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Fact or Fiction: High School vs Collegiate Success

January 18, 2013

math lax

Welcome to Mathematical Relaxation. A weekly column that is not afraid to get a little numerical when needed to and dedicated to the sport of lacrosse.

The Major League Lacrosse Collegiate draft happened last Friday with Peter Baum going first overall to the Ohio Machine. That team has a very potent offense with names like Steele Stanwick and Chazz Woodson among others and Baum will just add to that attack.

Baum was definitely well deserving of the number one pick after putting up 67 goals and 30 assists and taking home the Teweaaraton Award over CJ Costabile, Will Manny, Mike Sawyer, and Steele Stanwick. However, it was sort of weird to see the award go to a Colgate player from Portland, Oregon. In fact, here are the last ten recipients all of whom are from lacrosse power schools:

Year Player School
2011 Steele Stanwick Virginia
2010 Ned Crotty Duke
2009 Max Seibald Cornell
2008 Mike Leveille Syracuse
2007 Matt Danowski Duke
2006 Matt Ward Virginia
2005 Kyle Harrison Johns Hopkins
2004 Mike Powell Syracuse
2003 Chris Rotelli Virginia
2002 Mike Powell Syracuse

So, if we ignore Baum and just look at who the best players were each year, we get an overwhelming theme of the best player in college playing for one of the best/most storied teams. This trend seems to carry over from high school as the best schools get the best recruits. If we look at the incoming freshmen top 10 players, they come from Duke, Harvard (2), Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, Johns Hopkins (2), Hofstra, and Denver. These are some of the top programs in history along with the big “west coast” school of Denver and the perennial New York recruit going to Hofstra.

This is undoubtedly due to the bigger schools having larger recruiting budgets and more influence (sort of like how Notre Dame and Michigan are able to recruit in football even after having poor seasons). However, this trend of the top schools getting the top talent seems to end sometime during the player’s college career.

Here are the first two rounds from the 2013 MLL Collegiate Draft:

Pick # Team Player College Conference
1 Ohio Peter Baum Colgate Patriot
2 Hamilton Chris LaPierre Virginia ACC
3 Charlotte Tucker Durkin Johns Hopkins Independent
4 Chesapeake Jesse Bernhardt Maryland ACC
5 Hamilton Josh Hawkins Loyola ECAC
6 Boston Cameron Flint Denver ECAC
7 Denver Brian Megill Syracuse Big East
8 Charlotte Mike Sawyer Loyola ECAC
9 Boston Scott Ratliff Loyola ECAC
10 Hamilton Jason Noble Cornell Ivy
11 Ohio Logan Schuss Ohio State ECAC
12 Ohio Marcus Holman North Carolina ACC
13 Ohio Chase Carraro Denver ECAC
14 Boston Will Manny Massachusetts Colonial
15 Hamilton John Haus Maryland ACC
16 Chesapeake Kevin Cooper Maryland ACC

If we take a tally of how many “power schools” were taken versus others, my count is at 8 for the powers (Virginia, Johns Hopkins, Maryland, Syracuse, Cornell, and North Carolina) and 8 for the others (Colgate, Loyola, Denver, Ohio State, and Massachusetts). If we break this up to specific schools instead of  power/non-power then we have Loyola and Maryland leading the pack at three each, Denver with two, and no other school having more than one. Conference-wise, we have six players from the ECAC going in the first round and just eight coming from the ACC plus Johns Hopkins and the Big East (Syracuse). This is pretty big in showing that the top schools/conferences might not be getting the best overall talent even though they are recruiting the top high schoolers.

I believe that Inside Lacrosse does a great job with their recruiting coverage, so I’m going to use their freshman recruit top 100 list as a good judge. I looked at the top 25 from each year from 2007 to 2009 (that’s the oldest that they had working pages for up until the most recent draft class) and compared that to how highly they were drafted four (or five in some cases) years later in the MLL Collegiate Draft.

recruit lax

As you can see, there isn’t much correlation between how the players were ranked coming into college and how they were being judged leaving college (R^2=0.0125). This means that if you were the top player coming into school, it didn’t mean anything heading into the pros. Only 37 of the top 75 (top 25 each year) were even drafted.

The fact that the correlation was so low was startling to me. I would have expected more of the top high schoolers to be taken early in the draft because they have the top talent heading into school and then they are receiving the best coaching, have the best surrounding talent, and also the most media attention. Some of this could actually hinder their chances at getting drafted early too. The less historic schools focus their recruiting on only a couple of big names so that they have a better chance at landing those players while the bigger schools can take the shotgun approach to recruiting because they know that they will get good players no matter what. In addition to the recruiting styles, the smaller schools also have less talent surrounding these stars, so there is less chance that the skill of the good player gets watered down by his teammates. One last observation of mine that I think plays an influence in draft order is that teams far away from the east coast (Denver and Ohio) tend to draft players from local areas (Denver and Ohio State).

This shows how far recruiting still has to go in lacrosse. The top high school players in basketball and football usually tend to be the players that leave school early and get picked in the first round. In lacrosse, as I showed, high school skill has almost no relation to college skill. This is probably due to the big schools just sitting back and recruiting in Maryland and New York because of how many talented players are there and sending the other teams searching the west coast for the next Peter Baum (Portland, OR) and Drew Snider (Seattle, WA) or even a Connor Martin (Portland, OR) that didn’t even get picked up by a NCAA school and had to settle for Chapman.

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