursday after a senior season that saw him set the NCAA Division I all-time points and assist records. Freshman attackman Connor Fields, who set the single season goal mark for the Great Danes this spring, was also named an All-American as an honorable mention.

It is the third year in a row, and fifth year ever, that UAlbany has earned at least two USILA All-Americans.

The All-Americans will be honored at the USILA Awards Ceremony this Sunday.

Thompson is primed for another accolade this weekend, named a finalist for the Tewaaraton Award for the third straight season. The winner for lacrosse's highest award will be announced on May 28 in Washington DC.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Lyle Thompson Inks Deal with Nike

That took about two seconds.

Or, a few days if you want to be technical.

Either way, Lyle Thompson is the latest Nike-branded athlete. The now-former University at Albany lacrosse standout signed with the athletic company this week, joining his three older brothers Jeremy, Haina and Miles.
via Thompson Brothers Lacrosse

So, what was the reason behind the quick turnaround? Easy. Thompson's eligibility is up. The multi-year starter finished his career with the Great Danes this past Saturday after the team fell to Notre Dame in the NCAA quarterfinals. Now, the lacrosse empire can begin.

And it will.

Thompson Brothers Lacrosse - the official name of the group - announced that it will host an exclusive youth clinic during the NCAA championship weekend, staging a workout at the Philadelphia Eagles' indoor practice facility prior to the title game on Monday night. Thompson had previously worked with TBL as a volunteer at a similar event last year.

But, now that his eligibility has elapsed and the NCAA can't claim violations, Thompson and his brothers are set to take the lacrosse world by storm; again. Don't be surprised if you see Thompson-branded lacrosse sticks, cleats and helmets on the market sooner rather than later. It also helps that both Miles and Lyle will be back on the field together in the near future; both playing for the Florida Launch in the MLL.

Of course, Thompson's affiliation  with UAlbany isn't quite over yet. After finishing his career with an NCAA-best 400 career points, he is, once again, up as a finalist for the Tewaaraton Award, which will be announced next week. Lyle and Miles were the co-winners of the award last season and the youngest Thompson is the odds-on favorite to repeat this year as well, becoming the first back-to-back winner in the award's 15-year history.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Have an ACL injury experience? Let's talk.

This has been a very long time coming. I have been talking about writing an ACL-injury feature story for months now (I started doing interviews in February) but, for some reason, was slightly busy during the spring.

I suppose covering two basketball conference tournaments, the NCAA Tournament and one of the top lacrosse teams in the country will do that to you.

But that's all behind now and, finally (!), the ACL feature story is on the horizon this weekend. In fact, it's evolved beyond that. It's now three separate ACL feature stories focusing on different aspects of the injury from repair to rehab and the alarming frequency among female athletes.

So, aside from promo'ing my own stories here (and you should really read them when they're published) what am I doing here? I'm looking for your help.

In addition to the actual stories and videos that will run in print and on both The Record and The Saratogian's web sites this weekend, we're also looking to do some audience engagement. In other words, if you, someone you know, or someone you've even heard of passing by has been affected by an ACL injury, let me know.

Once we get some comments and stories and whatnot, we'll put them all together on the web to show what a far-reaching injury this is and the ever-expanding impact it has on athletics, even those in our own Capital District backyard.

There are a handful of ways for y'all to share:

  • Leave a comment here on the blog post down below.
  • Send me an e-mail at
  • Tweet it by responding to @LauraAmato on Twitter
Again, the stories are running in print and online this weekend, so make sure you read 'em when they're out. Don't worry, I'll send out links. Happy reading and (hopefully) happy sharing!

Friday, May 15, 2015

UAlbany men's lax ready to combat altitude - and Notre Dame too - in NCAA quarterfinals

Drink water.

Drink an entire bottle of water. Then fill that bottle of water. And drink it. Again.

That's been the mantra of the No. 6/6 University at Albany men's lacrosse team all week ahead of Saturday afternoon's matchup against No. 2/2 Notre Dame at Mile High Stadium in Denver.

As the name suggests, Mile High Stadium boasts an altitude of 5,280 feet and that, in and of itself, presents a very specific challenge to both teams. So the Danes, looking for their first-ever berth to the Final Four next weekend, have focused on making sure they're able to keep their breath ahead of such a big moment.

It helps if you drink water.

"We’ve been talking about drinking water since last Saturday," said UAlbany coach Scott Marr. "We flew out there before and Lyle and those guys played out there this summer. It’s very dry so you almost have to make sure you hydrate before you get out there so you’re not behind the curve. We’ve been drinking water all week."

Of course, it helps that UA has been here before.

Not only are the Danes making their second straight quarterfinal appearance but it's the second time in three years the squad has made the postseason trek to Denver, meaning the core group of seniors on this team have played out west before. This time around, thankfully, travel went a little easier and the game will be at an NFL stadium instead of on a college lacrosse field, but the altitude remains the same.

"To go out there again, it was a rough time out there the last time. The travel and stuff like that was really difficult," said senior midfielder Tim Cox. "But this time we’re playing in a big new stadium, last time we played at University of Denver. So it’ll be a different stadium and environment but we’re still looking to go out there and play."

While hydration has been a key part of UA's pre-game ritual this week, the Danes aren't overlooking the importance of in-game changes either. That isn't to say that UAlbany is planning on changing its lineup or roster but, instead, plans to rely more heavily on line shifts, particularly in the midfield.

UAlbany won't change the pace of its gameplan so the midfield is going to be doing the bulk of the running on Saturday afternoon and will need the bulk of the breaks as a result.

"Our run is six midfielders for us and that can definitely benefit us in any game. Cold weather, high altitude, it always benefits us," said Cox. "But at the same time the only thing I felt the last time we played there was the dryness of the air. The midfielders come off, we’ve got to get a lot of water and it would hurt our attack and defense, just being out there all the time, not being able to come off and get water. Hopefully the TV timeouts helps them out with that."

Opening faceoff for the quarterfinal matchup is slated for 3 p.m. ET and is being broadcast on ESPNU. Keep those water bottles filled.

NCAA Proposes Rule Changes to Men's Basketball

It's about to get a little quicker on the court.

The NCAA men's basketball rules committee announced a handful of proposed rule changes ahead of the 2015-16 season on Friday afternoon, including a 30-second shot clock as well as an extension of the restricted area and fewer second-half timeouts.

In other words, the NCAA wants the game to be played faster. Men's basketball faced some heavy criticism regarding pace of game and low-scoring matchups throughout the past season, including in the regularly-dramatic NCAA Tournament this March.

So, what exactly has been proposed to change? Here we go:

  • Reduce the shot clock to 30 seconds
  • Strict enforcement of defensive rules
  • Giving offensive players (shooters) the same principles of vertical protection as defensive players
  • Expand the restricted area from three to four feet
  • Timeouts reduced from five to four with no more than three carried over into the second half
  • Stricter enforcement of resumption of play following timeouts or after a player has fouled out
  • Team timeouts within 30 seconds of a media timeout will become the media timeout, except on the first team timeout of the second half
"I just think if they're changing for the sake of change, I'm not so sure. I watched the NIT games and I don't think there was much of a difference," said UAlbany men's basketball coach Will Brown. "It didn't seem that the defenses rotating were rotating differently because of the charge circle. I think it's a way for them to say, hey, we analyzed it, we'll try this and we'll see what happens." 

Essentially, the NCAA wants things to go quicker. Quicker plays, quicker returns to the court and quicker scoring opportunities. The NCAA wants more points. 

In 2014-15, men's basketball teams averaged just 64.8 possessions per game, the lowest number since 2002 when began tracking those kind of adjusted tempo statistics. Since 2000, overall scoring has decreased in every season but two. 

So, the NCAA, feels the answer is to push teams to faster play. This isn't the first time the committee has cut down on the shot clock. It was reduced from 45 to 35 seconds in 1993-94 and women's basketball is already playing with 30. The quicker pace of play and increased attention to reducing physical play was, for all intents and purposes, test-run during the NIT Tournament this year to mixed results. 

"I don't really think that 35 to 30 is going to do much. I mean to be honest with you. I don't have any data that says how many teams in the NCAA took shots in the last 10 seconds. I know that most of our shots in the last 10 seconds are by design," said Brown. "I'm not sure that's going to...I guess they're looking to increase scoring, make the game more free flowing. It sounds like they want a lot of offense and very little defense. I think that if they're solely concerned with increasing scoring, they drop it to 24 and put in a rule where you don't play any zone defense. Then you'll have higher scoring games." 

According to NCAA rules committee chairman Rick Byrd, each proposal was formed in consultation with officials and coaches and the shot clock, as expected, was the subject of the most debate. Per the NCAA's polling, 64% of Division I coaches supported the 30-second shot clock. 

Brown, like many coaches across the country, said he wasn't sure the shift would have much of an actual impact on his team. Instead, the reigning America East coach of the year said he was slightly concerned with the timeout changes and what it may mean to his sideline huddles. 

"I think my concern with the timeout change is are the officials are going to be in your huddles and make you leave your timeout. Are officials going to hand to the offense the ball before the defense is set," said Brown. "I think right now we have too many timeouts as it is. I know in the NCAA Tournament my shortest media timeout was two minutes and 15 seconds. I don't have a problem with that. I think it's going to force you as a coach to make sure your team is prepared for situations. You can take care of  that in practice. I think you've got to make sure you cover special situations."

None of this is 100% official yet. The rules proposals will be sent for approval from the NCAA's rule oversight panel, which meets in June and will vote on the potential changes then. However, Brown and coaches across the Division I spectrum, aren't entirely certain that this is the change that's necessary.

In fact, the worry is that too much change can actually create more problems.

"I just think that the more rules that you put in, the more pressure you put on the officials," said Brown. "I don't see us going from three officials to four any time soon, that would be absolutely comical. I get that they want to make the game more entertaining. I just think that it's a good game. I think you don't want to take away from the game and I don't think we should move toward the NBA game."

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Shaker grad Jeff Hoffman set to make pro baseball debut next week

Jeff Hoffman experienced a rather interesting "Throwback Thursday" on May 14.

The Shaker High grad, who was selected in the first round of the MLB Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays last year, underwent Tommy John Surgery almost exactly one year ago. It was a surgery that, at the time, was a threat to his draft stock and even his future pitching prospects.

Those pitching prospects are securely locked in now.

According to reports, Hoffman is scheduled to make his pro debut next week, on May 20, for Class A Dunedin, where he has rehabed since last July. He is slated to throw four innings against the Tampa Yankees.

A 6-foot-4, 190 pound right-hander, Hoffman, who pitched college ball at East Carolina University, has done well throughout the rehab process, without any kind of visible setback. In fact, the announcement that the former Section II standout would pitch with Dunedin, the high Class A Florida State League squad, is proof of how well he has progressed.

Hoffamn seems to have maintained his pitching touch as well. Recent rehab stints registered in the upper 90's and he hit 98 four times on the fastball.

Hoffman posted an Instagram video of him throwing earlier this week. Check it out here.

RPI Hockey Releases 2015-16 Schedule

The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute men's hockey team officially announced its schedule for the 2015-16 season on Thursday morning.

The Engineers have 36 games on the slate for the upcoming season, including 17 home games at Houston Field House. RPI will play at least one game against every team in the ECAC, as well as nine games against NCAA Tournament teams and home games against Boston College and the University of Michigan, neither of which have played in Troy in over 20 years.

RPI finished the season 12-26-3 last year before falling to St. Lawrence in the ECAC quarterfinals. Check out the 2015-16 schedule under the cut.