ALBANY — What’s struck Connor Fields, the leading scorer last season in NCAA men’s lacrosse, about Tehoka Nanticoke during this month’s University at Albany workouts is how quickly the freshman has become a focal point for the Great Danes.
“There was no adjustment period for him to get settled into college lacrosse,” Fields said. “He came in right away and you could see how good of a player he is.”
That’s to say that — so far — Nanticoke has delivered on what’s expected of him during his time at UAlbany. Nanticoke begins his tenure at UAlbany with his face plastered across the cover of the latest Inside Lacrosse magazine ranking him as the country’s No. 1 recruit, comparisons aplenty to UAlbany legends Miles Thompson and Lyle Thompson, and the expectation he’ll help turn the 2018 Great Danes into a favorite to take the national championship.
That’s a lot to handle for any player, let alone a freshman. Nanticoke, though, has handled the attention and hype in a way that’s endeared himself to the rest of the Great Danes.
“Tehoka’s a great player, but he’s a very humble guy, too,” UAlbany redshirt senior goalie JD Colarusso said.
“We’re not an ego team,” UAlbany head coach Scott Marr said. “That’s not us.”
What UAlbany does like to fashion itself as being, though, is a program that lets its players have fun on the field — and Nanticoke only adds to that reputation. Nanticoke, who comes to UAlbany from Florida’s IMG Academy after growing up on the Six Nations reservation in Canada, will likely rival Fields as the country’s top highlight-producing player next spring.
While the introduction to Nanticoke for most of his UAlbany teammates came via watching highlight clips — a goal of Nanticoke’s has appeared on ESPN’s Sportscenter, while plays of his litter YouTube — the freshman said it’s been fun working alongside Fields this month after following last season’s Tewaaraton Award finalist through his own highlights.
“His eyes are up all the time,” Nanticoke said of Fields. “It’s cool seeing up close what he’s been doing these last three years, actually seeing it with my own eyes rather than on film.”
Chemistry is already developing between UAlbany’s star attackmen, who have plenty of support. Smiling, Colarusso said there’s only so much the UAlbany defense can do when both Fields and Nanticoke are clicking.
“I would say I’m back there praying,” Colarusso said.
“We’re excited we have so much potential to do really cool things,” Marr said, “to really dominate on the offensive end.”
When he wasn’t playing lacrosse this summer, Nanticoke said he was spending time on his other passion: lifting weights. His bulky frame makes him a nice complement to Fields, who is 5-foot-11 and weighs 160 pounds.
“But I don’t think people realize how fast [Nanticoke] is,” Marr said. “He made a play the other day where he turned on the jets and it was like, ‘Holy cow.’ He’s 6-foot-1, 235 pounds — he’s a big guy — and he can move.”
Nanticoke said the amount of media attention he’s received before playing his first college game has caught him by surprise. Much of that attention, he said, is a credit to UAlbany’s status as a national contender.
“It’s cool being on a more national stage,” Nanticoke said. “It’s incredible.”
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Michael Kelly at [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter.